July 4 - Play With A Pro
The Commerce Bank Championship on the Red Course at Eisenhower Park in
Nassau County is the one and only Champions Tour Event in the Metropolitan Area.
This week many of the top players 50-years of age and older challenged the Red
Course, which was designed by famed architect Devereux Emmet, who also created
the fantastic Garden City Golf Club which is just down the road from the Red.
Earlier in the week at 9:30 in the morning I was granted the opportunity to tee it up
with a pro during the official practice round. Tuesday is the day that only the pros
have the chance to walk the golf course and figure out where they should hit their shots and where they
should miss their shots. So when I strolled onto the driving range, which is the first hole of the Park’s
Blue Course, I was surrounded by professionals.
As the lone amateur on the range it was a strange sensation. If you have ever had the opportunity to
play golf with a top player you know the sound that their irons make when they strike the ball. It is a high-
pitch click and that sound is repeated over and over. So I was immediately intimidated when I swung
my iron and there was a huge thud. I will call it a chunk.
But then something happened. I received a tip from Champions Tour Media Official Phil Stambaugh
who told me to turn my shoulders and forget about my arms. I listened to him and I began to overcome
the chunks and I was striking the ball confidently. So much so that I decided to talk a big game to the
pro I was playing with or against, depending on who you were betting on, Mike Sullivan.
Sullivan is a Tour Rookie and this was the first time he was going to tackle the Red. As a pro on the
PGA Tour, the University of Florida alum, won more than $2.3 million dollars. He finished first in the
1980 Southern Open, the 1989 Independent Insurance Agent Open and the 1994 BC Open. I knew
about his resume but I was ready to take my shot at the pro. I told Mike that I was playing so well that he
did not have to give me any shots. That was a decision that would later come back to haunt me.
Standing on the first tee with people in the stands I was interviewing Mike for my sportscast on WLNY-TV
55. I told him that I would show him exactly where he should hit his driver off the first tee and then I
stepped up to the ball and smacked one down the left side. Unfortunately I was behind a tree. Mike
was in the fairway on the 458 yard par 4 that usually plays as a 485 yard par 5 for the public. I laid up
perfectly to about 40-yards to the pin. Mike left a 7 iron short and then chipped up to 4 feet. He made
his par putt and I had about 10-feet to push the hole. I was not ready for the speed of the green and
It was onto the second hole a par 3 that plays 186 yards. I ripped a 5-iron and left it pin high on the right
side of the two-tiered green. Mike was short chipped on and his missed his par putt. I was staring at a
birdie and hammered it way past the hole. I was too jacked for the putt and ended up 3-putting for a
bogey and a push.
The 3rd hole is a 515 yard par 5 in which the tee box is pushed back to a fence which borders a road. I
asked Sullivan if this is a birdie hole and he said yes. I followed up with “Is this a birdie hole for me?”
Mike said with my game it was not. I promptly crushed my drive down the middle, nearly outdriving the
pro, then left a 3 wood in the greenside bunker. My sand shot found the green as did Mike’s third shot.
I then charged a birdie putt way past the hole again and missed the comebacker for par. Mike drilled his
birdie putt and I was down 2.
The fourth hole was a disaster. I drove it into the trees and lost my ball and the hole. Down 3 it was
time to concede the match. All in all it was fantastic to play with the pro and Mike was a great sport
playing a few holes with me.