Now it is obvious who will be the favorite to win the 2022 Long Island PGA championship. How can you not pick Darrell Kestner, who won the event in 1992, 2002 and again Thursday? Granted, he will be 68 in another 10 years, but at this rate, he will only be better by then.
Kestner, who also won the 2001 Long Island PGA title and has played in major championships and been on the Champions Tour, Thursday burnished his reputation as one of the greatest golfers in Long Island history. He played flawlessly, making four birdies and 11 pars to defeat Jamie Kilmer, 4 and 3, in the final at Willow Creek Golf and Country Club.
He took the lead on the short par-3 second hole, knocking his 9-iron shot within 3 feet and making his sixth straight birdie on that hole in the six-match tournament. Kestner, the director of golf at Deepdale Golf Club, never gave up the honors to Kilmer, 34, the head pro at Wheatley Hills Golf Club.
"I made all pars, I didn't make any birdies," said Kilmer, whose solid week gave him momentum for the local U.S. Open qualifier to be held on his course Monday. "Darrell is a great champion. It was a treat to come out here and play him today, that's for sure."
At 58, Kestner was as precise as he had been when he beat Carl Lohren, also 4 and 3, two decades ago.
"Everybody I played hit it 50 yards past me, so you're hitting 4-iron and they're hitting 7-iron or 8-iron. But if you hit it solidly and hit it straight, you can hit it in there close," he said of this week's event. "There's more to playing the game than just hitting the ball. That's what I try to tell my assistants. You can go out on the driving range and practice all you want, but you have to learn how to play."
It helped, he said, that he worked out this winter with golf fitness expert John Ondrush and that he got a golf tip Sunday from Jeff Gscwhind, who works for him as Deepdale's head pro.
Kestner takes pride in developing the careers of his staffers (former assistant Kirk Satterfield won the Westchester PGA Thursday). He was excited about showing photos of current assistants posing with the Claret Jug (British Open champion Darren Clarke played at Deepdale this week). Thursday, it was Kestner who was posing with a trophy, a familiar one.