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SportsColumnistsMark Herrmann

Herrmann: Golf goes with the red, white and blue

John V. Hines (l), director of golf at

John V. Hines (l), director of golf at The Baiting Hollow Club stands with Brigadier General (NY retired) hold a memento containing a flag flown by Major Dan Rooney in his jet over Iraq and presented to the PGA. (Sept. 4, 2009) Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

In golf terms, a "ranger" is someone whose job is to traverse the course and keep golfers moving. The exception comes once a year when Army Rangers appear at Plandome Country Club in full uniform for a tournament. They are there to help people pause - and remember Sgt. Jimmy Regan, whom both the Army Rangers and the club count as one of their own.

In that spirit, the Baiting Hollow Club was honored at the PGA Show in Orlando this past winter for having raised $38,000 last season for the Folds of Honor Foundation. Dan Rooney, a club pro from Oklahoma, honored Baiting Hollow as one of the top national performers for helping provide scholarships to families of wounded or deceased military members.

Rooney was in turn awarded the Metropolitan Golf Writers Mary Bea Potter honor for humanitarianism and heroism last month, only he wasn't present to receive it. Along with being a pro, he also is Maj. Dan Rooney, an F-16 pilot who has begun his fourth tour of duty in the Persian Gulf.

The point is, in golf terms, green definitely does not clash with red, white and blue. People involved with the game do what they can to serve those who serve.

"My whole thing is that everybody involved in golf has charities they donate to. But without these guys laying their lives on the line, there would be no other charities. They are protecting us," said John Hines, head pro at Baiting Hollow, son and nephew of Marines, whose son-in-law has done three tours in Iraq and whose nephew has served there, as well.

His was one of 21 Long Island golf facilities that took part last September in Patriot Golf Day, with proceeds going to Rooney's Folds of Honor (named for the way a flag is folded for one of the fallen). He and retired Brig. Gen. General Raymond Doyle, a Baiting Hollow member, are planning this year's event for Labor Day: Blackhawk helicopters and 40 veterans who will play golf and be treated like the celebrities are in pro-ams.

"The hardest thing I had to do was stand up and receive this award at the PGA show," Hines said, indicating that he didn't think a golf pro was in the same league as Folds of Honor official Ed Pulido, who lost a leg in Iraq.

Plandome member Bob Hotarek can identify. He and close friend and fellow club member James Regan, father of the late sergeant, are humbled when they regularly visit wounded military personnel and offer help to their families through the Leading the Way Fund. Their golf tournament every September draws many golfers and elicits donations of free rounds at exclusive clubs.

"The Regan family and my family felt we had a moral obligation to do what Jim would want us to do," Hotarek said.

Jimmy Regan of Manhasset had been an honor student and lacrosse star at Chaminade who excelled at Duke. He had opportunities to go to law school or go immediately to work on Wall Street. Instead, moved by 9/11 and the deaths of many people he knew, he joined the military, gravitated to the elite Army Rangers and served two terms each in Afghanistan and Iraq. The 26-year-old was killed in February 2007 by a roadside bomb.

"People say this is crazy, but that was the day it became 100 percent clear in my mind that I would go into the Marine Corps," said Connor Dwyer, a Manhasset neighbor and friend who always looked up to Regan. "He gave it all up to go in the military and do something because he thought it was right."

Dwyer was preparing for a lacrosse game with his Villanova teammates that day when he decided to follow the same path. He felt reassured later that year when he and his father Kevin played in the first Regan memorial golf outing. "The crowd was huge, Army Rangers were there. I was so humbled," Dwyer said. "I said I can't believe this is the brotherhood I'm about to join."

This July 4 weekend is a special one for Dwyer because he is on Long Island to play with a buddy in a member-member tournament at Westhampton Country Club. Golf is a getaway and a passion for him.

"I always take all my leave in the summer," said the Marine who leaves Thursday for two weeks in Afghanistan, in preparation for seven months there starting in January.

In between, he is looking forward to being at Plandome in September for his favorite outing.

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