AUGUSTA, Ga. - In his new, critically praised book, Michael Bamberger writes about 18 people whom he calls "living legends" and "secret legends." He explores their deep golf roots, then reveals his own. For the author, golf was born at South Ocean Avenue Middle School in Patchogue and raised at Bellport Country Club.
Those details emerged alongside compelling stories about Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Ken Venturi, television executive Chuck Will and others in "Men in Green," which was released last week. It is the eighth book for Bamberger, senior writer at Sports Illustrated and Patchogue native. You could make a good case that it is his best. The details from and about Venturi (they differ at key points) alone are priceless.
For Long Islanders, though, there is special resonance in Bamberger's telling of visiting Don Greenlee, his gym teacher in eighth grade. Greenlee brought golf alive for a youth who would go on to make his living in it (Bamberger once was a pro caddie). "He had a compact, athletic swing that looked like something I could try to imitate," Bamberger said. "He made golf seem accessible. I had thought golf was played only by my dentist and his wife and that you needed some special key to go wherever they went to play. The world of golf seemed like it existed in some other world."
That led to many happy hours caddying and playing at Bellport, the course he would choose if he were down to one last round. "It's where I fell for the game. Every green contains a memory for me," he said.
"Men in Green" also tells of Bamberger falling for journalism, as he reminisces about the media tent during the 1986 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. He proudly remembers that he "wanted to be" Newsday's Joe Gergen.
NY Amateur Tour
The Metro NY Amateur Tour starts Wednesday with a tournament at the new Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point near the Whitestone Bridge. The tour, sponsored by Golfweek, comprises competition in numerous categories based on handicaps. Among the sites of one-day events are Harbor Links in Port Washington, the Village Club of Lake Success, Cedarbrook Club in Old Brookville, the Vineyards in Riverhead, Great Rock in Wading River, The Golf Club at Middle Bay in Oceanside and Timber Point in Great River.
There will be a mid-season two-day tournament at Eisenhower Red and Bethpage Red and the championship will be at Willow Creek in Mount Sinai. The tour's website is www.amateurgolftour.net.
Sarazen's career slam
All the talk about Rory McIlroy's quest for the career Grand Slam (to be followed in June by Phil Mickelson's pursuit of the same thing) called to mind the first one ever to do it. Gene Sarazen did it as a Long Island club pro. The man known as "The Squire" spent much of his career as head pro at Fresh Meadow, which was then in Queens, and Lakeville, site of the current Fresh Meadow in Great Neck.
He completed the slam 80 years ago, in the second Masters. In fact, it was still known as the Augusta National Inivitational Tournament. It was the first tournament after the course switched nines to the current configuration. Sarazen instantly made the new layout unforgettable with his double-eagle on No. 15, which allowed him to tie Craig Wood, forcing a 36-hole playoff. The double-eagle remains one of the most famous shots in golf history.