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SportsColumnistsMark Herrmann

Meadow Brook’s makeover in spotlight at Ike Championship

The par-3 at the sixth hole on the

The par-3 at the sixth hole on the Meadow Brook Club golf course in Jericho on Tuesday. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

Just like old times, there was drama on the uphill par 3 that leads toward the Meadow Brook Club’s porch. Now, as then, the golfer cannot see the cup from the tee. So, when Dylan Stein of Flemington, New Jersey hit his 4-hybrid there Tuesday morning, all he could do was say to himself, “Be right once today.”

A moment later, he heard his father “going nuts” up by the green, which told the player he had made a hole-in-one. Stein, a rising senior at the University of Arizona, had no idea that World Golf Hall of Famers Hubert Green and Hale Irwin once played that hole four times in a playoff to decide the 2002 Lightpath Long Island Classic. Or that it measured 167 yards during Green’s victory, instead of the 230 it was for the Metropolitan Golf Association’s 63rd Ike Championship this week. “I’m honored,” Stein said.

To him, the par-3 ninth (which used to play as No. 18 in the Senior PGA Tour event) simply was part of a terrific course. “This place is immaculate. I can’t thank them enough for having us,” he said. “The greens are perfect, the rough is a little thick. It’s challenging out here but it’s really well maintained and the layout is great.”

The Ike was the first public showing of an old Long Island favorite since a makeover two years ago. Despite being a private club, Meadow Brook had become a familiar spot for Long Islanders during a 16-year run (1987-2002) of the multi-titled senior tournament best known as the Northville Long Island Classic. Gary Player and Lee Trevino each won it twice, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus also played in it.

Current members believed the place needed updating and, apparently, some toughening. Champion Michael Graboyes was the only one of the area’s top amateurs to finish under par through 54 holes and he had to birdie the final two to do it.

“I’d call it more of a beast now. It’s modernized,” said Long Islander Hunter Semels, 34, who played Meadow Brook numerous times, pre-restoration, and attended the Northville tournament as a youngster. “They’ve completely changed the bunkering. They’ve brought a lot of bunkers back into play, making them relevant off the tee shot. They’ve added a lot of length. It has the old feel, but it is a different golf course.”

The fifth and 18th greens (14th and ninth, respectively, in the senior tour days) have been completely redone, making them less steep and definitely less susceptible to the flooding that made them unplayable for the 1989 Northville. Many of the trees on No. 5 have been removed, making the flag visible from the tee. No. 1 has been converted from a par 5 to a par 4, the opposite of No. 18. The practice area is much larger.

“I’ve been playing here since I was 10 or 11 years old and I just absolutely love it. The greens are perfect. What they did here is awesome,” said Joe Saladino, 38, of Huntington, who was a regular in the gallery at the Northville. “It’s just a beautiful piece of property.”

Reviews from Ike participants echoed those of the pros who played there 30 years ago. At the time, Bruce Crampton said, “They could have the U.S. Open here tomorrow.”

It is hard to imagine how Meadow Brook could host a pro tournament again, what with Long Island scheduled for numerous events at Bethpage Black and Shinnecock Hills. But the course in Jericho that drew a comparison to Augusta National when it opened in the 1950s has had a solid rebirth.

“It was a very, very good golf course and I think the few things they weren’t in love with have become exceptional,” said Brian Mahoney, executive director of the MGA. “I think the club is pleased with the final product and we’re definitely pleased to be here.”

ACES

Linda Perniciaro, Spring Lake GC Sandpiper, sixth hole, 90 yards, 8-iron

Bruce Katz, Lawrence GC, fourth hole, 142 yards, 7-iron

Jim Mayo, Wheatley Hills GC, sixth hole, 190 yards, 6-iron

Richard Cassaro, Wheatley Hills GC, sixth hole, 185 yards, 4-hybrid

Frank Gutman, Old Westbury G&CC Overlook, eighth hole, 137 yards, 8-iron

Edward Harris, West Sayville GC, 17th hole, 90 yards, 9-iron

Mike Katz, Cold Spring CC, third hole, 132 yards, 8-iron

Richard Rauff, Timber Point Blue, second hole, 134 yards, 9-iron

Drew Fritzhand, Lake Success GC, 11th hole, 160 yards, 7-iron

Aggie O’Leary, Leisure Village GC, eighth hole, 103 yards, 6-hybrid

Ed Kelly, Willow Creek G&CC, second hole, 116 yards, pitching wedge

Joe Martinelli, Sandy Pond GC, third hole, 112 yards, pitching wedge

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