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SportsColumnistsMark Herrmann

Logan Knipe, 7, has a big heart for golf

Logan Knipe of Middle Island chips onto the

Logan Knipe of Middle Island chips onto the green at Spring Lake Golf Course in Middle Island in August 2014. Credit: James Knipe

Logan Knipe had a golf club in his hands when he was a baby, his father said, recalling something that was not all that long ago. The point is, the family was just happy that Logan, now a seven-year-old golf enthusiast, was healthy enough back then to grasp anything.

"He was born with two holes in his heart," James, the dad, said the other day. "When he was five months old, he spent a couple days in ICU and he actually had open heart surgery. We went through that battle. So he's our miracle baby. We knew there was something special from there."

Now he is also an all-star, selected to play next week in the All-Star tournament of the Junior PGA League -- a team circuit that has entries representing public and private courses. Logan plays for the Coram-based Pine Ridge squad and has teamed with Richie Jones to compile an unbeaten twosome record heading into the regular season finale Sunday.

Local golf officials promote the league as a way to see golf as a team sport, with the same camaraderie as Little League baseball and youth soccer.

Knipe's story has an extra dimension because of his rough start. He is fine now and took up golf seriously last year (older brother James III has been on the Longwood varsity since seventh grade, and 11-year-old brother Seth is a standout bowler).

"It's his passion. He's crazy with it," his father said. "There are so many things he does that can't be taught. It's all from the love of the game."

While he was practicing at Spring Lake Wednesday for the first round of the Drive, Chip and Putt contest, Logan sank a 30-yard bunker shot for birdie on the par-3 sixth hole. It was gratifying for his dad, who was a pro preparing for a shot at the PGA Tour when he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1994. "I struggle with the heat and stuff like that," the elder Knipe said, "but I'm still walking and talking." And watching.

Winged Foot dreaming

The thought of playing in the 100th Met Open at Winged Foot a huge motivator for Jesse Fitzgerald, assistant pro at Garden City Golf Club. Fitzgerald shot 7-under par 28 on the back nine at Plandome Country Club Tuesday, finishing as medalist with a 65 at a qualifier. "I always want to play in the Met Open, especially at Winged Foot," he said. After shooting 1 over on the front Tuesday, he made decent-length putts on 10 and 11 and a longer one on 12. "I just got into the zone, I guess," he said after making five birdies and an eagle.

Johnson's class extolled

The humanity and humility Zach Johnson showed after he won the British Open was genuine and nothing new, said his friend Ralph Howe III of Sayville. Howe, a former Nationwide Tour player and Masters participant, was associate pastor at the Florida church Johnson attended early in his career.

"Zach represents what he believes so well," Howe said. "I have seen him in so many situations away from cameras and he treats every person and every situation with class and humility."

Howe once conducted a bible study in Johnson's home -- and was horrified to see one of his children scribbling on the host's white furniture. Years later, Johnson, by then a Masters champion, said, "Oh, that's all right. They're family."


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