Mike Meehan was the most surprised person on the Bethpage State Park grounds Thursday after he walked off the Red Course with a 68 and what he thought was a one-stroke victory in the Long Island Open. It was news to him, despite a bogey on No. 18, that he would be in a three-hole playoff against defending champion Matt Dobyns.
Someone had mistakenly told Meehan's caddie on No. 16 that his boss held a two-stroke lead. It affected Meehan, especially on the 4-foot downhill par putt on 18. "I definitely played it real conservatively," Meehan said. "I was surprised I didn't win it outright. I was a little angry I didn't par 18."
In the playoff, he was much more resolute, sinking downhill par putts on No. 2 (an 18-footer) and No. 18 (a 6-footer, which was longer and harder than the one he had missed a half-hour earlier). This time, he was able to walk off and accept congratulations. Fact is, Meehan winning the Long Island Open is no surprise.
Three times in the past five years Meehan has won the 54-hole event that seems to bring out the best in him. "I like it," said the man who had hoisted the trophy in 2008 and 2009. "I don't think I've really worked on my game in almost three years. I just said, 'I've got to win a golf tournament.' "
That isn't as easy as it used to be for Meehan, who never had won this event as a head pro before. "I am busy. My day usually starts at 5 a.m. with emails," he said of the head job he took last year at Pine Hollow Country Club. "Playing is definitely secondary."
As good a player as he is, he decided 10 years ago that he could not rely on prize money to support his family. Having a full-time job means he doesn't have to leave his wife, Kathleen, and three daughters behind in Florida, where he worked winters, until school was over. Thursday was the first time they got to see him win.
Meehan showed he still is capable of a champion's flourishes: hitting driver off the fairway to set up a one-putt eagle on the par-5 fifth, getting up and down from a bunker and the fringe on 14 and 15. respectively, preserving his lead with a 15-foot birdie putt on 16, then making those huge pars in the playoff.
"I told myself I always make them when I have to, to win. I was convinced I would have made the other one if I knew it was for the win," he said after he and Dobyns finished a stroke ahead of Joe Saladino (69), who was trying to become the Open's first amateur winner since 1928.
Dobyns, who shot 5-under 65, has his own new responsibilities as a first-year head pro at Fresh Meadow and a new dad. "I feel good. I'm happy with the way I played," he said, feeding 9-month-old Kaitlyn her bottle. "Mike played so well, he deserves it."