Published April 10. 2012 4:59PM Updated April 10. 2012 5:00PM
Golf is back and so am I.
Your faithful blogger has had a most interesting winter and has many new stories to share with you, from observations about the most recent Masters to my two winter golf trips. One of which was a week of golf in The Villages where anything left is way out of bounds (and I ain’t talking about the golf ball) and the other could only be titled “Travels With Rodney to the Center of the Universe.”
I will recount the golf sojourns next week while I concentrate this week’s effort on two topics that had my complete attention. First, the Masters. In a previous blog I urged anyone who had never been to that idyllic event in Georgia to rob Junior’s college fund and go. Hyperbolic humor? Absolutely not! There are some fine community colleges and besides, Junior might profit from two years of military service.
Get thee to Augusta, because if this week’s events were not enough of a lure to seek access to next year’s tourney, then, once again I refer you to the fishing blog on the next page.
For those golf fans (like me) who lament the lack of shotmakers amongst our golfing elite, this Masters was a return to yesteryear. First there was Louie Oosthuizen’s double eagle at the par five second, which, had he won, would have rivaled Gene Sarazen’s famous “shot heard ‘round the world,’” a double eagle on the par five 15th at Augusta that won him a green jacket. It’s the first “albatross” I have ever seen in over 50 years of playing and watching golf.
After an errant drive on the second playoff hole, Bubba Watson hooked a gap wedge nearly 45 yards from 154 yards to within 12 feet of the pin to make the jacket his. I urge you to head to your local driving range, buy a large bucket of balls, and try to do one of two things. First spend some time trying to hit a gap wedge 154 yards and follow that by trying to hook a gap wedge 45 yards. No target required. Just whack away. Make sure you have enough cash for another large bucket.
Then there was the shot of the tournament by the maestro of the flop shot, Phil Mickelson. Faced with an impossible chip to a pin from an extremely tight lie on the back slope of the par five 15th Phil opted for a shot that, very likely, only he can execute. He opened the face of a 64-degree sand wedge, took a full swing off that tight lie and lofted a high lob that landed ever so softly six feet below the hole and made the birdie putt while the gallery was still catching its collective breath. Maybe Phil isn’t the only human being who can play that shot but I guarantee he’s the only one with enough nerve to try it with 200 million people watching and the Masters title at stake. How can you not love Lefty?
The setting, the drama, the history, the roar of the Masters crowd, and the fact that, through television, we now know the course so well, all conspire to make the final round pure appointment television. That is, unless I can tap into a scholarship fund or two and make my way south in April of 2013 to be witness to a uniquely American event … the Masters.
When some of us first met with Dave Mortimer after his purchase of the former New London Country Club, most of us expressed a reserved optimism about what membership levels he could expect at the newly named Great Neck Country Club. The smart money was saying that 250 members would be a home run while many folks had reservations about that number saying that 220 would be a huge success and that realistically we could hope for slight increases in membership numbers over the ensuing years and maybe, just maybe, we could eventually get to 300 a variety of factors all fell into place.
Undaunted, Mortimer launched into a series of improvements that former members could only have fantasized about, including a complete reconstruction of the existing clubhouse, pro shop and restaurant facilities while increasing the commitment to course maintenance and adding to a number of amenities. He poured more than a million dollars into these improvements and set the regular membership fee at $2,700, a figure well below the previous dues structure while setting family memberships and associate/junior memberships at historically low rates.
On Sunday morning past, long-time member Jon Morosini walked onto the first tee at Great Neck Country Club, handed head professional Kevin Shea his credit card and asked to be added to the members roster. He became member number 305. That’s right!!! Number 305. There is talk around the club about CAPPING the membership at some nearby point and it seems likely given Mortimer’s commitment to ensuring that all who join are treated to a first class experience.
The larger picture is about more than simply justifying Mortimer’s business acumen and his salvation of an institution that many of us thought had no chance of survival. How is this happening? My wife said to me “Jimmy, you’ve told me countless times that if someone offered an improved product at a lower price, the market would respond. Isn’t that what’s happening?”
To a large degree, there is truth in that simple economic axiom and it may even fully explain the immediate success of Great Neck CC but the implications are far larger. Dave Mortimer and I had a brief conversation about this and we both feel that something significant is happening here and it may command the attention of an industry many think is in decline. In coming weeks we shall explore the circumstances surrounding the Great Neck renaissance in this space. Meanwhile, I am going to enjoy every minute of this new and happy experience, while I count myself as a fortunate member of GNCC.
Jim O’Neill is a member at Great Neck CC.