The officials and spectators who watched Alan Specht's blast out of a buried lie downhill to a tight pin position considered it one of the best bunker shots they have ever seen. Specht described it slightly differently: "We know what it was. It was a little luck."
It certainly looked skillful, the way he made the ball land in the rough and roll gently within three feet of the cup at Southward Ho's par-4 15th hole Friday afternoon. In any case, it was unquestionably timely, occurring late in the 36-hole final of the Long Island Amateur Championship. It helped the golfer from Wheatley Hills keep his one-hole lead and led to his 2-and-1 triumph over Darin Goldstein of Noyac Golf Club.
"Hitting it close, I didn't think was within the realm of possibility," said the 49-year-old trader and options strategist. "There was a very small area that if I hit it, I thought maybe the ball would trickle down. But it was a plugged lie, and I'm not that good. I just took a chop. Maybe the best players in the world can handle that, but I just took a chop. I was going to hope to make the next shot, maybe make a pitch-in."
As it was, he halved the hole and went on to close out the taut match on the par-3 17th for his second Long Island Amateur title. It left Goldstein hopeful that his time is near, considering he also lost in the final last year to Joe Saladino (who made a hole-in-one during a first-round victory Wednesday).
"I had lots of chances all day. When I tried to take it up a notch, to another gear, it wasn't there," Goldstein said of this year's finish. "He played great. He hit the shot when he needed to."
Goldstein did cut Specht's three-hole lead to one early on the back nine. The winner said, "I'm a little shocked. I was doing some things out there that I don't typically do and I thought that I was choking it away a little bit. But somehow I managed to get it in the hole."
Specht is a self-described range rat. "I don't play a lot of rounds of golf, but I practice a lot. I can always find an hour and that's fun for me. A long-distance runner will run for an hour, some people do crossword puzzles for an hour. I work on my swing for an hour," he said. "I'm nuts enough to think I can get a lot better."
Golf's capacity for doing good is always on display. This past Monday alone, Hall of Famer Betsy King hosted LPGA stars in a charity outing at Friar's Head to bring pure drinking water to the poorest countries in Africa, there was a big Alzheimer's benefit at Huntington Country Club and Rudolph Giuliani headlined the 30th Annual Marty Lyons Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic at Old Westbury. Now, organizers are inviting baseball fans and others to support a golf outing to help the children of late Mets outfielder Darryl Hamilton. It will be Aug. 11 at Great River Golf Club in Milford, Ct. Information is available at darrylghamiltonfund.com.
The last time Matt Dobyns played in a major, the 2014 U.S. Open, his length off the tee impressed one of his practice partners, PGA Tour player J.B. Holmes. Dobyns, the head pro at Fresh Meadow, might get an even bigger kick at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits next month. His college coach at the University of Texas is trying to arrange a practice round with Masters and U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth, another former Longhorn . . . Liz Choi of Syosset, four-time Nassau girls high school champion, tees off tomorrow morning in the U.S. Girls Junior Championship at Tulsa (Okla.) Country Club.
The much-anticipated Harper Lee novel "Go Set a Watchman," released this past week, features this passage (referring to the protagonist, Jean Louise Finch): "Her favorite game was golf because its essential principles consisted of a stick, a small ball, and a state of mind."