SEA CLIFF, N.Y. (AP) — Sure, the Masters has Augusta National and the U.S. Open has Bethpage Black and Shinnecock Hills.
But none of them feature hula hoops for holes, or require you to putt past a Mini-Cooper, like the 36-hole “Sea Cliff Links.”
Just a few miles from where the U.S. Open crowned its champion this week, residents of this quaint little village on Long Island want to raise money for their town by playing golf — through town. Though many quality courses are nearby, Sea Cliff residents preferred to use their century-old Victorian homes and manicured lawns as part of the layout for Saturday’s inaugural Sea Cliff Golf Tournament.
“Most of it is going through people’s yards, their secret passages, courtyards, gardens and whatnot,” said Mike Lennon, the tournament organizer.
The tournament is a variation of so-called “urban golf,” which has been played in communities from Seattle to Great Britain in various forms. Some of the tournaments mirror a pub crawl, with participants hitting balls through a community with stops at various drinking establishments.
Envisioned as a fundraiser, organizers are mostly promoting the community spirit they are hoping to build from the tour through town. Lennon said he hopes to raise $3,000 or $4,000 to replace lights at the village library and to help the fire department purchase some rescue equipment.
Competitors will pay a $35 entry fee and Lennon is hoping to attract 140 golfers.
Located 25 miles east of Manhattan, Sea Cliff is a one-square-mile village on a 120-foot bluff overlooking Long Island Sound. The tiny community of 5,000 residents boasts 16 neighborhood parks, many of which will be used as “holes” for the Saturday golf tournament.
The parks sport exotic names like Spooky Park, Rum Point and Headless Park, which is a tribute to a local soldier killed in the Spanish-American War. There’s a Central Park and a Memorial Park, which is still known to some as “Hippie Park” because many long-haired young people used it as a hangout in the 1960s.
“It’s a Sea Cliff kind of idea. It’s wacky,” confessed Lennon, a former New York City firefighter who retired on disability and is now a filmmaker. He noted the village is inhabited by many artists and craftspeople who enthusiastically supported the effort.
“People didn’t ask why are you doing this, they asked when are you doing it?” added Zach Falk, a 19-year-old pal of Lennon’s son, Mike, who is helping organize the festivities.
Resident Jim Foote, an actor who frequently portrays Theodore Roosevelt at the former president’s nearby summer White House, Sagamore Hill, says Sea Cliff “has all the small-time charm of small-town America.
“There are colorful characters and everybody knows your business,” said Foote, who counts himself among that group of characters.
The village was founded in the 19th Century as a campground for Methodists, and evidence of its modest origins can best be seen in the extremely narrow streets and lanes where visitors first pitched tents for religious revivals.
Nick and Karen Montagnese are allowing the yard behind their Victorian manse to be used for the tournament.
“I think it’s very Sea-Cliffy,” Nick Montagnese said, echoing an expression frequently heard within village boundaries. The notion of a golf tournament through town “isn’t shocking,” to most Sea Cliff residents, added Karen Montagnese.
“When he (Lennon) told me about it, it seemed like a very natural thing to do,” Nick said. “And I think that it will become an annual event.”
To protect people’s property, the tournament will use hard plastic balls, rather than regulation golf balls that could break windows and leave dents. Golfers will be issued a square-foot piece of artificial turf to carry with them and competitors will be asked to hit off the turf “so there’s no divots” on people’s lawns, Lennon said.
And residents don’t have to worry about repairing holes in their lawns. Hula hoops will represent the holes, so all a golfer has to do is get within two or three feet of a “flag” to declare success. Lennon is making flag sticks out of thin strips of wood.
“The ethos of Sea Cliff has always been a lot of characters,” said local attorney John W.C. Canning, who will serve as master of ceremonies at an awards ceremony on the Village Green. “We have many individuals who march to their own drummer, but there is a tremendous sense of community.”
One homeowner agreed to take down a split-rail fence so golfers can tee off from his lawn and aim shots at a “hole” on a triangular village park across the street.
Vinny and Judy Rosalez live in a unique home that was converted from an auto repair business; from the outside, it still looks like that. The interior of the home is “decorated” with some Mini-Coopers and a Fiat. Players are going to putt through the house, past the cars, past the stove and the big-screen TV, and out into a rear garage area.
“I know nothing about golf, but it sounds good to me,” said resident Cynthia Martin. “People in this town have a lot of spirit.”