Long before Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player became famous and long after Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy are done, Long Island has had and will have its own Big Three. It is not a trio of golfers, but a collection of stalwart amateur tournaments that are big names in their own right: the Richardson, the Havemeyer and the Travis.
Combined, they have been held 242 times and as a unit, they signal the real start of the competitive golf season in the Northeast. They aren’t generally called the Big Three, as the groupings of professional stars past and present are. And they are run independently of one another by separate organizations, but they all stand tall.
The three-week run ends today with the final match of the 107th Travis at Garden City Golf Club. That follows Joe Saladino’s victory in the 66th Havemeyer at Southward Ho in Bay Shore last week and Brett Cooper’s triumph in the 69th Richardson at Seawane in Hewlett Harbor the week before.
Saladino symbolizes the continuity and experience that come into play in this troika. He has won all three of the events and has taken the Havemeyer four times.
But the beauty of these tournaments is that they always are open to something new. Cooper became the first member of the host club ever to win the Richardson. The 25-year-old did not even take up golf until he was a sophomore at Lynbrook High School. He began as a 22 handicap and improved quickly. In the 2016 Richardson, the rising first-year Hofstra Law School student achieved the rare quinella of being the medalist in stroke play qualifying and match play champion, defeating Jonathan Jeter in the final.
Plus, he is part of a three-pronged legacy that has grown so strong that it has inspired the creation of a fourth big event. The Gene Sarazen Invitational debuted at Fresh Meadow last October, won by Jeter, and is on the schedule again this year as a season-ender.
For the 30 years Bob Giambrone has been playing, he always asked himself a question familiar to many golfers: “Gee, I wonder if I’m ever going to get a hole-in-one.”
“Then,” he said, “I got two in five days.”
The Plandome Country Club member made an ace on the 165-yard 11th hole at his home club on May 7. Then he scored another on the 185-yard third hole at Harbor Links on May 12. “I did change my swing last year,” he said, but added that there was no particular key to doing it twice. Patrick Rohan was playing with him both times, but didn’t see the second one—no one did, because of the glare. Giambrone was looking for the ball in front of the green at first.
He used a hybrid each time, a 4 and 3, respectively. “I had to. They were both into the wind,” he said. The second one was a special occasion, his wife Juliet’s birthday. But she isn’t a golfer and couldn’t quite identify with his joy. “She wanted me to put the garbage out.”
Frank Lukaszewicz of Melville was there to witness the second lifetime hole-in-one by his wife, Darlene, at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida in March. He is proud to report that she made the 1 with a 6-iron on the 112-yard sixth hole of the Squire course.
He was at least as proud to report that, playing with buddies in the Kings Park Golf Association on Thursday, he made his third ace. It came on the 176-yard third hole at Baiting Hollow, with a 5-iron.
Jim Hazen of Miller Place, the 2014 Long Island Open champion and a current competitor on the PGA Latin American Tour, was the medalist at the U.S. Open local qualifier at Willow Ridge in Harrison Monday, shooting 2-under-par 69…Book Note: The new intriguing work by Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee, “The Anatomy of Greatness,” points out that almost all of history’s elite golfers (other than Tiger Woods) have allowed their front heel to lift off the ground on the backswing. Chamblee says that has become a no-no in modern teaching, but suggests that golfers might remain less injury-prone if they tried it the old way.