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SportsColumnistsMark Herrmann

Long Island veterans get lessons, clubs

Town of Huntington's Crab Meadow course is seen

Town of Huntington's Crab Meadow course is seen on April 27, 2015. Photo Credit: Newsday / Jim Peppler

The July 4th weekend will extend one extra day, with an additional serving of patriotism, for 40 Long Island veterans as they formally graduate from a golf program. July 5 will be another meaningful holiday for those — many of them disabled — who completed a course called PGA Hope.

Each participant will be getting more than a diploma. “This is what is spectacular about it. They’re giving us a whole new set of golf clubs,” said Jim Skuggevik, 67, of Port Jefferson Station, who lost his sight in an accident three years after he returned home from Vietnam.

PGA Hope (for Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) is a series of lessons open to all veterans, with a special invitation for those with disabilities. The Long Island sessions were held at the Town of Huntington’s Crab Meadow course and taught by volunteers from among local club pros.

“At times, we had more instructors than we needed, which was amazing,” said George Dixon, Crab Meadow’s head pro. “It felt really good to give back to the men and women who helped make our country as safe and great as it is.”

The Long Island participants will be part of a ceremony and tournament for Metropolitan area veterans Wednesday at Trump Ferry Point, just beyond the Whitestone Bridge.

Skuggevik has his son lined up to drive him there, and his grandson has learned how to help him get aligned for golf shots. He plans to play more from now on, with his new clubs and new technique. “They improved my grip and my stance,” he said. “It was really great instruction, what we did on the putting green each time, then on the driving range. They also taught me how to chip.”

Dixon said the students already have graduated in one sense, from the practice area to having played at least a few holes on the course. “The looks on the veterans’ faces when they hit great shots was priceless,” he said.

Tee it up at the diamond

For anyone who has ever faced the choice of playing golf or attending a major sporting event, there is a new solution: You can do both at once. TopGolf announced this week that it is installing a “Swing Suite” with two golf simulators at Philips Arena, home of the Atlanta Hawks. In what the company hopes will become a trend at sports venues, fans in the suite can tee it up during games, hitting off mats into screens that depict famous courses.

Chip shots

Fresh Meadow head pro Matt Dobyns, on his way to clinching a spot in the PGA Championship during the national club pros tournament last week, revealed in a national TV interview that his clubs are unorthodox. All of his irons are the same length because he feels comfortable that way. He credited Pete’s Golf Shop in Mineola for making the irons and adjusting their weights . . . Long Island Amateur champion Garett Engel on how he stays sharp despite commuting to the city for work every day: “I chip in the backyard, the dog runs after the ball” . . . As part of its food-and-fashion promotional effort, the Northern Trust, the PGA Tour playoff opener to be held at Glen Oaks in August, announced this week that concessions will include Chef Marc Forgione’s Lobster Press sandwiches and Junior’s cheesecake.

Open’s legacy at Black Course endures

The U.S. Open occasionally leaves controversy in its wake, as it did last month with people wondering if it really was a good idea for the U.S. Golf Association to bring its crown jewel to Erin Hills. Not so at one famous former Open site, though. At Bethpage Black, the legacy is all about first-class conditions and a world-class reputation.

“I played it before and it was always good, but the things they did to make it tournament-ready, they have kept. They keep it in phenomenal shape,” Darren Weinstein, a Woodmere native and Staten Island resident, said near the first tee recently. “This, for a resident fee of $65? Best buy in golf.”

The Black will host the PGA Championship in 2019 and the Ryder Cup in 2024. Head pro Joe Rehor pointed out that the greatest continuing benefit from the 2002 and 2009 Opens is that New York State has used the funds from the tournaments to keep all five of the park’s courses in top form.

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