Some of the most resplendent fairways, bunkers and greens in Augusta this spring were nowhere near Amen Corner. They were not at the Masters at all, but in frames, in the heart of town. They were part of a museum exhibit by the Academy of Golf Art, featuring the work of George T. Lawrence, a single-digit handicap golfer and a major championship-caliber painter from Westhampton Beach.
Golf people often talk about their sport as an art form and a course as a canvas. Lawrence takes those expressions literally, having combined his two passions and translated them into more than 100 golf paintings. A large portion of those were commissioned by clubs. Each of them was a labor of love.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been on a golf course where I couldn’t find a spot that I thought would make a pretty good painting,” he said.
He brought a touch of the East End to Augusta’s Morris Museum of Art recently in one of his three displayed pieces, “Centennial Reflections — Shinnecock 1995.” The oil on linen work involves pictures-within-the-picture of the Shinnecock Hills back nine and clubhouse, a portrait of 1896 U.S. Open champion James Foulis and a celebratory scene highlighting 1986 Open champion Raymond Floyd — all above a mantle decked with golf artifacts.
Also selected for the museum were his paintings of two Irish courses, the fifth hole at Doonberg and the ninth at Royal County Down. It was an honor for Lawrence, 70, the academy’s president, and his fellow artists to have a showing in the city that many consider the capital of golf. The exhibit began before the Masters and extended through last week. The museum reported record attendance.
Visitors saw a colorful depiction of the fourth hole on Bethpage Black by Linda Hartough, whom Lawrence called “America’s most famous golf artist.”
His appreciation for golf preceded his appetite for art. As a boy in Kew Gardens, Queens, he went with his father to play at the Forest Park course. “I shot 132,” he said. “Three years later, I shot 65, from the back tees. I just loved it. I was just nuts about it.”
He played on the golf team at Fairfield University, where he was an English major. After finishing his Master’s degree, he began a fast-track career at Met Life. The job was more stressful than rewarding, so he and his wife Maureen moved from the city to East Quogue and began restoring and renting houses.
When one client was unsure of how to spruce up a hallway, Lawrence suggested a mural and offered to paint it himself. “I’ve never had a lesson but ever since I can remember I had a pen or pencil in my hand and I was looking for a clean piece of paper,” he said. Word got around at Westhampton Country Club, where Lawrence is a member, and he was commissioned to do a painting for the club’s centennial.
Because he played in Metropolitan Golf Association events, including a sectional qualifier for the 1986 U.S. Open, he heard about clubs that wanted artwork done for various celebrations and occasions. “All of a sudden, I had a new career,” he said.
His preparation is intricate. He takes about 70 photos of a hole, mostly in early morning and evening to capture the best light, and spends two months on each project. He has painted holes from Atlantic Golf Club, Garden City Golf Club, Nassau Country Club and other places. “Fortunately, I don’t have most of them,” he said. “They were commissioned or purchased.
“It’s ridiculously great. I’m very, very fortunate,” said the man whose creative eye is working whenever he has clubs in his hands. “It’s a great place to be, out in nature. Wherever it is, I can make a picture out of it.”’
The Knox School will hold its 12th Annual Golf and Tennis Outing June 11 at Nissequogue Golf Club, St. James. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maria Alinda Dias, Port Jefferson CC, 16th hole, 143 yards, 5-wood
John Aurilia, Woods at Cherry Creek, 17th hole, 135 yards, 8-iron
Richard Landauer, Stonebridge GL&CC, fourth hole, 178 yards, 5-iron
Kenny Yellin, Engineers CC, 14th hole, 127 yards, gap wedge
Joseph Morello, Timber Point White, sixth hole, 145 yards, 6-iron
Mike Nuget, Eisenhower White, eighth hole, 151 yards, 7-iron
Robbie Bernstein, Sumpwams Creek GC, fourth hole, 112 yards, pitching wedge
Dan Herb, Sumpwams Creek GC, eighth hole, 105 yards, pitching wedge