Andrew Svoboda, a former PGA Tour player, was the only one in the field at Nassau Country Club this week who has played in more U.S. Opens than Long Island Opens. After having been in four of the former, this was his debut in the latter, and he took an immediate liking to it.
In fact, he passed up a guaranteed spot in a Web.com Tour event to play for the title of Nassau and Suffolk. “I’ll take it. I’m glad I came here,” he said after having finished 11 under and won the Long Island Open by six strokes on Thursday.
The New Rochelle native and former St. John’s star became eligible for the Long Island Golf Association’s championship because he took a job here as a teaching pro at Engineers Country Club. At 38, he wanted to make a transition from player to teacher because the travel had worn on him through three years on the PGA Tour (including a tie for second at the 2014 Zurich Classic) and six years on the Web.com circuit.
Svoboda nonetheless flashed tour-quality skills on Thursday as he shot a bogey-free 6-under-par 64, his second such score in three days at Nassau. Afterward, he spoke less of The Show than his local roots. He appreciates the area’s tournaments — he won the Met Open as an amateur in 2003 and the New York State Open in 2007 — and knows how much they mean to everyone who plays in them.
“I like this course. I won the Nassau Invitational here in 2003. It sets up well for me, I like the greens. I just seem to play well here,” he said. “I just love playing in this section. Playing on tour gave me experience. Coming back to play in this section is fun, playing these historic courses.”
He appeared to be right at home all day Thursday. His drives were longer than most of the other golfers and he broke away from the pack with 12- and 10-foot birdie putts on 8 and 9. He had back-to-back birdies again on 12 and 13, the latter coming on a 30-footer. Those came after a solid par save on 11 with a gouge out of the left rough and a pitch off a tight lie. A birdie 3 on 17 gave him the six-shot margin over the runner-up, defending champion John Daniel Guiney of Piping Rock.
“That’s typical Andrew,” said Matt Sita of Old Westbury, who played in the final group with Svoboda and finished sixth at 1 under. “I’m friends with him so I play a lot of golf with him down in Florida. Just watching that display was fun.”
It was so enjoyable for Svoboda that he admitted he might to get back on tour. Or maybe not. “I like playing,” the champion said, “but I like my job at Engineers, too.”