7 Westchester Families Bond Over County Golf

What better way to strengthen family ties than with family time in the great outdoors?

Photos by John Fortunato

These local residents know that there’s no better way to strengthen family ties than teeing up in the great outdoors.

The Stoltz Family

St. Andrew’s Golf Club, Hastings

The overloaded golf trophy shelf sags in the home of Murray and Sheila Stoltz, multiple men’s and women’s club champions at St. Andrew’s, and it looks like the next generation will be adding to it soon as their three golf-hungry offspring advance their competitive skills.

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The kids—McKenna, 15, Conner, 14, and Molly, 12—started playing when each was about 4 years old, according to Murray, who lit the fire by handing them a club and telling them to go have some fun. “There’s no other way,” he says. Now, the kids play in many events at St. Andrew’s, as well as Met PGA Junior tournaments. McKenna played in the high-school regional tournament in 2015 as an eighth grader at Bronxville, barely missing the state tournament in a playoff.

Murray and Sheila are avid golfers who value the opportunity for family closeness the game affords. “Sheila gets to the course with the kids in some fashion during the week,” he says, “and we play together once or twice on the weekends. Sometimes it’s nine holes; sometimes we just go and practice. You’ve got to keep it steady. Even if they’re not clamoring to go, we’ll still take them.” They also play in fun family events at the club.

What’s the Stoltzes key to keeping easily discouraged kids interested in a game known for its difficulty? “Kids have a tendency to want mulligans, so you just have to let them do that,” Murray says. “If they don’t start out well in a round, they get discouraged, so you may have to let them take a couple of mulligans early, so you can keep the round going.”

The Fortin Family

Apawamis Club, Rye

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“Time spent with my children on the golf course is really special,” says Jason Fortin. “It’s a great passion of mine, so playing with them is wonderful.” He and his wife, Heidi, have three kids: 14-year-old Simone, 11-year-old Julian, and 8-year-old Thea, who says, “I like golf because it’s fun to play with my dad.”

Jason gets in nine holes with his daughters a couple of evenings each week during the season, fitting in other rounds and practice around their busy schedules. Julian, who is on the autism spectrum, joins in sometimes.

Simone has been swinging a club since she was 3, Jason says, which helps explain why she made the varsity golf team at Rye High School as an eighth grader. “A couple of years ago, when Apawamis opened the performance center,” he says, “she worked on her game throughout the winter.” She hones her game with Apawamis’ teaching pro, Monique Thoresz.

Jason points out kids need to have fun on the course, too. “Whenever we play, I make sure we visit the halfway house, so Thea can get a lemonade and a Hershey bar,” he says. “There were a lot of butterflies around the short-game practice green one time, so I got her a butterfly net to bring along when we work on our putting.”

The Rothenberg Family

Lake Isle Country Club, Eastchester

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Golf truly spans the generations in the Rothenberg family. Ellen was guided into the game by her mother and today plays with her husband, Barry, her son, Daniel, and her 13-year-old grandson, Ian. In their family, she says, “Everything is secondary to golf.”

Ellen Rothenberg literally grew up on a golf course in her parents’ home on the fifth hole at Lake Isle, which was Vernon Woods at the time. “My mother was an avid golfer, so she didn’t need a babysitter,” she says. “She would leave me at Cherry Lawn driving range in New Rochelle while she played at Saxon Woods.”

It is, apparently, a tradition that has survived to this day. “We’ve been taking Ian around with us since he was 5,” says Ellen of her grandon, who lives with her and Barry. “Once he started hitting the ball, he wanted to play a lot. He’s taken lessons at Lake Isle and really loves it.” They play together nearly every weekend now.  “Ian has ADD, and golf is a maturing experience for him,” Ellen explains. “When you make a mistake, you can’t erase it from your scorecard, although you can correct your play for the next time.”

The Goldberg Family

Elmwood Country Club, White Plains

“Not only do we think of this as something for the family to do, it’s an activity the boys will have for life,” observes Emily Goldberg, mother of Harry, 11, and Eddie, 6. She and husband Robert practice and play together with the boys on Sundays throughout the season.

