Of all the positive aspects of the Shelter Island Country Club’s yearlong celebration of its 120th anniversary, the new Owen N. Dickson Junior Golf Program is a standout. Launched on May 21 with the generous support of a $25,000 donation from Susan and Anthony Schiano in memory of famed Island athlete Owen N. Dickson, the program is introducing boys and girls ages 7 – 16 to the game, with a deep team of coaches to guide them along. SICC has a new PGA pro, Eric Schultzel, who previously developed Junior Golf Camps at Poxabogue Golf Center and Montauk Downs. Adding his considerable experience is Bob De Stefano, who as Gardiner’s Bay pro for five decades, was responsible for the success of GBCC’s Junior Golf Program, and coaches the Shelter Island School’s varsity golf team. Father Peter DeSanctis, who’s served as assistant coach for the varsity team, is also guiding the young Goat groups.
Linda Springer, who has organized and guided the development of the Junior Golf program this summer, is joined by Julia Best, Ginny Gibbs and Mary Fran Gleason in coaching duties as well. With eight youngsters in the morning program, for ages 7 – 10 and seven in the afternoon course for ages 11-16, the students are getting nearly the equivalent of private lessons. Because Junior Golf programs emphasize, in addition to the athletic skills, the rules of golf, courteous behavior and good sportsmanship, it’s helpful to have several coaching adults who can best work with the different personalities and strengths of the boys and girls.
The junior golfers attended five Tuesday sessions, from July 12 through Aug. 9. Thanks to the Schiano family donation, the cost was kept to a modest $75 per participant. Also, Father DeSanctis made scholarships available through Our Lady of the Isle’s youth fund. All levels of golfers were encouraged to join, and since not everyone who tries golf for the first time is ready to invest in a set of clubs, SICC had clubs available to borrow.
Ms. Springer said getting the program off the ground meant engaging the true Shelter Island community spirit, with GBCC’s pro Leigh Notley offering guidance and volunteers including Jay Card, Gary Blados, Phyllis Power and Chick Grubb pitching in. She remembered to credit her husband, Artie, with packing the ice chests full of water bottles for each class and supporting her efforts. Even the plaque identifying the program was made in the Shelter Island School’s shop class facility, thanks to Todd Gulluscio.
The junior golfers enjoyed their first season on a course that was readied this spring with dedicated efforts by the Shelter Island Highway Department, and maintained through the hot, dry summer by Brian Lechmanski. “It’s an Island gem,” said Father Peter.
On the final day of the program, the junior golfers received golf shirts as gifts and celebrated with their coaches, enjoying popsicles and cupcakes and their newfound camaraderie. In the younger golfers’ group, A.J. Rando summed up the feeling: “I wanna do more golf!”