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Working with autistic youngsters is the greatest lesson for golf pro Anthony Cancro

There was joy on the range at Tam O’Shanter Club in Brookville last Saturday. Teaching pro Anthony Cancro led an hour-long lesson to 15 youngsters with autism and was amazed at the response.

“It was by far my most fulfilling day as a golf pro,” said Cancro, who has been in the business 15 years and whose students include John Tavares and other Islanders. In fact, he invited Casey Cizikas to attend the center and lead the students in exercises.

Cancro said the idea came from a Tam O’Shanter member who has a child with autism and works with a group known as Life’s WORC. That organization, along with another called Tee Off 4 Autism, set up the clinic that attracted students from ages 7 through 15. Head pro Mark Brown and two other pros also joined in the teaching.

“We were going to do chipping, pitching and putting, but these kids just wanted to hit the ball,” Cancro said. “We had a really cool putting competition at the end. It was pure joy. As much as the kids enjoyed it, the parents were just so thankful. I got really choked up.”

He added that he expects it to be an ongoing program.

West Islip’s Mullin a first-time winner

Dani Mullin of West Islip shot 5-under-par 65, despite a double bogey on the final hole, in the first of two rounds last weekend and went on to a five-shot win the Hartford Women’s Open, her first championship as a pro. She played in the event during a week off from her rookie season on the Symetra Tour, a feeder circuit for the LPGA Tour.

Mullin, 26, had given up golf after an injury during her career at Elon (North Carolina) College but tried again at her dad’s suggestion, won the women’s club championship at Southward Ho in Bay Shore and went in back into the game full time. Between tournaments, she supports herself by caddying at National Golf Links in Southampton. That helped her cut expenses last week as she carried her own bag, rather than having a caddie, during practice rounds.

“My swing coach, Mike Darrell, kept giving me solid pieces of advice between rounds and it was just a good weekend,” the former Suffolk girls high school champion said.

The greatest challenge is adapting to tour life. “I’m still learning the tricks for how to pack lightly for two weeks on the road at a time,” she said. “But traveling is a joyous experience for me, so I am incredibly happy to be playing professional events for the first time.”

Love that club

Consider Steve Fried of East Rockaway among the biggest fans of the technology that produced hybrid golf clubs. He used his 24-degree hybrid to make his first hole-in-one (after 46 years of playing golf) late last year at the Great Outdoors Golf Club in Titusville, Florida, sinking his shot from 172 yards on the eighth hole. Then last month, he used the same club to score an ace on the 190-yard sixth hole at Bay Park in his hometown.

Interesting was the fact that, even though he has been around golf since he started caddying after his eighth-grade graduation in the late 1960s, he never had seen a hole-in-one before. He didn’t actually see either of his, either. The sun’s glare prevented him from following the shots. His wife Charlene discovered that the first one was in the cup. Fried was playing with buddies the next time he made a landmark shot with his hybrid.

“Now,” he said, “those guys want to go in my golf bag and take it out.”

19th hole

Jim Smoot Jr. of Huntington shot 3-under 68 at Bellport Country Club Thursday and was the medalist in a qualifier for the Met Junior Championship. At the same site the same day, Turner Brashear Foster of East Hampton shot 74 to lead qualifiers for the MGA Boys Championship . . . Pebble Beach is offering a discount to Metropolitan Golf Association members, the MGA said. Mention the promotional code GOLFMGA.

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