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Kevin Talty wins amateur event named after his coach Mike Hebron

Coach Mike Hebron, right, with Kevin Talty of

Coach Mike Hebron, right, with Kevin Talty of the Smithtown Landing Golf Club after winning the Mike Hebron Golf Tournament at Bethpage Black on July 31, 2018. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

The old golf phrase, “Not bad, for an amateur” always has been a subtle slap at amateurs. And the word “amateurish” is not so subtle. It is meant to mean substandard or slapdash. No wonder amateurs feel left behind or left out.

In the opinion of Michael Hebron, a pro’s pro and a PGA of America Hall of Famer, amateurs ought to be the stars of the show. That is why he has for years sponsored the Long Island Golf Association’s amateur stroke play championship and donated the trophy, named for his late mother, Florence.

He was at Bethpage Black on Tuesday afternoon to present that award to one of his own students at Smithtown Landing, Kevin Talty, who won a four-way, three-hole playoff for the Michael Hebron Championship.

"To have him there and to win his tournament, holding the trophy that is in his mother’s name, meant more to me than any other tournament I could imagine,” said Talty, 28, who was essentially a beginner when he took his first lessons from Hebron five years ago.

Talty played baseball and hockey competitively and never cared for golf, having played it about 10 times when he was a kid. At 23, he grudgingly accepted a friend’s invitation to play one round on a course that happened to have GPS yardage measurements on the carts. His first drive measured 310 yards. “I said, 'Is that good?'" he recalled on Wednesday. “I played a few more times and started to really like it.”

He remembers going to see Hebron and having the pro tell him, “If you fall in 'like' with this game, you could be something special,” Talty said, having shot 5-over-par 147 for 36 holes on the Black.

Hebron was motivated to get involved with the Long Island amateur stroke play because he wanted the trophy to honor his mom, a sports enthusiast who raised two sons on her own (Michael’s brother became an assistant basketball coach at Georgia Tech and played for the Washington Generals, the Harlem Globetrotters’ opponents). The pro at first was an anonymous sponsor, then agreed to let the Long Island Golf Association put the event in his name. In either case, he considers the tournament vital.

“Amateurs are the game of golf,” Hebron said. “They were the first people to play the game. Pros have jobs because of amateurs. Amateurs sponsor tournaments, raise money though charitable golf outings, buy green fees, take lessons and travel for golf. The amateur segment of the industry is why the industry exists.”

Talty made this year’s chapter memorable by saving par after a poor drive on No. 16 Tuesday, then getting up and down from one of the huge bunkers on the par-3 17th hole. He stood on the par-4 18th tee knowing he needed a birdie to join Alex Kang, Jordan Kaplan and Carter Prince in the playoff.

“I know driver is probably the risky play on that hole but I felt like I had to gamble and give myself the shortest club I could,” the champion said. He left himself a pitching wedge second shot, nailed that to within 4 feet and made birdie. He took a similarly aggressive approach to No. 1 in the playoff and made birdie there as well. After pars on 17 and 18, he was handed the trophy by his teacher.

Before anyone could congratulate the pro, Hebron pointed out that he works with many students and they all don’t win big tournaments. “Believe me, it’s the player who does it,” Hebron said.

Talty said that after finishing a summer of top amateur events, he might try to go to get his Web.com Tour card at qualifying school—mindful that the best achievement for an amateur is becoming good enough to turn pro.

OUTINGS

Former Met Endy Chavez will be part of the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame Golf Outing Aug. 24 at Mill Pond Golf Club, Medford. Visit suffolksportshof.com/golf.

ACES

Jerry Wood, Huntington CC, 12th hole, 118 yards, 8-iron

Collin Thomas McHale, Middle Island CC Oak, fourth hole, 215 yards, 3-wood

Vincent LoPrinzi, Inwood CC, seventh hole, 207 yards, 3-hybrid

Carl Pagillo (of North Lynbrook), Playa Mujeres GC, Cancun, Mexico, 11th hole 189 yards, 5-wood

Natalie Einstein, Woodmere Club, third hole, 89 yards, 5-hybrid

Ken Munson, Timber Point Blue, second hole, 134 yards, 7-iron

Stuart Lerner, Timber Point Blue, second hole, 145 yards, 8-iron

Vern Lambert, Heatherwood GC, 10th hole, 190 yards, 2-iron

Ray Andreasen, Heatherwood GC, 17th hole, 145 yards, 7-iron

ACES

Jerry Wood, Huntington CC, 12th hole, 118 yards, 8-iron

Collin Thomas McHale, Middle Island CC Oak, fourth hole, 215 yards, 3-wood

Vincent LoPrinzi, Inwood CC, seventh hole, 207 yards, 3-hybrid

Carl Pagillo (of North Lynbrook), Playa Mujeres GC, Cancun, Mexico, 11th hole, 189 yards, 5-wood

Natalie Einstein, Woodmere Club, third hole, 89 yards, 5-hybrid

Ken Munson, Timber Point Blue, second hole, 134 yards, 7-iron

Stuart Lerner, Timber Point Blue, second hole, 145 yards, 8-iron

Vern Lambert, Heatherwood GC, 10th hole, 190 yards, 2-iron

Ray Andreasen, Heatherwood GC, 17th hole, 145 yards, 7-iron

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