Long Island’s competitive golf season finally got off to a start this week with the Long Island Boys and Girls Championships at Smithtown Landing Golf Club.
Two players who play out of clubs in East Hampton, 15-year-old Sam O’Hara and 16-year-old Mia Sessa, took the Long Island Golf Association titles, the first to be awarded during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The only thing that was pretty different was not pulling the flagsticks, but we just remained distant. It was pretty easy, pretty enjoyable,” said Sessa, who said she wore a mask when she first arrived then took it off when playing while keeping socially distant.
Sessa shot a two-over-par 74 for her victory and O’Hara posted a 68, earning him a four-stroke win over Dean Muratore, 13, of Dix Hills, who shot 72.
“On the back nine, the longest birdie putt was probably 12 feet and everything else was inside of that, so it was good,” said O’Hara. “The irons were right on the pin.”
“We’re finally off to a start,” said George Gatta, president of the LIGA.
The competitive schedule has been wracked by the pandemic with significant tournaments canceled or postponed. The Richardson Memorial at Wheatley Hills and the Travis Memorial at Garden City Golf Club were scrapped. The Havemeyer Invitational at Southward Ho was postponed. Those three tournaments are among the stalwarts of amateur golf on Long Island.
The Long Island Open, the LIGA’s premier event that was scheduled for the first part of June, has been postponed to a yet to be determined date at Sands Point Golf Club. That tournament has been played since the inception of the LIGA in 1922 except for three cancellations during World War II.
“We are continuing our discussions with Sands Point. We’re hopeful we will be able to sandwich it in between a number of events,” Gatta said. “The pro schedule is very, very full from middle of August through the middle of September. We’re looking right after Yom Kippur (end of September) if that is possible.”
It’s not just a glut of postponed tournaments that complicates the situation. Private and public clubs on LI host hundreds of outings a year that raise money for charity and revenue for the courses. Charity and course revenues have taken a big hit with the lack of these outings and the clubs are looking to see if they might hold some of those events.
“At this point it’s really club dependent,” Gatta said. “As every club is doing now, they are attempting to reschedule events that were postponed from earlier in the year, many of them being outside outings that help them with their revenue and help them with the member side.”
Some events likely will be played.
“It looks like the Amateur at Huntington Crescent in the middle of July is in pretty good shape,” Gatta said. “The Women’s Stroke Play, which is also at Bethpage, has not been canceled or postponed yet. The Senior Open at Cold Spring looks OK and the Senior Amateur at Old Westbury looks like it’s in good shape. That’s all subject to the [possibility] we don’t backtrack [and] the governor doesn’t have to move us back.”
The LI Open is not the only big event awaiting its fate. The New York State Open, held for the last 26 years at Bethpage Black, has been postponed from its late July date and awaits a go-ahead from the state to possibly be played in August. The 118th Met Amateur Championship, scheduled for the Black starting July 30, is still on the calendar, as is the 105th Met Open at Mountain Ridge CC beginning Aug. 18. The other big MGA event, the 65th Ike MGA Stroke Play, is scheduled for the Country Club of Darien Aug. 10-11.