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Sergio Garcia highlights demo day at Bethpage Black

The Black Course at Bethpage State Park played

The Black Course at Bethpage State Park played host as golf company "TaylorMade" unveiled new products in Bethpage, New York, on Tuesday, June 17, 2014. As part of the event, pro golfer Sergio Garcia had a driving contest with some lucky chosen golfers. Credit: Richard T. Slattery

Dave Rens of Durban, South Africa, a crew member of a yacht docked in Sag Harbor, said that, for him and crewmate Troy Rotondo of Arizona, Bethpage Black "has been on our list for a long time." So just getting a tee time Tuesday morning was like a gift.

The same went for Louise Weizel of Houston, who was on her last day of vacation with her husband Ira, visiting her brother Bob McGee in Great Neck. Playing the Black was a whim for Chris Indrieri of Old Brookville, who talked his buddy Soo Choi of Old Bethpage into joining him. "I woke up this morning, I figured it was going to be a beautiful day," Indrieri said.

Seth Silverstein of Manhattan actually had called three times Monday night, trying to change his 9:42 a.m. slot. "Fortunately," he said, "there was nothing available."

Each of them got the equivalent of a lifetime's share of good bounces. Each received a factory-fresh TaylorMade SLDRS-S driver (value $329), a dozen balls, a cap, a loudspeaker first-tee introduction worthy of a PGA Tour event and a hearty welcome from TaylorMade's ambassador to Bethpage: Sergio Garcia.

It all was a promotion by TaylorMade to launch the driver, its newest product. The company had scheduled an event from 9 to 10 a.m., so whoever was starting in that span was going to be a star. The occasion became something like a TV game show, in the Extreme Home Makeover genre.

That it featured Garcia, one of the world's best known golfers, made it more intriguing, for the golfers and for Garcia. He has come a long way from his first visit to Bethpage, the 2002 U.S. Open, when he had a contretemps with fans razzing him about his pre-shot routine.

This time, his rapport with golfers and 200 onlookers could not have been warmer. He hugged Weizel and high-fived John Hiller, 8, of New York City, after the youngster laced a drive right down the middle. Garcia was impressed to hear from emcee Tripp Eisenhour of Golf Channel that Hiller had made a birdie last week on No. 9 at Westchester Country Club, site of one of Garcia's eight PGA Tour victories.

As Garcia approached the first of his four tee shots (he hit one with each group), a voice from the gallery shouted: "Carry that tree on the right!" Without looking up from his stance, Garcia answered, "Which one?" After his practice stroke, another spectator asked, "Does that swing come with the club?" Again without looking up, Garcia said, "Yes."

"It's nice to be back here. It's a good course, it's been good to me. I've always liked it," Garcia said in an interview, referring to his fourth-place finish at the 2002 Open, tie for 10th in the 2009 Open and tie for third at The Barclays in 2012.

He said the knee that had bothered him during the U.S. Open at Pinehurst last week feels better and is ready for the Travelers this week in Hartford. Of the Open, which offered a unique setup this year, he said, "It was interesting to see. The way they set up the course Saturday, it was tough. Sunday they moved some tees up and they gave you some options. It was nice."

On Tuesday, he was conducting different business. "We're keeping it fun," he said.

Mission accomplished. "It's unbelievable that this happened," Rotondo said.

Silverstein said: "It's kind of coincidental that I was getting fitted for clubs yesterday and I finalized my irons and 3-wood and happened not to finalize my driver. Then I walked into this. What a lucky Tuesday."

Golfers said a big part of the luck was getting to meet a pro who sure looked at home on the Black. "Lovely guy," Louise Weizel said. "I hope he wins big."


The 19th Annual Doc Fallot Scholarship Golf Outing, benefiting a fund for Suffolk scholastic wrestlers, will be Aug. 7 at Rock Hill Golf & Country Club, Manorville. Call 631-563-8400.

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