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Sixty-Something: Golfing In The Hamptons And Tiger Woods

T.J. Clemente

The author at the 14th hole at Maidstone Club. (Courtesy Photo)

For some there is a magic when walking the fine green grass of a well-manicured Hamptons golf course. The smell of the freshly cut grass is only augmented by the Atlantic Ocean breeze that both soothes and plays havoc with your golf shots. At sixty-something, I have watched the distance of my golf shots wane as I age. However, the thrill of hearing that click of a well struck ball never gets old.

In the Hamptons there are a host of world-class golf courses. The three most prestigious are National Golf Links of America, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, and Maidstone Club. Each has their prestigious history and their loyal memberships. Golf is a disciplined sport based on supreme training of the "golf swing." Some are born with a fluid ability to master the golf swing, and others like myself, even with lessons and practice just never-ever quite get there. However every golfer has his one moment. Usually it's an "ace," that being a hole in one. For me it was just a birdie on the 14th hole at the Maidstone Club (west) course during an outing for Guild Hall.

That day the weather was perfect and at the 14th the club pro was parked there all day to host a closest to the hole fundraising wager. I opted out because the other three in my group were all low handicap serious golfers and that day I was so outclassed. One by one everyone took their shot on the 148-yard par three green tucked in up on a dune surrounded by huge sand traps and bordered by the mighty Atlantic Ocean. The sound of the waves, the sea gulls and the wind was and still to this day is sweet music in my mind. I went last. Being the oldest and weakest I used a "Ping" seven iron that was my dad's. Everyone else used an 8 or 9 iron. I took just one practice swing before settling in and starting my swing. For whatever reason when I struck the ball that was just ever so slightly teed up, I heard the sweetest clicking sound of my golfing career. The ball launched up into the bright sun and drifted into the sea breeze as if it was a sea gull and then started its descent toward the green. No one said a word until it landed perhaps four feet from the hole, bounced gently rolled and stopped less the two feet from the hole. Then my partner whispered, "TJ I guess you should have wagered that $100," and everyone laughed! It was the only hole I wasn't well over par that day.

Watching Tiger Woods win his fifth Master Golf Championship recently gave me a similar great feeling as he tapped in his last putt to win by just one stroke. All older folks love to see an older guy defeat the younger men most of the time. Except I recall my dying father near the end of his battle with cancer in front of the TV pulling for a young Tiger Woods. Tiger was the everyman's golfing figure and a story so many related to. The phenom of a generation. The defining player. Dad passed away before Tiger's downward spiral of bad choices and injuries occurred. Many thought he would never return from them. As for myself, I watched and pulled for Tiger during his comeback even early on when he imploded on holes he used to master. That is why so many like myself were so over the top thrilled to see him ascend once again to the top throne of golf by winning the 2019 Masters at Augusta.

Years ago (2002), at the final round of the Mercedes Benz Golf Tournament, I followed Tiger Woods for a whole 18 holes. Due to a rain delay the final round was held on a Monday and was not that well attended. That is why I received my VIP pass; a club member friend just couldn't go that Monday. I only mention this story because Tiger's play was not up to his usual standards and Sergio Garcia won the event. As it became evident that Sergio would win the crowds abandoned Tiger to watch the surging Sergio. I stayed and was very close as I listened to Tiger vocalize his displeasures. To hear him after the Masters was such a pleasure as he talked about his doubts being overcome, his love of winning in front of his children, and the thrill of being a new champion again. There was no doubt anywhere this was a very happy person.

That Tiger moment touched many Americans, not just the golfers. Tiger's behavior during his downward spiral was public so it was fitting that his fight to get back to where he once belonged was epic. Years from now when the twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings are sixty-somethings they will still remember the universal glow of the moment Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters.

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