Among the first questions that Chris Carter, the head pro, answered when he was interviewing Andrew Svoboda for a teaching job at Engineers Country Club was whether Svoboda would be allowed to play competitive golf. The response was more emphatic than a mere “yes.” More like a “You better believe it.”
The job involves being an ambassador for the newly purchased course in Roslyn Harbor, so you’re darn right Svoboda was encouraged to play. Not only did he play, he dominated. It was a good reflection on his boss and his course Thursday when Svoboda became the first ever to have won the Long Island Open, New York State Open and Met Open in the same year.
Having closed a one-shot victory in the Met at Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle, Svoboda said at a news conference, “After I won the first two, the pressure was on. But I tried not to think about it.”
Carter never thought twice about hiring the onetime St. John’s star and former PGA Tour player. The head pro had been looking for a high-profile teaching pro and sought advice from Darrell Kestner, director of golf at Deepdale and the dean of local club pros. Kestner just happened to have Svoboda’s resume handy.
“I didn’t know Andrew and he didn’t know me,” Carter said, recalling a 20-minute conversation in which, in a departure from the normal boss-employee routine, he had to prove himself to the candidate. Svoboda signed on and joined a staff that also includes former LPGA tour player Jean Bartholomew of Garden City, winner of the Women’s Met Open in June.
“We told him, `We want you to play.’ When he went to play in a Web.com event in March, our owners footed the bill. They sent him with an Engineers golf bag and an Engineers cap,” Carter said, referring to RXR Realty, which bought the club last year. “He has talent. He has a method to his swing, which he has taught to our members.”
The one drawback for Engineers in Svoboda’s historically successful season is that it has rekindled his hunger to get back on tour. Carter said: “He has been hemming and hawing about going back to Q School. Right after he won [on Thursday], I texted him, saying, `I guess this makes that decision easy.’ He texted back and said, `Yup.’ ”
If he does not make it, though, he knows that he has a home in 2019.
Caddies get their day
One day every year, caddies throughout the Met Section get treated like members. The pro and members at Cherry Valley Club in Garden City tend to the caddies’ every need, instead of vice versa. In a few cases the members even carry the caddies’ clubs.
It is The Keith, the annual caddies tournament and one of Long Island’s noblest golf traditions. This year marked the 10th anniversary of the event held in memory of Keith Cerrato, the Cherry Valley caddie who was struck and killed by a car in 2006 as he was crossing Hempstead Turnpike. Thousands of dollars in scholarships have been presented to students at Chaminade High and Hofstra, Keith’s schools, as a result of the tournament. Each caddie is backed by sponsors, usually from his or her club.
“The letters we get from these students really make you feel it’s all worthwhile and that Keith’s sprit is living on,” said Mary Lou Cerrato, Keith’s mom.
Caddies are treated to lunch before teeing off and an awards dinner after they finish. Kyle Ritchie of Garden City Country Club shot 64 and defended the title he won last year. Tristan Burr of Cold Spring Country Club finished second with a 66. Others in the field didn’t break 100, which didn’t matter a bit.
“If people saw a video of this day,” Cherry Valley pro Ed Kelly said, “they would really know what golf is about. It’s a day of fun and giving back to others who are less fortunate. Keith would have loved this day.”
Cliff Saffron, Engineers CC, ninth hole, 163 yards, 7-iron
Natalie Einstein, Woodmere Club, third hole, 89 yards, 5-hybrid
John Hurley (of Southampton), West Bolton GC, Jericho, Vt., third hole, 149 yards, 8-iron
Gary Fishberg, Tam O’Shanter Club, second hole, 113 yards, 8-iron
Bill Goodspeed, Harbor Links, 12th hole, 150 yards, 9-iron
Cono Grosso, Wheatley Hills GC, 10th hole, 180 yards, 6-iron
Lula Cardoza, Wheatley Hills GC, 10th hole, 153 yards, 4-hybrid
Joseph Hands, Mill Pond GC, sixth hole, 136 yards, 9-iron
Aldo Perrino, Lido GC, seventh hole, 185, 5-iron
Brian Smith, Stonebridge GL&CC, ninth hole, 140 yards, 7-iron
Sid Steinberg, Timber Point White, sixth hole, 110 yards, 9-iron
David Beitter, Timber Point Blue, second hole, 134 yards, 8-iron
Mary Ellen McNally, Sandy Pond GC, fourth hole, 82 yards, 8-iron
Cathy Boudreau, Sandy Pond GC, sixth hole, 118 yards, 3-wood