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Golf at Oheka, Jeter's wedding digs

Here's a story from the LI Golfbeat on May 28, 2009 about Oheka Castle, now even more famous than ever because it will be the site of Derek Jeter's November, 2010 wedding.

         If anyone in the wedding party would like to play golf, a terrific course is right there waiting for them:

 

Legend says that Otto Herman Kahn, the financier and philanthropist, used to watch professionals and top amateurs play the private golf course on the grounds of his Huntington castle. Where their tee shots landed, a bunker was installed the very next day.

"That is absolutely true," said Burt Gold, president of Cold Spring Country Club, the current incarnation of Kahn's beloved course.

So the course still is there and so is the castle, known as Oheka for the first letters in Kahn's names. Oheka is a restored luxury hotel so posh that word has been circulating in Long Island golf circles for the past two months that Tiger Woods will stay there during the U.S. Open (a person familiar with the situation said that an unnamed representative of a leading golfer has called about accommodations).

The thing is, despite their common lineage and the fact that each is in plain view of the other, the course and castle might as well have been thousands of miles apart in the six decades since Kahn's family sold the course. The stone wall separating the two might as well have been an ocean.

It occurred to people on both sides of that wall that change was due. The result is a partnership, officially announced Tuesday, that will allow guests of Oheka to play at the private club.

"It's a great marriage," said Gary Melius, the Long Island developer who bought the 115,000-square-foot castle in 1984 and has spent $30 million restoring it. On Tuesday evening, he stood on Cold Spring's sixth tee at the foot of the castle and recreated Kahn's ceremonial first shot in 1919.

"Marriage" is a fitting word in that Oheka has become known as a high-end wedding destination cited recently by the We TV network. But Melius would like it to broaden its appeal, so he began negotiations with the Cold Spring club, of which he is a member.

He has been around enough to know that Cold Spring, like most private clubs, is hungry for revenue and stability in a rough economy. An agreement to offer tee times to hotel guests - $150 on weekends, $125 on weekdays, plus cart or caddie fees - will help.

"As club members, even before Gary was involved, we would look up at the castle and say, 'My God, is that gorgeous,' " Gold said. "When Gary's plan is done in the not-too-distant future, a good many people who will be living on Oheka grounds are going to be Cold Spring members. The marriage will be sealed forever.

"The relationship with Gary ensures that Cold Spring will continue. You know what's happening with other clubs ... Other clubs are struggling."

Melius said, "I think it's great, economically, but more important, it's just a great thing. This isn't me, it's Oheka. What makes it unique is that it has character, it has its own life."

That began in 1914 when Kahn bought the 441-acre property. The mansion he built is more than twice the size of the White House and is the second-largest private residence ever built in the U.S., after George W. Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C.

Kahn was denied membership in a club because he was Jewish, wrote Metropolitan Golf Association historian William Quirin. So he hired Seth Raynor to build a classical course with replicas of famous British holes. Robert Trent Jones did a redesign in 1968.

Whether this generation's greatest golfer will follow the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Eleanor Roosevelt, Arturo Toscanini and Demi Moore as a guest at Oheka is not certain. "We respectfully don't like to divulge anything about our guests," said Nancy Melius Murton, the hotel's director.

Oheka Castle

Location: Huntington, adjacent to Cold Spring Country Club.

Named for: Otto Herman Kahn, banker, financier, philanthropist from Manhattan who built it and moved there with his wife and five children.

Established: Land was purchased in 1914.

Size: 115,000 square feet.

Current use, owner: Hotel and catering facility, developer Gary Melius.

Public tours: By appointment, $25 for adults, $20 for seniors, $15 for students

Room rates: $395-$1,095.

Movies that have shot scenes there: "Citizen Kane," "The Emperors Club," "What Happens in Vegas"

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