Colin Dolph learned years ago, as a child in Michael Hebron’s youth golf school at Smithtown Landing, there is one basic fundamental: Golf is interesting. That is the point Hebron still is trying to make every day, including yesterday, as he handed the trophy for the Michael Hebron Amateur Championship to Dolph, now 23.
“If you tell somebody something is going to be fun and they’re not getting it, they’re not going to stay with it. But if you say, `We’re going to make this interesting,’ people will hang in. If you make it interesting, people will put up with the ups and downs,” said Hebron, an internationally recognized club pro.
Hebron sponsors the Long Island Golf Association’s top stroke-play amateur event and has donated the trophy in honor of his late mother Florence, who raised two sons on her own. He considers it his “thank you” to amateur golfers. “Amateurs are the game,” he told many of the tournament participants in the clubhouse after Dolph sank a clinching par putt on No. 18 at Bethpage Black. “There is not one pro in the world who would have a job without amateurs.”
Dolph can attest to what Hebron said about enduring the ups and downs. “I have pretty much been playing awful this year,” said the golfer who belongs to Huntington Country Club and graduated recently from Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla.
Golf has held his interest, ever since his summer mornings at Hebron’s youth clinics. “That was awesome. I loved that school,” he said. He still is learning, been through St. Anthony’s High School and Nassau Community College before Rollins.
In fact, his coach at Nassau, Larry Dell Aquila, still is his only swing advisor. “I trust what he has to say. When I first met him, it was `Who is this guy? What does he know about golf?’ Over the years, I realized he knows what he’s talking about and he probably knows me better than anybody else does. I’d rather go to someone I know,” Dolph said.
So when he was foundering last week, he invited Dell Aquila out to Huntington. The coach helped the golfer’s posture and putting and set him up with a pre-shot routine. “I think I have missed maybe five greens in the last three rounds. I’ve been hitting my irons phenomenally, and my driver pretty good and the putts have been going in,” he said.
He shot par 71 on the Black Tuesday and 72 yesterday. With Dell Aquila among those in the gallery, Dolph’s new pre-shot routine held up through a solid 3-wood and 7-iron on the 18th and he two-putted for par, sinking a three-footer to clinch a one-stroke victory over Trevor Sahn of the Woodmere Club.
There is a chance he won’t be an amateur next summer. The win bolstered his confidence toward possibly heading back to Florida and playing professional mini-tour events. “I’ll see where I fare with those guys and then if I want to keep going, I’ll keep going,” he said.
Or he might start some other career and keep playing the local amateur circuit. Either way, he appeared yesterday to be enjoying what Hebron extols as “the spirit of the game.”
The 1991 PGA Professional of the Year doesn’t buy the argument that golf is too hard and that it takes too long to play. “People get in their cars and drive five hours to ski, fall down all weekend and have a good time,” said Hebron, a former college basketball player. “What’s hurting the game is frustration. The spirit of the game is enjoying your friends, enjoying the green grass experience and realizing that there are some ups and downs.”