By Charlie Levine
CALLICOON August 4, 2006 This Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 112 of the finest amatuer golfers will tee off in the Silver Anniversary Sullivan County Democrat Golf Tourney. This years field includes ten past champions, who combined have an amazing 20 championships. They will be led by Ken Cohens eight wins, Greg Semenetz and Billy Phillips back-to-back wins and Charlie Johnstons two first place finishes. The tourney will be played at the Villa Roma Country Club in Callicoon with the championship matches being played on Sunday afternoon. Fallsburg legend Charlie Levine, who played in the first 15 Democrat tournies making the finals three times offers up this fun perspective on what has become one of the areas most anticipated golfing events.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Sullivan County Democrats Two Man Better Ball Golf Tournament. To local golfers, it is simply known as the Democrat.
After 15 consecutive years of participating in the Democrat, which by the way has become the premier amateur golf event in the area, I decided to call it quits some years back. Whatever reason I give to people for hanging it up (the competitive fire in me has gone out, Ive lost confidence in my short game, nobody can stand being my partner anymore) is generally accepted with a polite nod. Fred Stabbert III however, does not accept any of these excuses and faithfully mails me a Democrat tournament application anyway every year.
Recently, he ran into my wife and begged her to convince me to play on the 25th anniversary of the tournament. Instead of agreeing to play, Ive decided to come out of retirement (I wrote a sports column for the Democrat in the early 90s) and write this narrative. Basically, this is a top 10 list. The following are my top 10 personal greatest moments in the history of the Democrat tournament:
Moment #10: The Paul Zintel-led Friday evening discussions.
Moment #9: My 10 different playing partners in a 15-year span, a tournament record. In my desperate attempt to win the Democrat I went through more partners than Elizabeth Taylor. I consequently lost 3 times in the championship flight finals.
Moment #8: Smoke Signals: My partner Dave Philossoph and I managed to have at least one cigarette lit during the entire tournament. On a rainy, dreary weekend at the Villa Roma, our cart could be easily located anywhere on the golf course. I have since given up smoking.
Moment #7: Marty Passante attempts and fails to stop Harold Diamond from gorging himself on the Democrat buffet. Passante puts out only small hors douvres plates but Diamond figures out how to balance four plates on each arm. Harold has since changed his eating habits and has lost and kept off a considerable amount of weight.
Moment #6: More great moments in eating: Sam Hillman slips a red-hot pepper into Paul Michaels egg roll at the Friday evening buffet. Michaels, a big eater, swallows the egg roll in two big bites and pays a heavy price. Tournament participants swear to this day they saw steam coming out of Pauls ears. Michaels remembers the incident well and to this day hasnt forgiven the insensitive joker Hillman.
Moment #5: The Bachelor Party Scramble: On the eve of the Democrat in 1985, I had my bachelor party on the Lake Nine at Grossinger Country Club. We had two fivesomes captained by golf writer Ken Cohen and Grossinger assistant pro Bill Greatrex. Despite frequent trips to the bar cart by the participants, one team finished 9 under for 9 holes, the other team finishing 10 under!
Moment #4: My partner Robert Friedman concedes a putt to his opponent while still in the tee box on the 14th hole at Grossingers after scoring a hole-in-one during the 1986 Democrat championship flight semifinals. After Roberts ace, his opponent hit a beautiful 5 iron shot to within 6 feet of the pin. Robert turned to him and said, Thats good.
Moment #3: Myron Josepher sets a tournament record for collecting the most unused Sunday evening dinner tickets in advance. Josepher manages to feed half the Bronx with the annual ploy.
Moment #2: The Albatross: Marvin Newberg, former Grossinger club champion and 6-time Times Herald Record champion tries desperately every year to win the one major title that has eluded him. Enter Sam Hillman, Newbergs best friend and golf partner from his high school days. Hillman rarely plays anymore, never practices and shows up every year with outdated golf clubs and x-out golf balls. Newberg fights with Hillman to take the conservative approach and play it safe in key situations. Unfortunately, Hillman does not listen. His two most oft-used phrases on the golf course are: Im going for it, immediately followed by: Your hole partner. Hillman and Newberg are still seeking their first Democrat title.
And the #1 all-time personal greatest moment in the history of the Democrat: My wife allowing me to change the date of our wedding in 1985 so that I might be able to play in the tournament. We had the caterer, the band, the photographer and the pavilion all lined up for the weekend in question and re-scheduled all of the above. What a wife huh!? I think Ill keep her
Best wishes to all participants in the upcoming 25th Annual Sullivan County Democrat. Heres hoping you all create your own top ten memories of the tournament.