The 168-yard par three is a tricky hole, protected by a long, wrapping sand trap in the front and a steep drop off on the back. It’s a tough shot in the best conditions, but on Tuesday, there is a brand new black BMW 640XI Gran Coupe sitting prominently in the tee box – a prize for anyone who can sink a hole-in-one.
There’s also a peanut gallery, cameras and a professional team plotting each player’s shot, as if there weren’t enough pressure already on the fourth hole of Bethpage Red.
“I just hope I hit the green now,” said Anders Lee, before planting his shot 20 feet from the pin.
Lee and the Islanders teed off Tuesday at the team’s annual golf outing at Bethpage State Park. Active players, alumni, coaches and management joined foursomes for a scramble-style golf tournament and a dinner reception, all in support of the Islanders Children’s Foundation.
Tuesday’s action didn’t quite resemble the US Open, which took place on the neighboring Black course in 2009, but conditions created some serious competition between the players.
Cal Clutterbuck’s foursome went head-to-head with Matt Martin in a five-hole, mini-playoff (Clutterbuck’s group won -4 to -2), while avid golfers Ryan Strome and Kyle Okposo were watching each other’s scorecards like hawks.
“I just want to make sure you’re being honest,” Strome said to Okposo with a smug smile.
People were very generous and we raised a lot money for a great foundation. We’ll make next year’s event even better. - Community Relations Manager Ann Rina
Nikolai Kulemin’s group won the tournament with a score of 56 (14 strokes under par), while Isles offseason acquisition T.J. Brennan launched the longest drive of the day, 305 yards. Brennan’s group, Colin McDonald’s foursome and Head Coach Jack Capuano’s team all finished the day with 59’s, but their groups entered a tiebreaker with McDonald officially taking second place. Okposo’s group finished the day with a 60.
Not everyone was taking the day as seriously; Eric Boulton showed his foursome why he’s one of the most well-liked and funniest Islanders in the locker room.
“If you win the car, we’re all sharing it,” Boulton said to his foursome on the 12th hole, where there was a Chrysler 200 up for grabs for any hole-in-one scorer. “We’ll switch off every two months.”
All proceeds benefitted the ICF, which raised over $100K at the seventh-annual event.
“It looked like everyone from the players to the coaches to the fans all had a great time today, but the real winner was the ICF,” said Ann Rina, Islanders Community Relations Manager. “People were very generous and we raised a lot money for a great foundation. We’ll make next year’s event even better.”
Tuesday’s event was also a fan favorite, as it bridged the gap between fan and player, putting them in a comfortable position to interact and have fun.
“Sometimes when you’re sitting behind a table, I think fans feel a little more disconnected than they would if you were playing a round of golf with them,” Clutterbuck said. “It’s definitely a good way to get people to know your personality. You are spending five-and-a-half hours with them. People really get to open up and enjoy the day.”
The golf outing is one of the unofficial starts of the hockey season. For many players, it’s their last round of the season, as they trade in clubs for sticks, caddies for trainers and fresh-cut grass for freshly-scraped ice.