Being an assistant golf professional really is a dream job, as long as you don’t mind 60- to 70-hour work weeks with modest pay. Also, you very rarely get to play the game you love so much that you chose to make it your life’s work.
“You practice after hours,” said Kyle Higgins of Massapequa, in his fourth year as an assistant pro at Inwood Country Club after five years at Greenwich Country Club. He laughed when he was asked when those off hours are and said, “Not many.”
“When the shop closes at 6 [p.m.], you practice,” said Higgins, who like the rest of the field in the two-day Metropolitan Assistants Championship at Bethpage Red, actually does consider it his dream job. It was especially joyful for him Wednesday when he collected the $8,000 winner’s check with his second consecutive 67 to finish at 6 under.
He and 11 others — including Wheatley Hills assistant John Guyton, who tied for second at 4 under — qualified for the national assistants tournament next month in Port St. Lucie, Florida, which is one of the baubles that keeps guys like them going. “I love to play. I love to compete. I love being under the gun, having the opportunity to rise to the occasion. It’s really what I live for,” said Higgins, 29.
Just about all of the assistants are shooting for big goals. Tam O’Shanter’s Josh Rackley, for instance, is gearing up for the PGA Tour. Rackley, 26, will be off to the qualifying tournament, known as Q School, in a few weeks after a solid summer of having his swing refined by fellow assistant Anthony Cancro. Rackley finished fifth at 2 under.
Others are aiming for rare and coveted head pro openings. Higgins said, “I think making a living at playing is more of a pipe dream for me. I’m going to keep working hard at it and if some magic happens, I’m certainly not going to get in the way of it. But my goal is to be a head professional, and a player in the section. When I step to the tee, [I want] people saying, ‘That guy can play.’ ”
Either way, the annual Met Assistants event is a highlight after what is usually a long, hot summer and a busy Labor Day weekend. “The storm chased a bunch of people away but we still had some play. Our die-hards were out there,” said Kevin Lisi, who, unlike most of the golfers in the tournament, works at a public course, Bergen Point in West Babylon. His golf consists of three rounds a month, he said, “If I’m lucky.”
In fact, Bergen Point head pro Bob Miller recently exhorted him to play more and gave him a 20-minute lesson. Both ideas worked. Lisi, 25, shot 67 Wednesday, finished at 1 under and made the nationals.
Being an assistant has its occasional unexpected perks. Jesse Fitzgerald got to play with Rory McIlroy when the four-time major champion visited Garden City Golf Club last week after The Barclays and before McIlroy won the Deutsche Bank Championship. “It’s just amazing to watch someone who pretty much is at the top of the sport. I’ve never seen anyone hit the ball like that,” said Fitzgerald, 37, who has three young children and very little time to work on his game.
“But it’s all good,” he said, adding that it is no secret what motivates assistants. “It’s the love of the game, really.”
Thursday, it is back behind the pro shop counter, back to the lesson tee, back to supervising outings for Higgins and the rest. Lisi, having worked at Bergen Point since he was 15, said, “I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”
The 47th Annual Fuoco Memorial Golf Feastival — featuring numerous food booths around the course — will be Sept. 15 at Bellport Country Club. Proceeds go to Camp Paquatuck, the Rotary’s health camp for special-needs children.
Anthony Domanico, Timber Point Blue, second hole, 134 yards, 5-iron
Bob Scott, Pine Ridge GC, seventh hole, 160 yards, 6-iron
Art Graniela, Pine Hills CC, 17th hole, 147 yards, 7-iron
Byung Suk Lindgren, Cold Spring CC, third hole, 132 yards, 7-iron
Dennis Boller, Bergen Point GC, 11th hole, 150 yards, 8-iron
Michael Musto, Lido GC, 15th hole, 154 yards, 6-iron
Louie Squillante (of East Meadow), Villa Roma CC, Callicoon, N.Y., seventh hole, 140 yards, 8-iron
Peter Coyne, West Sayville GC, 12th hole, 168 yards, 3-hybrid
Rick Bogenshutz, Mill Pond GC, fourth hole, 152 yards, pitching wedge
Alan Golus, Lake Success GC, third hole, 163 yards, 3-wood