Let's Go Met As they proved by their numbers at Pebble Beach, pros who can make it in the Metropolitan PGA can make it anywhere

June 25, 2000

Rick Hartmann, a native New Yorker, played the European tour for
a decade. Then, in 1993, the prodigal son, tired and broke, came
home. Home never looked so good. He became an assistant pro at
Fresh Meadow, in Nassau County on Long Island. He started
playing in local events. He found himself playing against pros
who could really play on courses that were really good.
Examples: Shinnecock Hills, on the East End of Long Island;
Bethpage Black, in Nassau County; Winged Foot, in New York's
Westchester County; Baltusrol, in northern New Jersey.

Those are just the U.S. Open courses. There are dozens more in
the vicinity of New York City that are every bit as good as that
foursome, some better. There's the National Golf Links, near
Shinnecock; Piping Rock, in Nassau County; Quaker Ridge, in
Westchester; Somerset Hills, in New Jersey. The late Robert Trent
Jones said there are three great centers of golf in the U.S.:
Chicago, Philadelphia and, king of them all, New York. New York
has old-line courses, built by the masters--with small greens and
narrow fairways and creaking clubhouses and bustling caddie
yards--and club pros who know how to play them. It was that way
when Gene Sarazen was coming up as a caddie at Apawamis in the
years before the first World War. It was that way when Claude
Harmon, the Winged Foot pro, won the 1948 Masters. It is still,
in a manner of speaking, that way today.

Hartmann, now 41 and the head pro at the Atlantic Golf Club, in
Bridgehampton on the East End, played in last week's U.S. Open at
Pebble Beach, traveling there in a private jet with an old mate
from the European tour, Jesper Parnevik. Darrell Kestner, the
head pro at Deepdale Golf Club, in Nassau County, also played in
the Open. So did Bill Van Orman, a teaching pro at Sleepy Hollow,
in Westchester County. So did two New Jersey pros: Mike Burke Jr.
of Mountain Ridge in West Caldwell (his brother Pat has played on
the Tour) and Ed Whitman of Knickerbocker, in Tenafly. Also in
the field was Dave Eichelberger, the Senior tour stalwart who is
a member of Stanwich, in Greenwich, Conn., and Jim McGovern, a
former Tour winner, now playing on the Buy.com tour, who lives in
northern New Jersey and plays out of the Hackensack Golf Club.
Seven guys from one area competing for the national championship,
and five of them don't even play golf for a living. This is not a
coincidence.

"Look at the courses they play," says Tommy Armour III, the Tour
player whose grandfather was a winner of national championships
and a legendary teacher at Winged Foot. "If you can play those
courses well, you can play anywhere. And look at their season. A
lot of them have the winter off. They head to Florida and do
nothing but play. That's what my grandfather did."

In the winter Kestner and Hartmann, who are close friends, play
regularly in Florida, often as partners in money games, sometimes
against Nick Price and his manager, David Abell, a talented
amateur. When Kestner and Hartmann play close matches against
Price and Abel, they know they are playing good golf. Pebble was
the seventh Open for Kestner, who's 46. He's a winner of the PGA
Club Pro Championship. Everything about his game is Tour-level
except his aspirations. He enjoys teaching and sleeping in his
own bed. He is on Golf magazine's list of the 100 best teachers
in the game. Maybe you know this adage: Those who can, do. Those
who can't, teach. Kestner has been proving that adage wrong for
years.

Since joining the Metropolitan PGA section, which encompasses New
York City and its environs, Hartmann has regained his love for
the game and is playing the best golf of his life. In '98
Hartmann won the Met Open--a tournament previously won by Walter
Hagan, Byron Nelson and Paul Runyan--at the Creek Club on Long
Island. The players all take caddies, the officials all wear
ties. That year the greens were like ice and the rough was
snarling. In one round Hartmann shot 63, and the way people
talked about it, you might have thought it was the 63 Johnny
Miller shot in the '73 U.S. Open. The Met Open at the Creek was a
major, all right. Hartmann's payday, $20,000, was by no means the
biggest check of his career, just the most satisfying. The next
day his name was in The New York Times. That's a big deal. The
Times is the official newspaper of the private-club set, and it
has a national distribution. If you're a club pro and one of your
members is in Chicago on business and reads in the Times that you
won the Met PGA Long Island Championship--which Hartmann has done
three times--your life has just improved. Your shop will do more
business, you'll teach more, you'll get a raise, and you'll have
more job security. You will make your members proud.

In New York the attitude among the seven-figure crowd is, My job
is bigger than yours, my summer house is more tasteful than
yours, my pro can play better than yours. In many areas of the
country, members want head pros and assistants who are pleasant
and knowledgeable and patient. In New York you had better also
know how to play. This is not a new development. It has always
been this way.

Forty years ago Jack Lumpkin was an assistant to Harmon at Winged
Foot. Now he teaches Davis Love III and is the director of
instruction at the Sea Island Golf Club in coastal Georgia. "If
you were an assistant and you wanted to get a job as a head pro,
you practiced hard and you played hard with the hope that
somebody would notice you," Lumpkin says. "That's how you got
ahead."

