Dating back to the late 1800’s
, Long Island has been known for many noteworthy golf achievements. The home to numerous major championships, including the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, Long Island has produced its share of champions in both the amateur and professional ranks. In order to enjoy such a sustained period of success, there must be an organization that truly cares about promoting and maintaining the game of golf. Since 1922, that organization has been the Long Island Golf
The Long Island Golf Association, or the LIGA, as it is more readily known, was founded over 80 years ago by a cadre of top local amateurs as an entity to both maintain the game of golf on Long Island and to give its best players a chance to shine in prestigious local events. In its first year, the LIGA held three championship tournaments. The continued growth of the organization has resulted in nearly two dozen tournaments being held in 2005, as well as a group of dedicated volunteers and sponsors whose aim is to further the success and influence of the LIGA.
A look back in the history books reveals some famous names that have come through the LIGA. From 1927 LIGA Open Champion and golf icon Gene Sarazen, to 1987 and ‘88 winner Jim Albus, the LIGA has produced worthy champions in every era.
Multiple winners Macdonald Smith, Al Brosch, Tom Nieporte, and Bruce Zabriski are considered to be among the best ever to play in the LIGA Open, one of the LIGA’s three original events. Al Brosch’s 10 Open championships remain the pinnacle of LIGA achievement, and he may have had more if not for the Open’s three-year hiatus during World War II.
The LIGA’s other inaugural events, the Amateur Championship and Junior Championship, have been family affairs, with dominant runs by both the Strafaci family and the Galletta family. Other winners include George Zahringer III, John Humm, and George Ostrowski.
The LIGA Richardson Invitational was born in 1948, and it has taken its place alongside the LIGA Open, Junior, and Amateur as a flagship event of the association. Past winners include LIGA stalwarts Frank Strafaci, Mal Galletta, John Humm, and George Zahringer III. Other notable champions include William Hadden III, a three-time winner, Dick Siderowf, a four-time champ, and Jerry Courville, who went on to national success.
The LIGA includes more than half of Long Island’s courses as member institutions, and its various tournaments have been held at dozens of courses over the years. To get an idea of the staying power the LIGA has had, a few courses that once hosted LIGA events are no longer in existence. Eleven of the LIGA’s founding courses have since turned into parking lots, housing lots, or parks!
The growth of the LIGA has mirrored that of golf’s popularity. The addition of new events such as the LIGA Public Links Championship, the LIGA Senior Championship, and the LIGA Mixed Pinehurst Championship have given golfers of all levels the opportunity to play and compete. There are now events for boys, girls, men, women, seniors, professionals, and amateurs on the LIGA schedule.
The LIGA would not have become so prominent an organization without excellent leadership, and it has received just that from a roster of presidents who have greatly contributed to the game of golf on Long Island. From inaugural president John Ward to current president Martin Bartow, each leader has contributed in some way to the growth of the organization. Whether by adding new tournaments, reaching out to more member courses, or attracting more sponsors, the presidents of the LIGA have done a superb job. Many past presidents stay involved with the LIGA long after their tenure is complete, such as Joe Cantwell and Joe Donahue (who are both former Long Island Golfer Magazine cover models, incidentally).
The LIGA is supported by many local businesses, without which the organization could not be all that it is today. Vytra Health Plans, Astoria Federal Bank, U.S. Trust, and State Bank of Long Island are just a few of the sponsors that have helped grow the LIGA, and by association, the game of golf on Long Island.
With more courses than ever, Long Island golf has never been as big as it is today. The Long Island Golf Association has been a driving force in the popularity of the game, and it has facilitated many events and tournaments, some of which have been a springboard to stardom for the best golfers on Long Island. Current pros like Rick Hartmann, Leo McMahon, Darrell Kestner, and Tom Patri can all trace their golfing roots through the LIGA. With the support of Long Island golfers, the LIGA should be around for many more years to come, giving back to the game of golf.