By Mike Dougherty
I’m not sure what Putnam County is known for, but I know golf is nowhere on that list.
And yet Mike Miller of Brewster won the New York State Open at Bethpage Black on Long Island a couple weeks back. Not long after he took possession of the crystal trophy, Luke Feehan of Mahopac won the New York State Amateur in a playoff at Bellevue Country Club upstate.
What are the odds?
“That’s crazy,” said Miller, who earned $17,500 for his first professional victory. “And the coolest part might be the fact that we both had our dads on the bag.”
It was certainly fitting.
Bob Miller Jr., the longtime head pro at Knollwood Country Club, was carrying for Mike, doing his best to stand back and let the events unfold in the final round. Terry Feehan, an insurance agent, was caddying for Luke, dealing with a string of stomach-flipping plot twists down the stretch.
Over the years, both men have experienced a lot of ups and downs with bags on their shoulders.
“It was good to be a small part of that one,” said Bob Miller. “I’m happy for Luke and his father, too, mostly for his father, though.”
We probably won’t live long enough to see this happen again.
The folks in Westchester have a ridiculous number of places to play golf, and the grass is without a doubt greener at places like Winged Foot and Quaker Ridge and Hudson National and Sleepy Hollow. The list goes on and on.
Up here in Putnam, we have Red Rooster.
“It really is kind of incredible,” said Luke Feehan, a 23-year-old who played at Boston College. “I do remember my senior year, the group that went to states included three of us from Mahopac and Mike from Brewster. Normally, it’s the kids from Westchester who dominate.”
Seriously, we do have some nice places to play in Putnam.
“I still remember playing those guys from Westchester back in high school,” said Mike Miller, a 22-year-old who did play a lot of golf at Knollwood. “I always wanted to compete against the best of them and show that I belonged.”
He gave a lot of good players an inferiority complex.
Feehan was atop the leaderboard all week, but wobbled after bogeys at Nos. 15 and 16 in the final round. He got one back with a birdie at the next, but closed with a bogey.
“I’m thinking maybe he won,” Terry Feehan said. “I asked on the 17th hole, and they told me it was between Luke and Matt Lowe. They both made a bogey at the last. And then a tournament director comes running over saying, ‘The playoff is going to begin on … ‘ That was a surprise. I had to quickly put my positive face back on and get back to work.”
Bryce Edmister, who played at Binghamton, closed with a 67, the low round of the week, and caught Feehan with a 5-over total of 289. Luke Feehan went back to the 17th hole, a par 3, and made another birdie to claim the silver trophy.
“It was a great week,” he said. “I didn’t exactly stick the landing, but I was happy knowing that I was able to hit a good shot when I really needed to hit a good shot.”
There was no real drama on Long Island.
Miller simply blitzed the field, shooting a 6-under 65 in the final round to win by four strokes.
“I know my dad was still nervous,” he said.
No matter where the ball landed in that final round, Bob Miller kept the conversation to a minimum.
“I carry the bag and I follow instructions,” he said. “It’s better that way. … When Michael asks me a question, I usually know what he wants me to say, and I’ll say what he wants me to say because he’s looking for reassurance.”
Until recently, there was more debate.
“We had a big discussion a couple months ago when I got into the field at the Valero Texas Open,” Mike Miller said. “I wanted to be able to win on my own and lose on my own. I needed to learn how to play golf at the next level. And it’s something he’s been able to embrace.”
That approach keeps everyone in a happier place.
“Show up. Keep up. Shut up.” Luke Feehan said. “That’s my dad’s motto. We have a real nice balance. There might be a read I need help with, but I do most of the golf stuff. He works hard, though, helping everyone in the group.”
When the final putts dropped, both men got to go back to being a proud father.
“It was tough walking that course, and my stomach was doing everything you might imagine,” Terry Feehan said. “The rest of it was pretty awesome.”