When Garett Engel was the age of Michael Miranda, his young opponent in the Long Island Amateur Championship final Friday, he was determined to be a tour pro. Engel did try that for a few years before he got married, began commuting to a job in the city and became a father.
Through it all, he persisted with his golf game. He regained his amateur status and retained his touch. The 33-year-old persisted again Friday, bouncing back from a four-hole deficit and beating the impressive 20-year-old Miranda on the second extra hole. Engel secured his biggest career title at St. George’s Golf & Country Club in front of a gallery that included George Burns, Long Island’s all-time most accomplished golfer who won the 1972 Long Island Amateur at St. George’s.
Although Miranda is considered the Next Big Thing from Long Island with a prodigious long game — Engel and Burns both complimented him — it was Engle who hit the resounding shot, a 285-yard 3-wood to the green on the 589-yard par-5 second hole. His two-putt birdie clinched it.
“That was a great shot he hit into 2,” said Burns, invited as part of a centennial celebration of the Stony Brook club, which opened exactly 100 years ago Friday. A four-time winner on the PGA Tour, Burns watched all 38 holes (alongside former Met PGA executive director Charlie Robson, his caddie 45 years ago). “I was impressed with the distance the ball was going, with the way the guys hit it,” the former Manhasset High star said. “They’re all so good. They have a lot of talent. The big guy looks like he’s got a good future.”
He was referring to Miranda, a three-time Suffolk high school champion who won three college tournaments this season for St. Thomas Aquinas. The final on Friday, though, belonged to a salesman/business development specialist for Benhar Office Interiors who has an eight-week old son at home.
“My boss hates me this week. Every time I won, that was another day out of the office,” said the Seawane member and Bellmore resident who has been playing in Long Island Golf Association events for 20 years.
Engel once tried being his own boss as a player on the Hooters Tour. “The guys were so good, I just wasn’t making any money, quite honestly,” he said. “I didn’t want to become a weekend golfer. It’s a hard thing to keep golf a priority when you have more responsibilities.”
He practices diligently — “I chip in the backyard, the dog runs after the ball,” he said. Engel pitched within five feet on No. 16 in the afternoon session, then made the putt to get within one. He sank a 30-footer for birdie on 17 to keep his chances alive and forced extra holes with a par on 18.
Miranda was disappointed with missed putts and “loose swings” down the stretch. “It stinks right now, but I’ll get over it,” the Farmingville resident said. “I’ll take what I learned from this week: how I can fight, how I can come back, how I can really play.”