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SportsColumnistsMark Herrmann

Deepdale pro Darrell Kestner has been putting guru to stars

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

The last time The Barclays came to Bethpage Black, four years ago, Nick Watney picked up two putting lessons and a $1.4-million first place check. At the time, he said he owed the latter to Deepdale Golf Club director of golf Darrell Kestner, who gave him the former.

Unfortunately for Watney, no repeat is in the cards when the PGA Tour’s FedExCup opener returns next week. Watney has been out since January because of a herniated disc in his lower back. “He said he learned from Tiger not to come back too soon,” said Kestner, who has stayed in touch with the six-time tour winner and has helped him with his short game since that victory at the Black.

In August of 2012, Watney was struggling with his putting so a mutual friend, Sam Reeves, suggested he pay a visit to Kestner at his club in Manhasset during tournament week. The tour pro showed up at Deepdale on Monday and returned for a refresher on Saturday and came away the champion. Since then, some of Watney’s peers have called for advice from Kestner, who regularly is named to national lists of top teaching pros.

Kestner, who won back-to-back New York State Opens on the Black, remains impressed with the star pupil. “He’s a really nice guy. Hopefully, he will be back next year at Glen Oaks,” he said, referring to the club in Old Westbury that will host the 2017 FedExCup event. And if other pros want to stop by during The Barclays next week, he said, “I’ll be here.”

At 81, still going strong

Soon after Ritsa Taktekos and her husband moved here from Greece nearly 60 years ago, they found jobs at Forest Park Golf Club in Queens. She was in charge of making appointments for lessons with the pros, then took some lessons herself. She became so good at the game that she won a few small tournaments. Her boss encouraged her to become a club pro.

“I went up to Poughkeepsie, I did two hours of reading, three hours of teaching,” she said of the examination. “But then I found out I was pregnant.”

She never did pursue the club pro job as she raised that daughter and two others. But she never gave up on golf. At 81, with six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, she plays in two leagues every week at the Dix Hills Golf Course. In one of the leagues, she said, her handicap is 10, in the other it is 11.

And last week, she made her second hole-in-one in the past eight years. She aced the 121-yard seventh hole with a 7-iron, further amazing her daughters, who point out that their mom (whose husband died several years ago) also does line dancing and yoga. Golf holds a special place for her, though.

“You’re between the trees and between the grass and the sky,” she said. “It’s something beautiful.”

Chip shots

Stewart Hagestad, a former golfer at USC who moved to New York two years ago and plays out of Deepdale, won the Met Amateur last Sunday, beating Ethan Ng in a 38-hole final at the Country Club of Fairfield . . . Discovery Land Company, which is planning to build an 18-hole course and luxury housing development in East Quogue, last week turned down a $35 million offer to sell the land to Southampton Town, the Southampton Press reported . . . Several former Sayville High golfers, all of whom grew up on Hillside Avenue in West Sayville, held a reunion this week in Columbus, Ohio as one of their group, Ralph Howe III, played in the U.S. Senior Open.They reminisced about their street football games and other contests. “We all grew up around sports and were wholly supported by our parents who were middle class and worked extremely hard to give us everything we needed,” said Duane Postupack, who was there and whose brother Dirk caddied for Howe, now a pastor in Orlando.


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