Westchester courses stage numerous tournaments every year — many of them drawing top players from across the nation. These club invitationals serve as a proving ground for top amateurs, tour-hungry youngsters, and purse-seeking club pros. They vie for historic titles on top courses under tournament conditions, and the golf is really, really exciting.
Winged Foot stages the Anderson Memorial Four-Ball Invitational, a premier amateur event begun in 1933 to honor two-time US Amateur runner-up and noted golf writer John G. Anderson, a founding member of the club. The mammoth event begins with a 36-hole qualifier followed by two days of match play for both championship and senior divisions. Golfers from across the nation compete and 2018’s championship division was won by a team from Charlotte, NC, while one from Pinehurst, NC, won the senior trophy.
(L to R) Leewood’s Dean Johnson with members Tony and Brendan Cullinan
One of the newest Westchester tournaments is The Bambino, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year at Leewood. Named after the club’s most famous member, Babe Ruth, a field of local pros (and a few select amateurs) are invited to compete for a $14,000 purse and a unique trophy — a Babe Ruth jersey signed by all the year’s competitors. “The Babe was a sportsman,” says head pro Dean Johnson, “and he would have loved it.” Met area standout Ryan McCormick bested the 2018 field, which included Andrew Svoboda, the reigning Met Open Champion, NYS Open Champion and winner of two Web.com tour events.
The first Hochster Memorial at Quaker Ridge was played in 1934, the same year the first Masters was played at Augusta National. The roster of Hochster competitors over the years gleams almost as brightly. Willie Turnesa, who won a British and two US Amateurs and played on three Walker Cup teams, won the Hochster four times. Golf Hall of Fame member Doug Ford, winner of the PGA Championship and the Masters, won the Hochster in 1946, the year before he turned pro. Dan MacDonald, who plays out of Arcola in New Jersey, took home the trophy in both 2017 and 2018.
The Hoffhine Memorial at Westchester CC began in 1944 as the “Westchester Invitational” under the direction of WCC Green Chairman, John Hoffhine, uncle of the club’s current director of golf, Ben Hoffhine. Following John’s death, in 1949, variety-show icon and WCC member Ed Sullivan led an effort to change the tournament name to memorialize his friend. Among the luminaries who have played in the event are Joe DiMaggio, Byron Nelson, Vince Lombardi, and John Wayne. The annual event was rained out in 2018, but it’s typically a one-day tournament played by four-person teams in a best-ball format.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Mittelmark Invitational at Fenway GC. The tournament features 36 holes of stroke play in one day for a limited field of 56 top amateurs walking in twosomes. Uniquely, hole locations are changed between the two rounds. Fenway head pro Heath Wassem says, “The members truly love opening the doors to the best amateurs in the Northeast. The club enjoys hosting these amateurs, to showcase the golf course and give back to the local golfing community.” Stewart Hagestad, who triumphed in 2015 and went on to win the 2016 US Mid-Amateur, is one of many Mittelmark players of note, including PGA Champion Keegan Bradley.
The Whitey Voight Pro-Am at Sunningdale tends to wrap up the season’s competitions in the fall. Local pros team up with members from their clubs to compete in a best-ball event honoring Elmer “Whitey” Voight, who started at Sunningdale as a caddie and served as head pro for nearly 50 years before dying in an auto accident in 1973. Sleepy Hollow head pro Dave Young teamed with member Brad Tilley to win the event in 2018.
Top amateurs in the metropolitan area are invited to compete in the Wilson Cup, a mainstay of the tournament schedule at Scarsdale GC. Named after Charles “Electric Charlie” Wilson, a Scarsdale member who was CEO of General Electric and spearheaded the rebuilding of America’s economy after World War II. The tournament is a two-round, best-ball event with two-man teams playing in both championship and senior divisions. Gray Barnes and Jake Sullivan of the Great River GC in Milford, CT, won the 47th Wilson Cup in 2018. •