"The Met section has always had the reputation for being the
best-playing PGA section in the country," says Guido Cribari, a
retired New York newspaperman, now 85, who covered Sarazen in his
prime. "Sarazen once said, 'The luckiest thing that ever happened
to me is that my parents settled in Harrison, N.Y., because there
were so many good players around and so many good courses to
sneak onto.' Wouldn't you have a lot more respect for your club
pro if he could play like hell and beat the pants off 99 percent
of your membership? We're competitive that way." It's a New York
thing.

Bill Van Orman, the teaching pro from Sleepy Hollow, in
Scarborough, sees that competitiveness in his students. Earlier
this year Van Orman gave Bill Murray a lesson. (He stressed to
the comedian, who is a 16 handicapper, the importance of
finishing the backswing.) Later, Murray won the fifth flight of
the Sleepy Hollow club championship and was ecstatic. Van Orman
was not surprised. In his experience New Yorkers, himself
included, are serious about winning. Last year he won the
Westchester Open. A goal for him is to win the Buick Classic,
the Tour event at the Westchester Country Club. He wants to be a
Tour player. He has gone to Q school in each of the past five
years but has never gotten his card.

Van Orman plays about 30 competitive rounds between Memorial Day
and Labor Day but much more frequently the rest of the year. He
makes up to $75,000 a year playing in club-pro events. Last week
he played in the Open for the first time. On the practice tee he
found himself between Love and Tiger Woods. He made sure his wife
got a picture of him with his new friends. At one point Woods
looked over and nodded. "It was a pretty cool moment," Van Orman
says. The subtext of the nod was clear: You're in the field. You
earned your way.

"I beat a lot of Tour pros to get here," Van Orman says. "But
then when you get here you ask yourself, Do I really belong?" Van
Orman feels that if he were one of the dominant players in the
Met section, then his game might be ready for the Tour. Time is
not on his side. He's 36.

Viewed another way, time is on his side. For years Jim Albus was
the head pro at Piping Rock and among the best players in the Met
section. As a club pro he qualified for six Opens and seven PGAs,
and made the cut in two of those events. Everybody knew he could
golf his ball. When he turned 50, in 1990, he went to the Senior
tour's Q school and earned his card. In the years since, he has
won six Senior events and $5,052,588. He made it on the tour not
just because he was a good player, but also because he was a good
player in the most competitive PGA section in the U.S.

Like a lot of club pros who are good golfers, Ed Whitman, the pro
from Knickerbocker, wonders what could have been. He didn't take
up golf seriously until he was out of college. Now he's 47 and a
three-time winner of the New Jersey State Open. He works at a
very busy club and has been the head pro there for 17 years. He
has seen other club pros become complacent in their jobs, and he
doesn't want that to happen to him. He doesn't play much. His job
is his priority. Two days before Whitman left for the Open, he
was training a new caddie master, the previous one having lasted
a week. At Pebble, he and his wife, Terry, and their three
children stayed in a $300-a-night hotel room that normally costs
one third that. He had to miss a three-day member-guest
tournament to be there. The expense, the time away, all that
weighed on him. Still, he was in the Open. His members were proud
of him. It was good for him personally. It was good for him
professionally.

He didn't make the cut. Neither did Kestner, Van Orman or Burke.
Neither did McGovern. Eichelberger opened with a 78, came roaring
back with a 69 and made the cut by two shots. Stanwich is tough,
he says. It prepares him. If you can play well there, you can
play well anywhere. With a 77-79 on the weekend he finished 57th.

Hartmann, with his caddie carrying a little black Ping bag with
the small insignia of the Atlantic Golf Club on the ball pocket,
shot a 73 in the first round, two over par. Because of the fog,
Hartmann didn't tee off until 6:10 p.m. on Friday and played six
holes in the gloaming in one over before darkness halted play. He
went to sleep on Friday night--at his room in the Lodge at Pebble
Beach, tres expensive, but Hartmann's attitude is you only live
once--with his score at three over. He knew that seven over was
likely to be the cut, and so did everybody at his club.

On Saturday, his day began at sunrise. In his office at Atlantic,
a dozen employees and members were huddled around a computer,
waiting for scores to come in on USOpen.com. Through 17 holes, he
was four over for the day, six for the tournament. If he could
keep his ball dry on 18, he would make the cut. The minutes
crawled by. The computer guys kept scrolling. Finally, the score
came in: a par on 18. He was in by a shot. In the office cheers
went up, and arms did with them. His members, his employees were
elated.

"In New York, if they like you, they love you," says Hartmann,
who eventually finished 46th. "I feel like I'm playing for
myself, my club, my section--everything. I lived on the road for a
long time. I don't want to do that anymore. I've found a home."

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHN BIEVER Hartmann dazzled New York with a 63 in the Met Open. COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHN BIEVER BIG PICTURE Eichelberger, the Senior Open champ, says Stanwich, his Greenwich, Conn., club, prepared him well for Pebble Beach. COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHN BIEVER TROUBLESHOOTER Van Orman, 36, hasn't given up on his dream of earning a Tour card.

"Look at the courses they play," says Armour. "If you can play
those courses well, you can play anywhere."

"I beat a lot of Tour pros to get here," Van Orman says. "But
then when you get here you ask, Do I really belong?"

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)