Just because the ground was frozen, the golf courses were closed and the pro shops were locked it did not mean that Long Island club pros considered the winter to be the offseason. Many of them kept teaching, learning, merchandising and, in several prominent cases, making tons of birdies.
Jason Caron, head pro at Mill River Club in Oyster Bay, went to Florida for two months for what he figured would be a relaxing family vacation. While he was there, he entered the PGA Stroke Play Championship and won it. Playing against top club pros throughout the country, he shot 8-under-par 64 in the third round at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie and finished at 18 under, with a trophy in his hands.
“Toward the end of the season last year I was playing pretty darn well. When I got down to Florida I was playing in a skins game with my dad. We would play at least twice a week and that was all about making birdies,” said Caron, a former PGA Tour player.
During his stay in Jupiter, he kept working on his game under the eye of Sean Quinlivan, head pro at Piping Rock. “He just mentioned something and it clicked within 15 minutes. And then in the next three days, I made something like 20 birdies,” Caron said. The two Long Island pros played together in the team competition that is part of the PGA of America’s winter series, after which Quinlivan suggested him to enter the Stroke Play.
Caron resisted, saying that he and his wife Liz, a former LPGA tour player and now teaching pro at Mill River, had set aside the two months to be with their daughters Caroline, 4, and Julia, seven months. Liz reinforced Quinlivan’s urging, Caron said, adding, “Finally, I said, ‘OK, I’ll do it.’ Next thing you know, I played fantastic.”
He was not the only local pro who found the touch this past winter. Mark Brown of Tam O’Shanter and Matt Dobyns of Fresh Meadow won the PGA Junior-Senior Team Championship, shooting 32 under par for four rounds. Rob Corcoran of Poxabogue teamed with Rich Berberian of New Hampshire to win the inaugural PGA Four-Ball Stableford Team Championship.
Other Long Islanders attended a national workshop, many went to the annual golf trade show in Orlando, which is essentially the industry’s biggest convention. Mike Jacobs, director of golf at Rock Hill, was invited by a European PGA group to give a seminar at The Belfry in England. When he was asked how his talk went over, he laughed and said, “They must have liked it. They invited me back next year in Helsinki, Finland.”
The bottom line is, pros are determined to turn winter into a productive time, an opportunity to keep themselves sharp for April, when they start to really get busy.
In Caron’s case, the victory boosted his confidence more than it did his bank account (first prize was $3,000, according to the PGA of America). He plans to play in the national club pros’ tournament in Oregon this summer, with the goal of qualifying for the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow in North Carolina in August.
“In the game of golf, you’re always learning. When I give a lesson to someone, I learn from them. If there’s something that I’m trying to get across that is different, I will try to use it with the next person,” he said. “As for the membership, they’re pretty excited to see that I won a pretty major event. It’s fun for them to tell their friends and fellow members, ‘Hey our pro is still playing decent golf.’ ”
Supporters of Cormaria Retreat House in Sag Harbor will hold their annual tournament May 15 at Mill Pond Golf Club in Medford. Call (631) 239-5640 . . . Saints Cyril & Methodius Church, Deer Park, will hold the Rev. Msgr. Thaddeus Rooney Memorial Golf Outing on June 1 at Timber Point Golf Club, Great River. Call (631) 586-3600.
Ralph Diglio (of Lido Beach), Lakeview Golf Club, Delray Beach, Fla., 16th hole, 126 yards, 9-wood
Dom Marsi, Nissequogue GC, 12th hole, 156 yards, 8-iron
Joe Rocco, Hamlet at Willow Creek, 16th hole, 119 yards, 9-iron
Steve Owen, West Sayville GC, eighth hole, 143 yards, 4-hybrid
Richard Lewin, The Greens at Half Hollow, fifth hole, 92 yards, 9-wood
Tony Sorrentino, Pine Ridge GC, fifth hole, 175 yards, 5-iron
Peter Paranick, Pine Hills G&CC, 17th hole, 145 yards, 7-iron
Joe Sanfilippo, Heatherwood GC, 10th hole, 175 yards, 7-iron
Debbie Harrison, Heatherwood GC, 15th hole, 112 yards, driver
Joe McDonald, Heatherwood GC, third hole, 159 yards, 5-iron