This has already been a rewarding tournament golf season for me, winning the Westchester Senior Amateur and finishing tied for sixth in the Met Senior Amateur. These are “major” senior …
This has already been a rewarding tournament golf season for me, winning the Westchester Senior Amateur and finishing tied for sixth in the Met Senior Amateur. These are “major” senior amateur events in the Met Section and I was gearing for them when I was out walking nine holes in 30-degree temperatures on frozen greens way back in February.
Next week, I’m looking forward to playing in my first Met Parent-Child tournament with my daughter Gabby and in two weeks the Met Senior Open.
But this week, it’s all about the Democrat, the best two-man golf tournament I’ve ever played in – one I consider a “major” for this area. In fact, years ago, the Democrat was part of the Villa Roma Grand Slam which also included The Villa Roma Invitational, the Club Championship and the Villa Roma Pro-Scratch. It’s still one of my proudest accomplishments winning all four in 1994.
I’ve said this before, but it’s amazing the level of players the Democrat has attracted over the years. From college, state and regional champions to USGA qualifiers. That’s why winning the Democrat is significant and why I always cherish my victories here. But what really makes the Democrat the premiere “golf event” in the region is the inclusion of all golfers, not just low-handicappers. Whether it’s the championship flight or the seventh flight, teams are battling every shot and every hole. It’s not uncommon to hear a 15-handicapper make four birdies in a round or a championship-flight team go seven or eight-under to win a match. The Democrat has a way of bringing out the very best golf.
My participation in The Democrat dates back to its inception in 1982, when as a 19-year-old college student I teamed with Jimmy Grossinger. We were pummeled that first year by the eventual winning duo of Mitchell and Mark Etess, who were virtually unbeatable those first two years when the tournament was played at Grossinger’s. Jimmy and I were able to win the title in 1984. All I remember about that victory was an amazing 3 iron by Jimmy into the old 17th hole at Grossinger’s in our semifinal match. Anyone who remembers that hole knows you could hardly hold it with a wedge, nonetheless a three-iron. But it was playing into a stiff wind, Jimmy didn’t hit a great tee shot and was left with about 170 to the uphill green. This three-iron just ripped through the wind and stopped on a dime about five feet from the hole.
These are the kind of memories The Democrat stirs. I’ll never forget sinking a 10-foot downhill putt on the first hole of a sudden death playoff to win in 1987 with Jack Jordan. It was the first time I ever made a putt to win a golf tournament. Then there was the 40-foot birdie putt my longtime partner Barry Winter made in 1992 to extend a match against Tony Arielly and Ricky Morgan, which we won on the final hole. I don’t remember specific shots or even the year, but Barry and I played a semifinal match against a college player from Georgia State or Georgia Southern. The kid shot like 64 on his own ball that day, but we teamed up for 9 birdies and won the match.
There are also the shots you would like to forget. Like chunking a chip shot on the final hole against Josh Goldstein and his dad that sent the championship match into a sudden death playoff that we (Drew Billard was my partner) lost on the 5th extra hole.
The last few years it’s been more difficult to compete for the championship as I’m now in my late 50s and my partner Mitchell Etess is in his 60s. The younger players are outdriving us by a good 30-40 yards and that’s a significant concession. Still, we have battled and took eventual champions to sudden death in early-round matches. Last year, we made the championship match, but got steamrolled by Sean Semenetz and Joe Winski. Sean is still the best player to ever play in this tournament and it won’t be long before he will be its all-time champion. It was somewhat rewarding to have made the finals at our age – but it’s never a good feeling to lose – even to Sean.
Mitchell and I still feel we are good enough to win – the only difference between now and 30 years ago is that we have to play near flawless golf for four rounds when in our younger days we could possibly get away with an off round and still win.
But like many teams that reunite for the Democrat, we enjoy spending time with each other for several days, having our competitive juices stirred and just playing golf. Because ultimately that’s why we’re all here this weekend – because we just can’t get enough of this incredible game and the lifelong experiences and memories it creates.
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