Affectionately known as “The Little Pro,” Eddie Merrins is one of the most accomplished and decorated golf professionals in the annals of the PGA. After starting his career at Merion Golf Club, Merrins moved to New York where he was elected to PGA Membership and spent a year as a teaching professional at Westchester Country Club and two years as the head professional at Rockaway Hunting Club on Long Island. During that tenure he won both the 1961 Metropolitan PGA Championship and the 1961 Long Island Open. An outstanding collegiate golfer at LSU, Merrins won the SEC title twice (in 1953 and ’54) and was the NCAA runner-up in 1952. As a professional he competed in over 200 PGA Tour events, 8 USGA Open Championships, 6 PGA Championships, 2 British Opens and 6 PGA Club Professional Championships. In 1962, Merrins was named the head professional at Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles, where he still serves as Professional Emeritus to this day. In addition to his professional duties, he also served as the UCLA Men’s Golf Coach from 1975-1989 where he helped develop 16 All-Americans, including 2 NCAA Players of the Year, Corey Pavin and Duffy Waldorf. Merrins guided the team to a #1 ranking, an NCAA National Championship, three PAC 10 Championships and earned PAC 10 Coach of the Year honors three times as well. While he was inducted into the PGA Hall of Fame in 2009, it is just one of many honors and Halls of Fame that he has been elected into including the Southern California PGA, NCAA Coaches, UCLA Athletic, Mississippi Sports, Southern California Golf, California Golf Writers, LSU Athletic and the World Golf Teachers Halls of Fame.
Hall of Famers
Known more for his leadership qualities, Frank Cardi’s golf accomplishments date back to his teen and college years. He won the Ohio Amateur at age 18, and attended Ohio State where he captained their golf team and won the 1954 Big Ten Championship. In the Met Section he was a strong player (runner-up in the LIPGA three times) but quickly became involved in governance. He held every office on the Section level, including the Presidency from 1966-1968 while serving as the head professional at Rockaway Hunting Club. From there he moved to Apawamis Club in Rye and during his tenure there became more and more involved in National PGA politics. He campaigned for President of the Association in 1972 (eventually withdrawing) but was elected to office in 1974 and served as an Officer through 1982, including two years as President in 1979 and 1980 and his final two years as Honorary President. Cardi’s greatest accomplishments included expanding playing opportunities, improving the educational programs and finalizing the plans for PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens. He was the Met PGA Professional of the Year in 1968, the Horton Smith Nominee in 1974 and the Sam Snead Award recipient in 1983.
A 48-year member of the PGA of America and a Master PGA Professional, Gene Borek served the game, the Association and his memberships with unprecedented distinction. Gene was inducted into both the Westchester County and Yonkers Halls of Fame as well as one at the Metropolis Country Club where he served his final 25 years until his retirement in 2005. He not only was a former Met PGA Player of the Year but he also won almost every Section Award during his career. His list of achievements included three of the Met PGA’s highest honors – Professional of the Year in 1972, Teacher of the Year in 1996 and the Sam Snead Award in 2003. As a player he was perhaps best known for his course record 65 at Oakmont in the 1973 US Open (broken two days later by the Champion, Johnny Miller). No stranger to major championships, Gene played in a total of 11 PGA Championships, 10 US Opens, 10 PGA Senior Championships, 5 US Senior Opens and on 4 PGA Cup Teams. He won tournaments around the world but took special pride in the local titles he earned including three Met PGA Section Championships, three Long Island PGA’s, two Westchester PGA’s, two Long Island Opens, one Westchester Open and three MGA Senior Opens,. Gene also won the PGA National Stroke Play title (twice) and the PGA National Match Play Championship once. In addition to Metropolis he served the memberships of Sunningdale and Pine Hollow during his illustrious career.
Gene Sarazen was born in Harrison, New York and began caddying at age ten at local golf clubs, took up golf himself, and gradually developed his skills; he was essentially self-taught. Sarazen took a series of club professional jobs in the New York area from his mid-teens, and worked hard on his game. Among the clubs he enjoyed affiliation with in the Met area were Fresh Meadow and Brooklawn. Sarazen won his first major championships — the 1922 U.S. Open and PGA Championship — at age 20. The winner of 39 PGA Tournaments, Sarazen, known as The Squire, was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame as a charter member in 1974. He was the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year in 1932, and won the PGA Tour’s first Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996. He played on the first six U.S. Ryder Cup teams: 1927, 1929, 1931, 1933, 1935, and 1937. He won the Met Open in 1925 and the Met PGA Championship in 1927, 1928, and 1938. Sarazen invented the modern sand wedge in 1930. The Met PGA established the Squire Cup Matches in the ‘80’s in his honor.
