Westhampton Country Club’s waterfront winds, slick greens, tall fescue and Old World bunkers presented a different, disorienting challenge to just about all of Long Island’s top golfers. To John Daniel Guiney, those elements represented something else entirely. He is from Ballybunion, Ireland and he felt right at home.
“Big time. Coming up that 18th hole, it’s like you’re in Britain or something, like you’re playing on a links golf course. It’s just a great setting,” Guiney, a first-year PGA apprentice at Piping Rock Club, said after he won the Long Island Open at 4 under par with a final round of two-under 68. He beat Poxabogue teaching pro Rob Corcoran (67) by two shots in the 54-hole championship while no one else beat par.
It took patience and resourcefulness — hallmark demands of links golf — to take the $9,000 first prize on the vintage Seth Raynor layout. The check and the whole week made the 32-year-old winner even happier that he entered the tournament at the last minute and that he moved to Long Island a few months ago.
Guiney played college golf at Rollins, then remained in Florida to play minitours. He became friends with peers such as Keegan Bradley and Jim Renner, caddied for the latter on the PGA Tour, then pursued his own pro golf career in Europe for four years.
“I ended up quitting tournament golf for the last year and a half. I kind of ran out of money,” he said. “That happens. I was like what am I going to do? I have an economics background but I don’t want to do that. I want to stay in golf.”
What he did was place a call to an old friend from Ballybunion, Piping Rock head pro Sean Quinlivan, who offered him the apprentice spot. Guiney (pronounced GUY-knee) does a lot of caddying and works in the pro shop two days a week, he said, “Just learning the ropes.” At Quinlivan’s suggestion, he signed up for a Long Island Open qualifier just before the deadline. “And lo and behold, here we are,” he said.
He was only one shot ahead of Corcoran after the latter eagled the par-5 14th hole. Quiney, playing in the final twosome with Tam O’Shanter head pro Mark Brown, hooked his tee shot on 14 into high grass. He punched out into a terrible lie (“It looked like it was in a deer hoof print,” he said) but then hit to within 15 feet and made birdie. He followed with another birdie on 15 and finished with three pars.
“Very steady, very patient,” Brown said of the champion. “He’s got a good all-around game. Very good, I’d say.”
Brown helped Guiney avoid one last pitfall by finding his fellow golfer’s ball in an expanse of fescue on 18. That made the Irishman-turned-Long Islander feel even more at home. “I love it here,” Guiney said. “It’s the best golf in America, if you ask me.”