By Rick Carpiniello
PEARL RIVER — Bill Tobin’s father, Robert, was hardly a great golfer. Robert would shoot 95 to 100 “on a good day,” Bill said.
But Robert had two shining golf moments. One was a scramble in which he and his three sons — Bill, Bob and Tom — combined to shoot a winning score of 61, a moment captured in a photo of the four men, the father pointing at the 61 on the scoreboard.
The other was a hole-in-one — using a driver — on the fifth hole of the Pines nine at Blue Hill Golf Course.
That’s why Bill Tobin’s round in a tournament at Blue Hill on June 9 was especially emotional. Coming as it did a week before Father’s Day, and two years after Robert passed away, and during a period in which Bill had begun to get a tattoo that honors his father’s life … well, it caused chills.
Bill broke, by two shots, his own course record by firing an 11-under 61, including a hole-in-one (with a 9-iron) on the Pines’ fifth hole.
“My dad was my idol,” said Bill, 49. “And having a son now, I can see how he felt about me.”
Bill Tobin, born in Queens, has lived since the age of 1 in Orangeburg, where he played two years on Tappan Zee High School’s golf team. His ’81 team is being inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in the fall.
Despite not having the time as a full-time, 30-year member of the cement/concrete workers union building skyscrapers in New York City, or the inclination to practice — he remains a scratch golfer with a hint of a dream of playing on the Champions Tour one day.
He’s won some major amateur events, including the 2006 WGA Public Links title, in which he beat Bret Wazka, who is now the Blue Hill head pro. Tobin and partner Steve Haggerty of Piermont last summer won a two-man event in Connecticut which put them into Ernie Els’ Autism foundation’s tournament in Las Vegas, which they also won.
Tobin has won the Blue Hill club championship 11 times in the last 13 years, and the two years he didn’t win, he wasn’t able to participate … more on that in a bit.
The 61, though, came out of nowhere.
“I stayed out with my wife until 3:30 in the morning,” Tobin laughingly admitted. “I showed up on two hours sleep, I bogeyed the first hole and then started coming around — birdie, birdie, birdie, hole-in-one, birdie, birdie, par, birdie” for a front-nine 29.
“I realized something special was happening and if I could just hold it together and not think too much about it, just keep going along the way I was. …
“The fellows in my group started to realize, ‘This guy’s going low, let’s not jinx him.’ ”
Tobin’s game is “aggressive” and the guys tried to convince him to play safe on two driveable par-4s on the second nine, the Woodlands, at the 27-hole course. Tobin went for both, hit good shots, and settled for disappointing pars. He also had a par on the 11th, a par-5 on which he had a 7-iron second shot land in a bunker. So who knows how low he might have gone?
“But I could have missed a bunch of putts I made, too,” Tobin said.
He’s not one for regret, not after what he and his wife Kristyn — a special ed teacher whom he met when she was working at Blue Hill’s restaurant as a college student — have been through.
Tobin didn’t participate in the club championship for two years as the couple’s only child, Tyler, spent three years in and out of hospitals with what eventually was diagnosed as PNH disease, ultimately requiring a bone-marrow transplant.
There were no matches among family and friends, so the Tobins had to wait. An overseas donor changed his mind at the last moment.
“That was heartbreaking for the family,” Tobin said. “It was a roller coaster ride. Then the hospital found another donor and on Nov. 4, 2010, he had a lifesaving bone-marrow transplant, went through a heavy regimen of chemotherapy … and he was like the boy in the bubble. You just kept your fingers crossed that his body would accept it and that he would make it. Fortunately for my family, my son is a happy 7-year-old boy who is enjoying soccer, golf with his dad, baseball, riding his bike, Boy Scouts. It’s a happy ending, for sure.
“Without Kristyn, I would not have been able to get through what we went through,” said Tobin, who shaved his head when Tyler lost his hair due to the chemo. “She is the glue and the rock of our family.”
Now he marks his golf ball with a “TT” for his son. The ball that landed in the cup for that hole-in-one said “TT” on it; the ball that posted 61.