For 25 years, one Long Island golf club has produced some of the area’s best players and accounted for numerous Met Section titles. That is not bad, considering the club has no pro shop, pro, driving range, practice green or golf course.
The Nassau Players Club does have bylaws, dues, a club championship and official acknowledgement from the Metropolitan Golf Association. This year, its 106 members are marking the group’s silver anniversary by doing what they always do, going to Bethpage State Park, paying green fees and trying like crazy to beat each other.
“The thing that is the utmost benefit is the competition. Because you’re competing with good golfers, you play better. Playing better is the goal of every golfer,” said past president and current member Jon Silverberg, one of the 40 people who paid $20 apiece in 1993 to establish the Nassau Players.
It all started in an era before Bethpage had a telephone or online registration system. Many golfers lined up the night before they wanted to play and slept in their cars. As weeks went by, more than a few of them got to know each other (actually, some of them had been friends since grade school, Silverberg said). They decided to play together regularly and see if they could help each other secure tee times.
Thus, the Nassau Players came into being. Members checked with the U.S. Golf Association about its rules for “a club without land.” Then they reported to the MGA and followed the procedures for recognition that would allow members to play in tournaments that require club affiliation.
“Pretty much every day Bethpage is open, at least one of us is out there, playing,” said Silverberg, also a longtime official in the Long Island Golf Association. “On a weekend in good weather, you probably will find 40 or 50 of us there.”
Mike Pomerico, a single-digit handicap, heard about it through friends, joined 10 years ago and has been president for the past three years. “It’s a good group of golfers who love the game of golf. We enjoy the competitiveness,” he said, “and the camaraderie. Whether we take $2 from each other or $25, it’s a matter of pride and fun. It’s a very enjoyable club.”
The yearly fee has gone up to $400. But it covers a complimentary cap, shirt or other gift every year and pays for entry into various intraclub events, notably the four-flight club championship. Once it reaches the match play stage, members work out with each other a time to play.
Because the members always have played the bulk of their rounds on the Black Course, the club has attracted a higher caliber of golfer. Pomerico said that everyone in the championship flight has a handicap index of 2.4 or better. The next class, known as the “A” flight, goes from 2.5 to 5.6.
No wonder that you see “Nassau Players” listed high on local leaderboards. Reigning two-time club champion Jonathan Jeter won the MGA Public Links title this year and has won the Sarazen Invitational. Dennis Lynch has won two Metropolitan Mid-Amateur championships. The past two Long Island Mixed Pinehurst tournaments were won by club members: Patrice Franco and Ryan Hom last year succeeded Patty Ellis and Mike Altobello.
Previously, Malcolm Smith won the Havemeyer Invitational and Travis Memorial and Bill Bartell won the Richardson Memorial. Both also have qualified for the U.S. Amateur.
If the Nassau Players Club had a trophy case, members would be quite pleased with what would be in it.
“One-hundred percent,” Pomerico said. “When you go to the LIGA site or the MGA site, you look at who’s leading and you see ‘Nassau Players Club’ up there as the club affiliation, we take a lot of pride in that.”
Tom Draycott, Southward Ho CC, ninth hole, 124 yards, 8-iron
Scott Klipp, Island’s End G&CC, seventh hole, 181 yards, 5-iron
Larry Toonkel, Sunken Meadow Blue, third hole, 122 yards, pitching wedge
Gasped LaPiana, Swan Lake GC, seventh hole, 134 yards, 6-iron
Pat Kelly, Nissequogue GC, 17th hole, 154 yards, 8-iron
Dan Liberty, Town of Oyster Bay GC, third hole, 129 yards, pitching wedge
Robert Tedesco, Town of Oyster Bay GC, eighth hole, 200 yards, 3-wood
Bill Goodspeed, Harbor Links GC, 12th hole, 150 yards, 9-iron
Walter Jablonski, Smithtown Landing CC, seventh hole, 155 yards, 7-iron
Phil DelPrete, Cold Spring CC, third hole, 151 yards, 8-iron
Richard Gertler, Cold Spring CC, third hole, 151 yards, 8-iron
Melvyn Ruskin, Cold Spring CC, third hole, 128 yards, 8-iron