Trying to play golf during the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging, yet Gil Picinich has found particular joy in it.
While most players never achieve golf nirvana — a hole-in-one — Picinich has had two of them this year a scant 2 1/2 months apart. The 64-year-old from Wantagh is a regular player and greatly appreciates his highly irregular feat.
Before the pandemic lockdown began, Picinich, who winters in Florida, was playing the Osprey Point Golf Course in Boca Raton on March 1. On the 162-yard fifth hole he hit a pure 5-iron.
“One of the people in our foursome, from his angle, he thought he saw it go in,” Picinich said. “But they didn’t want to say anything until we got up there. You couldn’t really see the green that well because of the angle of the sun. I knew it was going to be close because I hit it pure.”
When he got to the green he didn’t see the ball and thought because of how well he struck the tee shot it might have gone off the back edge.
“The person who thought it went in looked in the cup and said, ‘Gil, you’re in,’ ” Picinich said. This was before social distancing suddenly became the norm and there were a bunch of high-fives.
This past Saturday, playing the Green Course at Bethpage, Picinich pulled out a 3-hybrid for his 178-yard tee shot on the sixth hole. Again he put a pure swing on the ball, which landed on the front of the green on the slightly uphill hole. Like the shot in Florida he could see the pin, but not the cup.
“I knew I would have a good birdie opportunity but I didn’t expect it went in,” Picinich said. When he got to the front of the green, there was the ball resting on top of the cup inserts that have become common so that players don’t have to reach into the hole to retrieve the ball. This time, because of the social distancing protocols, there were no high-fives but a lot of yelling.
“Wow, ridiculous,” Picinich said.
That was Picinich’s third career hole-in-one, the first coming on the Green Course in 2016 on the 15th hole. He aced that from 203 yards with a 4-iron.
Max Zendel of Westbury also had some luck at Bethpage on May 13. He holed an 8-iron from 161 yards on the third hole of the Black Course.
“I was with three of my really good friends. The funny part about that, we all gave each other hugs,” Zendel said. “I haven’t given anybody a hug except my wife in two-and-a-half months. Everybody was holding their breath and doing chest bumps. Holding our breath to not contaminate each other.”
Damon Appiarius, Spring Lake No. 3, 181 yards, 4-hybrid
Gil Picinich, Bethpage Green No. 6, 178 yards, 3-hybrid
Max Zendel, Bethpage Black No. 3, 161 yards, 8-iron
Cindy Scott (Bethpage), Reserve Club Hollow Creek (Aiken, S.C.) No. 14, 89 yards, pitching wedge