Golf for the Ageless
It’s the only sport you can play throughout your entire life.
Age: 10 Lives in: Scarsdale Home course: Scarsdale Golf Club
Just watching Solomon Thompson walk, you know he’s an athlete. He strolls loose-limbed and confident to the tee, swings with full abandon and no fear of failure, then grins as he watches the ball sail into the distance.
“I like hitting the ball really far,” Solomon says, “although I like to make putts, too.” The lad is ten years old and already an accomplished competitive golfer.
Most recently, Solomon won the 2009 US Kids Golf Hole In One Challenge at Forest Creek in Pinehurst, NC, by hitting a pitching wedge to within seven inches of the cup on the 109-yard hole. An even bigger thrill for him, though, was the hole in one he made while playing with his father, David, two years ago on the tough eleventh hole at Scarsdale Golf Club.
“In my room, I have a list of things I want to accomplish. I want to get onto the tour and win a major,” Solomon says. The boy picked up a club when he was two years old, encouraged by his parents and grandparents. Today, the Fox Meadow student plays football, baseball, basketball, and swims competitively, but says golf is his favorite sport.
His heroes include Sam Snead and Ben Hogan and, of course, another golfer who started swinging the club at the age of two, Tiger Woods. Solomon’s admiration of Tiger isn’t blind, however: “I like the way he works hard and always does his best on every shot. But I do not like the way he slams his clubs and curses when he hits a bad shot. I get very frustrated when I hit a bad shot too.”
Age: 22 Lives in: Ardsley Home course: GlenArbor Golf Club
“I’ve always dreamed about playing professional golf,” says lean and quiet-spoken Michael Quagliano. That’s exactly what he’s doing now. The Ardsley native made his professional debut in the Met Open at Ridgewood Country Club in 2009, then set his sights on Q School, the infamous three-stage test required of nearly every golfer who aspires to compete on the PGA Tour.
Quagliano came close, but didn’t quite make it to the big show this year. He was eliminated in stage one after missing the cut by a single stroke in the four-round event. He spent the winter on a mini-tour in Arizona and is planning to compete on the eGolf Tour (formerly the Tarheel Tour) and also hopes to gain entry to a handful of big tour events through sponsor exemptions and qualifying tournaments.
The near-miss at Q School didn’t discourage Quagliano. “Golf is what I do. I play, practice, and think about it all the time. It’s my job,” he says. “But I also remember that it’s a game so that it stays enjoyable and fun.”
His workday starts at 7 AM with a workout and doesn’t end until at least 5:30 PM after hours of practice. When he’s not playing, he says, “I struggle to find things to do because I want to be out there practicing.”
Dedication like that is what made Qualgiano an outstanding golfer at Ardsley High School who won the New York State High School championship in 2004. In 2007, he won the Westchester Golf Association Amateur championship. He was captain of the golf team at Duke University and a member of the Blue Devils team that won the ACC championship in 2005.
Quagliano was one of seven amateurs who qualified to play in the 2008 Open at Torrey Pines. One of these days, we shouldn’t be surprised to see him competing in the world’s toughest golf tournament as a professional.
Age: 40 Lives in: White Plains Home course: Anglebrook Golf Club
“You have your holes-in-one and your good rounds,” says 40-year-old Cathy Ronan, “but the best part of golf is the friendships you make.” Ronan has made plenty of friends on the course and even found her current job through a connection she made during her previous career as a club pro.
“I was a teaching pro at Bedford Golf and Tennis for eight years but decided it was time to do something else in life,” she explains. A member heard she was planning a career change and hired her as an associate at private equity firm Bedford Funding two years ago. Today Ronan belongs to Anglebrook Golf Club in Lincolndale, where she plays recreationally a couple of time a week and carries a 3.8 handicap index. “Anglebrook is tough!” she points out. “It’s a real hidden gem in Westchester golf.”
Ronan was introduced to the game at the age of ten by her father, a member at Rye Golf Club. She took to it immediately and eventually won six women’s championships at the club. Later, she played on the women’s mini-tours before she went to work as a club pro, first at Westchester Country Club then at Wykagyl. She also competed in the JAL/Big Apple Classic. She played field hockey and lacrosse in college and plays ice hockey these days during the winter months.
Ronan says she’s enjoying a less stressful brand of golf these days: “Everything used to always be about competition, but now it’s more recreational. I don’t need another trophy.”
Age: 52 Lives in: Scarsdale Home course: Fenway Golf Club
Bruce Beck, the lead sports anchor for WNBC-TV 4, lives every sports fanatic’s dream. He covers everything from the NY Giants to the Olympic Games, hangs out at the World Series, Kentucky Derby, and the NBA finals, chats up Eli Manning and Derek Jeter the way we pass the time of day with our brothers and sisters. His personal dreams, though, have a lot to do with competitive golf.
Beck didn’t take up the game until he was 34. Now, at the ripe young age of 52, he’s gunning for the club championship at Fenway Golf Club in Scarsdale. A member of the club since 1995, he qualified for the championship for the first time in 2009 only to be eliminated in the quarter-final round. He’s got the trophy firmly in his sights, though.
The ebullient Beck has some other golf goals, too. “I want to make a hole in one,” he says, “and I’d like to play competitively in the Met area, too. Maybe not in the Met Open, but I’d like to try some of the other amateur events—maybe as a senior.” When he does, you can be sure that he’ll add mementos from those rounds to his growing collection of personal memorabilia. Beck has the scorecard from every significant round he’s ever played, including the first birdie he ever made and first time he broke 100. He also has every card from each round under 80—28 so far—all dated and filed in a scrapbook.
Beck had no interest in golf when he was growing up in Livingstone, NJ, but says he got hooked on the game after playing in charity events where he typically embarrassed himself. “I took some lessons from Jim McClean when he was at Sleepy Hollow, and that got me into it,” he explains. Today he’s coached by Fenway Teaching Pro Wendy Modic. “I love to practice,” he adds. “I’m happy just hanging around Fenway chipping, putting, hitting out of the bunkers. I can entertain myself for hours on the course.”
Age: None of our business Lives in: Hartsdale Home course: Knollwood Country Club
The only one of our questions Stella Oliver refused to answer was her age. “No one at the club knows how old I am and I want to keep it that way!”
In a way, that’s only fitting, since Oliver’s age doesn’t matter one whit when it comes to the quality of her golf game. She’s won the women’s championship at Knollwood nineteen times—the first time in 1974 and most recently in 2008. She also won the Sprain Valley Women’s Golf Club ten consecutive years before she and her husband, Oliver, joined Knollwood. She fully intends to put the thirtieth championship trophy on her mantle this year.
Oliver is called “The Machine” and “Pipeline Stella” by the legions of golfers she has defeated over the years. “Super long I am not, but I play right down the middle,” she explains with a delightfully competitive chuckle. She plays two or three times a week and carries an 11.5 handicap index. “I went up a little this year,” she says, “I wish it were a little lower.”
Athletics has always been part of Oliver’s life. She played tennis, softball, and curling when she was a teenager, but golf was her favorite until life intervened. “First I got married and gave up the game, then I had four children. When they went to school, I took up golf again.”
Aside from the fact that she is a winning machine, what compels Stella Oliver to keep playing? “When I’m on the golf course, I forget about everything else,” she says. “No matter what problems I might have, I just think about that ball. I wouldn’t call it my entire life, but golf has been a large portion of it. I enjoyed every second of it.”