Okay, I’ll admit it: I’ve never been treated to watching what I’ve heard is one of the better movies of our generation. Whether it was a lack of passionate interest in the “National Pastime” or just pure jealousy of that Costner guy, I’ve never made “Field of Dreams” a part of my life – that is until now.
Yours truly had the privilege of representing Capitalareagolf.com at the recent spring meeting of the Northeastern New York PGA. Like a kid in a candy store (or a golfer with unlimited range balls!) I was able to watch and learn from the annual award winners, reminisce with some longtime friends and have the honor of stepping into full media mode with the President of the PGA of America, Derek Sprague, and its CEO, Pete Bevacqua. It was a phenomenally informative conversation and a temporary feeling of being a big shot. What more could a rapidly-deteriorating 9-handicap ask for? That’s where we get back to mention of that cinematic masterpiece from 1989.
Whose dreams were they? Ray Kinsella’s (the builder)? Shoeless Joe’s (the player)? “Doc” Graham (the hero)? I’ll never know; as a matter of fact, I had to delve into the internet to even discover who the candidates were. But maybe, after what I learned at the spring meeting, there are a few more possibilities.
Golf Bug Didn't Bite At First
Among several worthy honorees at the awards presentation (March 24 at Saratoga National Golf Club), I was struck by one recipient. Upon accepting the award for Player Development, Lucas Cohen shared with the crowd a brief synopsis of his dream. I was intrigued… for what reason, I wasn’t sure. Was it a misplaced case of jealousy (I always thought of pursuing a career in golf)? Was it pure admiration of the fact that his peers had recognized him for enriching the lives of others (public service was a true goal in my chosen career) or was it the fact he spoke freely and seemed comfortable in the spotlight (an oft-mentioned tendency attributed to your writer)? Regardless, I feel compelled to share a small bit of the less than cinematic (in a good way) masterpiece of Lucas Cohen.
Starting his journey as a three-year old with cut-down clubs, Lucas was pointed in the direction of golf at the Columbia Golf & Country Club. Like an insect on a ball in play, the golf bug didn’t stick with him. He never really took the game serious until a memorable win with his dad in an event at Innisbrook in his college days – but what a win it was. The sense of accomplishment and recognition of a potential passion for the game led Lucas to the Professional Golfers Career College in Temecula, California.
As told to me by Lucas in the most sincere of tones, this time in his life became the point where he realized his interest in golf may be for a greater cause than just his own personal satisfaction and career development. He graduated, moved back to the other side of the country and started his journey as a PGA hopeful. Working at the Country Club of Pittsfield under then head golf professional and sincerely-described mentor Brad Benson (2014 NENY Golf Professional of the Year), Lucas learned the game is best shared with the members in the “old school” style. Four seasons in the Berkshires, a stint in the Rocky Mountains at Red Sky Golf Club in Colorado and some time under the Florida sun eventually led to Lucas finding his way back to the northeast.
This Guy Gets It
My previous mention of Lucas’ “most sincere of tones” attaches itself to what I feel is truly his most notable accomplishment. Growing up and revisiting his roots quite often in the recent stages of his PGA career, Lucas continually explored the option of purchasing a tract of land on Route 23 (NY 9H) in Hudson, a few miles south of his “home field” as a child. A driving range and family entertainment facility which was a bit past its prime became an annual item of interest on Lucas’ career agenda.
Repeated offers to buy the property over four-to-five years finally paid off and the dreams finally came true. It’s said that it takes three acres to build an adult-sized baseball diamond; New York Golf Park has become a 13-acre golf cornucopia. A 300-yard driving range, newly-carpeted miniature golf and completely renovated batting cages make this facility a place that I can’t wait to see once the grass turns green. More importantly, the park becomes a haven several times a year for fundraisers and special events.
The sincerity of Lucas Cohen manifests itself when the park plays host to cancer survivors, veterans, public safety personnel and junior golfers. This guy gets it; his personally developed “Start to Finish Golf Academy” sounds like a premier plan of golf instruction.
'Is This Heaven?'
Back to that “most sincere of tones” matter. This writer, after a long career in law enforcement judging the sincerity of countless conversations with every element of society, feels qualified to judge. When hearing from Lucas Cohen that he truly believes he was put on this earth to “make golf better for people,” I realized whose dreams were realized when the shovel hit the dirt at New York Golf Park in Hudson. Not just the builder, not just the architect, not just the heroes. I’ve got a pretty good feeling those dreams were many of my own.
I’ll be making the trip to NYGP and I can’t wait to throw one of the best lines of that movie at Lucas Cohen: “Hey is this Heaven?” I already know the answer I’ll get from the 2015 NENY PGA Player Development award winner: “No, it’s a dream come true.”