Like his fellow serious golfers, Phil Carlucci has the ability to enjoy the view. He also has a caddie's knack for knowing just where to find something hidden, a historian's grasp of what is relevant and perhaps the patience of a saint to sift through hundreds of photos. Combine all of those elements and you get his new book, "Images of America: Long Island Golf."
It is a pictorial tour through 125 years that visits the Island's private clubs, public courses (where the Massapequa Park resident plays) and gems that do not exist anymore. It tells you that in Great River, near the current Bayard Cutting Arboretum, there once stood Westbrook Golf Course. Marion Hollins, the 1921 U.S. Women's Amateur champion, got her start there.
"I'm a big local history fan -- I can read that stuff all day -- and I know a fair share about local golf, the public side, especially," said Carlucci, an editor for an educational publisher in Syosset, as well as a freelance writer and creator of the website golfonlongisland.com. Largely because of the latter outlet, he was approached last spring by Arcadia Publishing, which produces illustrated histories.
He saw the project become essentially a second full-time job (no small burden for the father of a 1-year-old). Other than discovering that rights fees from the U.S. Golf Association are "astronomical," he loved every second of it,
Carlucci traversed the Island and met librarians, curators, village historians and club officials. He scoured newspaper archives and dipped into the thousands of snapshots he has taken during his golf career. The result is an eclectic mix of 210 black-and-white pictures: Frances Griscom, wearing a long-sleeve blouse, ankle-length skirt and flower bedecked hat, holding a fairway wood in front of the Shinnecock Hills clubhouse during the 1900 U.S. Women's Amateur (which she won); the present bridge on No. 1 at Spring Lake's Sandpiper course in Middle Island; the sign asking golfers "Place green fees in envelope" at the nine-hole Sandy Pond layout in Riverhead.
He found a shot of Bobby Jones putting at Inwood Country Club. He unearthed a photo of 1929 Ryder Cup team members Gene Sarazen, Johnny Farrell, Leo Diegel and Horton Smith wearing knickers and neckties for their exhibition at Cherry Valley Club in Garden City. Yes, he includes Corey Pavin at Shinnecock and Tiger Woods at Bethpage Black.
But the real strength of the book are the stories, told in words and images, that most of us never have heard.
"I grew up in Valley Stream and I never knew a Valley Stream Country Club existed. It was on the Southern State Parkway in the 1930s," he said, recalling a Depression-era newspaper ad that read, "If you have been hard hit and want a real golf club that you can afford, write us today."
Ever hear of Milburn Golf Club in Baldwin? "I had never heard of it either," Carlucci said, adding that he learned of it from someone in the Tillinghast Society, who knew that A.W. Tillinghast did some work there. "It was on Grand Avenue. Baldwin High School now actually sits on part of it."
The book tells of how the Westhampton Country Club clubhouse was transported from its original home in Quiogue over frozen canals, and shows a boat that was washed onto one of Westhampton's fairways by the Hurricane of 1938 (the skipper dropped anchor in a bunker). The author evokes Reydon Golf Club in Southold and a nine-holer in Sagaponack whose clubhouse is now a church.
"When you're driving on the Meadowbrook Parkway, you're driving on what used to be the Meadow Brook Club," he said. "We always say, 'We're living on Long Island and it's expensive and it's this and it's that.' But it's nice to focus on the really good things as well. I would love it if people knew more about this stuff, even if they're not real big history fans."