“Harry started taking lessons when he was 4,” Emily explains. “Elmwood was our home away from home, and when Eddie came along, he started playing, too. It became something we could all do together.” Emily took time off from golf when the kids first came along and then while she battled two bouts of breast cancer. “When Harry started taking lessons, I thought it was time for me to get back into the game.” She competed in her first Play for Pink fundraising event at Elmwood last year.

Harry went to golf camp for 9- to 14-year-olds at Elmwood for the first time last summer. “Now he knows strategy and course management,” Emily says. “I can’t believe how calm he stays!”

The foursome generally plays nine holes—or even six if Eddie wears out—but they always emphasize the lighter side of the game. Don’t tell the USGA, Emily says, but “Sometimes we make up our own games and even our own rules, just to make it more fun.”

The Bond Family

Brynwood Golf & Country Club, Armonk

Jason Bond’s daughter, Jessica, can’t decide whether she wants to be a star on the stage or the fairway when she grows up. The 8-year-old has a budding theatrical career but got hooked on golf last year at Brynwood, saying she finds the two pursuits alike in many ways. “I feel real jittery when I play golf, just like when I am acting,” she says. “I get nervous about if I am going to make it in the hole.”

Jason, a divorced father, finds the golf course a great place to spend weekends with Jessica and her 5-year-old brother, Jackson, who’s just now showing an interest in the game.  “We’re pretty much at the club every other weekend” Jason says. This year, the family will play at other courses while Brynwood undergoes renovation.

“My dad told me a lot about golf,” Jessica explains, “and I thought it would be a really fun sport. My first lesson was 30 minutes, but I liked it so much, I asked if I could have an hour. I really like it!”

Brynwood teaching pro Nick Annunziata took Jessica under his wing, and she took his lessons to heart. “Nick told me to give the grass a haircut when I swing,” she says. “He also told me to make an imaginary line, then line up the ball with it. Then, I take a practice swing, and it usually works, but not all the time.”

The Davi Family

Mount Kisco Country Club, Mount Kisco

Boden Davi was all of 4 years old when he won his first golf tournament. It was a parent-child event he played with his dad, Mike, at Mount Kisco Country Club in 2013. The format of the event is alternate-shot for nine holes, with everyone teeing off from the 150-yard marker. The duo won in 2015, too.

“My father-in-law gave Boden some plastic clubs when he was about 2,” Mike says. “We got him his first junior set of clubs when he 3 or so.”  Starting golf at a young age is a tradition on both his wife’s and his sides of the family, he explains. “I have memories of my father taking us to hit balls at the high-school field in Pleasantville. The first time I was on a golf course, I was in third grade. My father would get my sister to go out on the course by letting her drive the cart.”

Today, Mike, his wife, Lisa, and Boden play several times a month, often in the afternoon when the course isn’t crowded and they can fit in nine holes at Mount Kisco before dinner at the club. Boden’s game has grown along the way. “I used to send him down to the 150-yard marker to tee off,” Mike chuckles, “but now he wants no part of that. He plays from the red tees.”

The Cooper Family

Ardsley Country Club, Ardsley

“At 13, he drives the ball 280 to 300 yards!” Mark Cooper exclaims when asked to describe son Matt’s game. “I’ve seen him on the range, hitting shots on command from his instructor. He’ll hit a low draw, a high fade… he can do it all without being told how. He just seems to instinctively know how to make the ball do what he wants it to do.”

Matt’s mom, Jema, and sister Alexandra, 11, make up the other members of the Cooper foursome, a regular sight at Ardsley Country Club. In addition to golf, the kids play hockey, lacrosse, and basketball. Mark explains: “Our belief is to expose them to a lot of sports, so they don’t get burned-out on one thing.”

The members of the family play with varying degrees of intensity, although Matt’s 4.7 handicap index shows who the star is. Ardsley head pro Jim Bender says, “Matt is going to be one of the top junior players in Westchester.”

Mark also takes a longer, wider view of the game for his kids. “Golf is a great metaphor for life,” he points out. “It’s very rewarding to see them have the joy of hitting it well and then to struggle at times. There’s so much in golf that builds character.”


 

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