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Kestner, LI putting guru, doesn't oppose 'anchored' stroke

Darrell Kestner, PGA professional at Deepdale Golf Club

Darrell Kestner, PGA professional at Deepdale Golf Club in Manhasset, speaks during the Metropolitan Golf Association's media day at Old Westbury Golf & Country Club. (April 17, 2013) Credit: Barry Sloan

Darrell Kestner is arguably Long Island's foremost authority on putting, so his view on the controversial method of "anchoring" the putter is at least worth hearing. And he expressed an interesting opinion Wednesday: "It's too hard."

His point is, if anchoring with a long putter were as easy as opponents say it is, everyone would be doing it. "I would, if it would help me," he said, adding that he doesn't. So he doesn't feel threatened. He believes anchoring long putters should remain legal, especially for amateurs such as club champion George Fox and other members at Deepdale, where Kestner is director of golf.

"With the game not growing as it should, the ruling to take it away from the amateur golfer, I don't think is right," Kestner said yesterday during the Metropolitan Golf Association's media day. "It does help a lot of seniors with a little bit of the yips, no doubt about that. Does it help a touring professional in a pressure situation? Possibly, but anyone has the right to go to it if they want to."

Kestner's short game has allowed him to remain a force at 59. Last year, he won the Long Island PGA and qualified for the PGA Championship. The three-time Met Open winner is considered a putting guru, drawing national attention last August when Nick Watney said that lessons from Kestner helped him win The Barclays at Bethpage Black. Still, he doesn't begrudge anyone the right to use a long putter.

Mike Meehan, the head pro at Old Westbury Golf & Country Club, which hosted the media conference and will host the Met Open this August, agreed with Kestner on an issue that grew hotter Sunday when Adam Scott won the Masters with a long putter and became the fourth player in the past six majors to win that way.

The U.S. Golf Association has proposed a ban on anchored putting, and is expected to announce a ruling soon. Traditionalists, including Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, support the ban. They assert that holding the handle of the club against the body -- stabilizing the stroke -- gives an unfair advantage and violates the spirit of the game.

But the PGA of America, the club pros' organization to which Kestner and Meehan belong, wants to keep anchoring legal. The group is concerned that a ban would discourage recreational golfers at a time when the industry is trying to hold onto every customer it has.

"I have a player who's all of a sudden more competitive because he can make a 4- or 5-footer," said Meehan, whose traditional short putter has helped him win three Long Island Open titles. He noted that the member, a doctor, improved when he started using a long putter. "It makes the game more enjoyable and he can play in the club championship, the B flight."

Golf officials have been adamant about maintaining one set of rules for tour players and weekend hackers alike. They generally agree it is one of the sport's strengths.

There is no such agreement on how much anchoring helps. Angel Cabrera, who lost a playoff to Scott while using a short putter, said afterward that if it was really all that good, everyone would be using long putters.

Meehan said, "I agree with Darrell, I've tinkered with it and I can't figure it out."

"I personally don't think it's that big of an advantage," Kestner said. "All the putting leaders, in the stats, use the short putter."

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