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SportsColumnistsMark Herrmann

Upstate’s MacTurk plays 1,000th course at Bethpage Black

Spectators line and cross the first fairway in

Spectators line and cross the first fairway in between tee times during Round 2 of the Barclays at Bethpage Black on Aug. 26, 2016. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

There are probably about 1,000 good reasons for someone to want to play Bethpage Black. Dave MacTurk of Leroy, New York, had a unique one: He had played 999 other courses first.

MacTurk, 69, a retired assistant course superintendent from upstate and a solid 7 handicap, kept meticulous records of his golf history. He dearly wanted to achieve the 1,000-course landmark at someplace special.

“I saw a list that said Bethpage Black was the best course in the state and the hardest course in the state,” he said on the phone from his home.

So, he and a buddy planned a trip from western New York (between Rochester and Buffalo) when he was deep into the 900s. MacTurk reached Long Island with 997 courses under his belt, warming up for his recent Tuesday round on the Black by playing Bethpage Green and Blue the previous day.

What brought his quest to light was that he and his friend ran into Bethpage head pro Kelley Brooke, who was heading out to the Black about an hour before their scheduled tee time. They began talking and she politely insisted that they play with her. They told her about MacTurk’s background and she made sure that one of her interns recorded the event on video.

That capped a 40-year campaign that gained steam in the 1980s, when MacTurk and friends made annual trips to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He thought it would be interesting if they eventually played all the courses in that area. “That goal kind of led to me thinking, ‘Well, it would be kind of nice to play every golf course in New York State.’ It was a goal I couldn’t reach, but I figured it would be fun trying,” he said.

Before he knew it, he had cataloged all the courses he had played previously, then started adding as many as he could to his Excel spreadsheet list. He played major championship venues Pinehurst No. 2 and Oak Hill and got on private clubs through professional courtesy, mentioning that he worked full-time at Chestnut Hill Country Club in Darien Center, New York.

Despite his retirement, he does not have loads of time to play. He helps his wife with chores around the house and watches his grandchildren several days a week. So, he is not shooting for 1,500 or 2,000. No. 1,000 was all he had hoped for. He was happy with the 87 he shot on the Black, with birdies on Nos. 9 and 10.

“I just knew,” he said, “it would be the perfect place.”

Mattana takes over as golf coach at NCC

David Mattana is looking for the next Arjun Atwal, or at least many young college golfers who would like to try to be that good.

Mattana, a real estate manager and a fixture in local golf circles as a competitor and administrator, was introduced this week as head golf coach at Nassau Community College — the alma mater of Atwal, who went on to win on the PGA Tour.

The new coach had served as assistant this past season to Paul Schmidt, whom he knew through wrestling. Schmidt acknowledged Mattana’s golf experience, which includes current service as secretary of the Long Island Golf Association and golf chairman at Fresh Meadow Country Club, and suggested it would work better if their roles were reversed.

“They have a pretty impressive pedigree. They’ve won national championships in the past,” Mattana said, referring to the work of retired coach Larry Dell Aquila. “I feel we have a lot of good young golfers on Long Island. I’m really determined to get as many as we possibly can. The Nassau Community College golfer is not your typical country club kid. These are kids who’ve made a lot of sacrifices to be good golfers.

“We’ve set the bar pretty high,” the new coach said. “We want to win a national championship again and we’re going to work hard to try to get there.”

A man after my own heart

Who says golf is doomed by the curse of slow play? Not Josh Heptig, superintendent at Dairy Creek Golf Course in San Luis Obispo, California. He played a par-5 hole at his course in 1 minute, 47.13 seconds, according to the Golf Course Superintendents of America Association. He is waiting to see if it is accepted by Guinness World Records.

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