By Jock MacKenzie – twice voted one of 50 best radio sports broadcasters in the United States.
Time is like a river. You cannot touch the water twice because the flow that has passed will never pass again.
So be it by a golf group playing this wondrous game at Pine Lakes and Cypress Knoll. Sludgehammers is the name by which they go, a take off from visitations by that group while residing in Staten Island, NY.
I’ll always remember standing outside at Palm Harbor in my first or second year here wondering deeply if I would be admitted as a Sludgehammer or thrown to the wolves as a non-admit-tee.
Tony Maltese was my lead guy then just as he is now when we played this fascinating game at Pine and Cypress. when he came out from the meeting at Palm Harbor, the popular golf site of those days, he was all smiles and that made my day. I was “in”, and have been since 1996.
While Staten Island was the main lift-off site for the majority, Maltese was flat-out a Brooklyn, NY Dodger and is such to this day.
However, that is just one side of this band of golfers, most of whom had Staten Island as their residence. they played and challenged this marvelous game in Pennsylvania and other sites that would give them a terrific game of golf.
We also should note that a ton of beer was part of every game and probably still is, excluding of course, Brooklyn’s Maltese.
One notation that might surprise you is the golf ability of Jim Canfield.
I watched him work his heart out to become the first Mayor of this City and he did it when the position did not exist. He wanted the City to have a strong leader when it became a reality and he was willing to work his heart out to accomplish that.
What we never knew is that the guy was an outstanding golfer and is to this day.
I watched him slug the Unbitten apple like a pro and can’t help but be reminded that this marvelous leader was first and foremost a Mayor, never realizing that he was as good as he is while slugging the apple at Pine Lakes and Cypress Knoll. Truly, Canfield was and is a very special person.
On the other side of the coin, when I look around the days now during the games played I am always reminded of one of the nicest, most capable golfers one could ever meet.
He goes by the name of Stewart Manthey, a leader, a good player and golf dedicated. He can be a winner at Pine Lakes and Cypress Knoll. but in reality, he is one who loves the game of golf and proves it when he comes off the turf and uses his remarkable ability to make sure that all is done properly.
Most importantly, he is a leader. week in and week out Manthey does whats right for golf but especially for those of us who look his way when a decision is on the hook.
The Sludgehammers boast marvelous people led by Jake Jacoby, easily considered the nicest person this side of the east and one of the best golfers chasing the famed Harry Davis. Also on our list of pride is Kee Ree, a graduate of Tuft’s University located close to Boston, Mike Joyce, a remarkable guy with a career spent in Russia and a terrific golfer, Billy Johnson, a true and fascinating player who spent his entire career in Staten Island.
However, if I had to single out one Sludgehammer for special attention it would be Bob Ross.
I have played the game with this remarkable golfer dating back to the first days of Palm Harbor when golfers from all sources made it a point not to miss this special day and loved every minute. In my book and in tons of others he is a true Hall of Famer.
You may have guessed that I saved the best for last. I did that because in all years of my golf life I have never come across a wonderful human being the equal of George Rhatigan.
He could hit the ball straight and true in every match. It was common for him to say, “My brother is the best golfer.” I don't know his brother but I do know that few in this world can match what he does on our golf courses.
Rhatigan cant play the golf game anymore because of an injured shoulder and arm but he never misses greeting player by player at games end.
One thing I do know about George Rhatigan: When God hit the round table for golfer’s his choice was easy:
George Rhatigan of Staten Island and Palm Coast was the only number on the table!
Golf is a wonderful game. Please don't lose yours. Play a game that gives you joy and satisfaction and makes you a better person.
Be a George Rhatigan and you'll quickly learn that golf is a very special game.
He played with enthusiasm, played with freedom and played a game that still enriches life.
Finally, when the world socks you in the gut, become a George Rhatigan, one of the nice and very special guys in this world.