Golfer Profiles: Forever Foursomes at Westchester Hills, Leewood, and Sprain Lake Golf Courses
Finding friends is easy on the links — and so is keeping them.
Pete Canepa, Manhattan; Victor Nolletti, White Plains; Jim Bilotta, Sr., Mamaroneck; Vito Iezzi, Harrison
One of the longest-running matches in county golf takes place Wednesday mornings at Westchester Hills in White Plains. That’s when Jim Bilotta, Sr., and Vic Nolletti (79 and 74 years old, respectively) tee it up against Vito Iezzi and Pete Canepa (69 and 60, respectively). Three of the four have been playing together at the club for nearly 40 years. Canepa, the youngster in the group, took his place in the foursome about 15 years ago. They often play weekends together, too.
The usual game is a five-way, three-dollar Nassau, but you’d think thousands of bucks were on the line if you heard the trash talk during the round. “Just when you think you’ve got the hole won,” Canepa says, “Vic or Jim will drop a putt and start laughing. They’re always complaining about how old they are, but, at the end of the round, I always seem to be giving them money.”
Nolletti responds, “It’s all friendly, but you still try to beat the other guys’ heads in.”
Regardless of the rivalry, Iezzi says, “These are good people — on and off the golf course.”
Mary Schoner, New Rochelle; Ann Persico, Scarsdale; Geri Bertolini, Crestwood; Linda Arnone, Yonkers
“We laugh, we cry, we just enjoy a good round of golf,” says Mary Schoner, who has been playing for about 10 years, most of them with three friends she met at Leewood Country Club in Eastchester. Linda Arnone and Geri Bertolini are 20-plus-year golf vets, while Ann Persico took up the sport about 12 years ago. The group plays Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays as a regular foursome, but gets together other times, too.
All four say they’re pretty serious about their game, but, Persico adds, “When we play, we have the best of times.” When Schoner holed out a pitch shot on the seventh hole one day, according to Arnone, Persico flopped down into the fairway with her legs waving in the air shouting, “I give up!”
Handicaps ranging from 15 to 30 even out the matches and make dollar skins an exciting wager. But the real action takes place between shots, when the four socialize as they stroll down the fairway. Arnone, who is the reigning women’s champion at Leewood, explains, “We chitchat about the game, our husbands, and where we’re going to have our next cocktail.”
Larry Dais, Mount Vernon; Mel Williams, Bronxville; Ralph Dawson, New Rochelle; Craig Foster, Yonkers
Long-term friendships not only start on the golf course, they often migrate there as well. Ralph Dawson went to Yale with Craig Foster, then went to Columbia University where he met Larry Dais, who was friends with Mel Williams. That all happened more than 30 years before the four men set aside time from their hectic lives as management consultants, college administrators, lawyers, and talent representatives to take up golf.
They found the game not only strengthened the already-tight bonds of friendship, but helped in other ways, too. “This is a great group of guys for helping you ‘reset’ after a tough week,” says Dawson, a 62-year-old attorney. The foursome reserves a time every Saturday morning at Sprain Lake Golf Course in Yonkers. It’s a congenial group, but that doesn’t mean some serious ragging doesn’t occur. Dais, 65, who recently retired as an assistant vice president at Columbia, says with a smile, “Some of these guys are mathematically challenged. We have to audit some of the scores frequently.”
Williams, 68, and Foster, 63, say scores don’t count for much, despite the ribbing. “We all shoot around one hundred, but we have a good time,” Williams says. •
Dan Berger writes about golf and other sports from his home in Rye Brook.