Column by Ken Cohen
I was thinking back about the very first Democrat Golf tournaments played at Grossinger’s. I teamed with Jim Grossinger and each of the first years, we were eliminated by Mark and Mitchell Etess. They were so good and dominant still in my opinion the best team that has ever played in the tournament. I thought they breezed through all eight matches they played, but when I started reading the old articles, I was surprised to learn that Jimmy and I went 18 holes with them one year and Pennsylvania’s Walt Markowski and Mike Carrol took them to 20 holes in 1982.
Walt was a terrific player, a well-seasoned competitor with a beautiful short game who held his own in several Pennsylvania Amateurs. I tussled with him a few times in the tournament and it was always a battle. Without question, my early matches against Walt and his brother Ed and then later on against Walt and Tom Howe, toughened me for future Democrat finals as well as other amateur tournaments I played in.
I came across some other interesting bits of information about the tournament when thumbing through the old Democrat newspapers. The entry fee the first year of the tournament was $55 per person! That covered three days of golf at Grossinger’s, prizes, a cocktail party and awards dinner. How did anyone not play!
The winners of the second flight in the inaugural Democrat were my father, Dave Cohen and Dick Benton. They defeated Glenn Sonnenschein and Carl Bresky. I think Glenn, now the head pro at Tarry Brae, never really forgot that result. A few years later teaming with Tom Drobysh, they cold-cocked Cohen and Benton something like 8 and 7 in the first round of the championship flight. It was the only time Dave and Dick made the championship flight and they didn’t mind getting whacked one bit.
My dad loved the Democrat golf tournament and supported it until he died in 1992. He was one of the original hole sponsors yes, in the early days of the tournament they needed every bit of help to get it off the ground. He, along with Dick Benton, Billy Rosenberger, Bob Rosen and Bill Stoddard, also gave a boost to what is now known as the Friday night discussion. I’m pretty sure if they, as well as Paul Zintel, didn’t show others how the discussion worked, it would not be one of the highlights of the tournament it is today. I’m glad my father got to see me win it a few times and better yet profit from it!
What was interesting about the first few years playing The Democrat is that no one really knew how to play a two-man, best-ball tournament. Sure, many of us played best-ball nassaus and closeouts, but we really had no experience playing it as a stroke play event in the qualifying round and then match play in the flights. Jimmy Grossinger and I were so new to two-man best-ball, we never even heard of the expression “ham / egging” it before playing in the tournament. We quickly learned that it essentially meant taking turns being a factor in a hole and we exercised it quite well.
As the years progressed and I got more and more matches under my belt (as well as getting an earful from Paul Zintel), I realized there was a whole strategy to the tournament. “Geez, Cohen, you just don’t hit first because you’re away,” I remember Zintel telling me. and he was right. There are many situations in best-ball match play where the order in which you and your partner play your shots is key to winning or losing a hole. I’d have to say much of the success I have enjoyed in the tournament is the result learning how to play it. There’s more to it than simply taking the best score of two players.
I miss Zintel, my father, Dick Benton at the tournament for me they made it what it is today a truly memorable experience.
Ken Cohen brings 30 years of publishing experience, many covering sports / working for sports companies, His column, “Further Review” will appear every Friday.