For 32 years Gil McNally served as the head professional at Garden City Golf Club following a short stint as the head professional at Deepdale GC. Gil McNally held the reigns of the Section Presidency in the mid-’80’s during one of the more progressive periods in Section history. During his tenure, the Section inaugurated the Squire Cup Matches and also established a Women’s Metropolitan Open Championship through a sponsorship that Gil arranged. He was also involved with a search for a homesite and/or teaching facility that came to fruition in 2001 with the advent of the Section’s involvement in the First Tee. These initiatives are still thriving and celebrate the diversity of programming in the Met Section A two time winner of the Section’s Professional of the Year Award (1984 and 1989), Gil was also the Bill Strausbaugh employment award recipient in 1985 as well as being named the Teacher of the Year in 1991. In 2007, Gil was named the 34th recipient of the prestigious Sam Snead Award for contributions to golf, the PGA and the Met Section.
Harry Cooper turned professional in 1923 after having been exposed to golf by his father who served as an apprentice to Old Tom Morris at St. Andrews. Cooper earned the nickname “Light Horse” for the speed with which he played and the demeanor that he carried while competing in tournaments. Cooper began winning substantial regional tournaments at age 18 and never looked back, racking up 31 wins on the PGA Tour. He also claimed the inaugural Vardon Trophy in 1937. Although he was unable to win a major, Light Horse Harry Cooper was a force. His resume includes 20 top ten finishes in major championships. Cooper was also the 1955 Met PGA Champion. He was named the Met Section’s very first Professional of the Year in 1956, was Teacher of the Year in 1990 and won the Sam Snead Award in 1981. After his PGA Tour career ended, he became the head professional at the Metropolis Country Club and ended his club professional career as a teacher at Westchester Country Club.
Herman Barron was born in Port Chester, New York. He was one of barely a dozen professional golfers who earned their living as touring professionals in the 1930s and 1940s. His first professional win came at the 1934 Philadelphia Open. He would go on to take the Met PGA Championship in 1937. On February 8, 1942, Barron became the first Jewish golfer to win an official PGA Tour event by winning the Western Open. During one three week stretch, he won the Philadelphia Inquirer Open, finished fourth in the U.S. Open, and won the All-American Championship at Tam O’Shanter in Chicago. He also won the 1954 Westchester Open and the 1963 Senior PGA Championship. Barron played on America’s victorious 1947 Ryder Cup team. He then held the position of head professional at the Fenway Golf Club for 15 years. He is also enshrined in the Westchester Hall of Fame.
Jack Burke, Jr. turned professional in 1940. After serving four years with the Marines during World War II, he resumed his career in golf as a teaching professional in New Jersey. That was followed by a position as an assistant at Winged Foot Golf Club, where he was mentored by Claude Harmon. Burke eventually went on to become the head professional at Metropolis Country Club. He won the Met Open in 1949 at Metropolis, beating Gene Sarazen. Burke notched two lopsided victories in the 1951 Ryder Cup matches and was subsequently selected for the 1953, 1955, 1957, and 1959 teams. Burke won 16 PGA Tour events in his career, including the 1956 Masters and PGA Championship. He won the Vardon Trophy in 1952, a season in which he won four straight Tour events and was selected PGA Tour Player of the Year four years later in 1956. Jack Burke became the fifth recipient of the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003, and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2000.
Jack Mackie was one of the 6 members of the first organizational committee for the founding of the PGA of America. In 1916 he was elected to the Metropolitan PGA Executive Committee which then also gave him a seat on the National Executive Committee. He then served as the National President the PGA of America (1919-1920)held several other elected offices finally transitioning to Treasurer from 1927-1939. This 23 years of service making him the longest serving officer in the Association’s history. He moved to New York beginning at Dunwoodie CC around 1906. In May 1917 he became the Professional at Inwood CC on Long Island where he finished out his career. At Inwood he hosted the 1921 PGA and 1923 US Open while also adding his architectural touches by redesigning several holes.
Few professionals had the impact on the image of the Metropolitan PGA the way that Jack Mallon did. He was the ultimate “gentleman pro,” and an incredible ambassador for the game and the association. His tenure in the Metropolitan PGA included head professional stints at three top area clubs; He started at Garden City Country Club, then moved to Cold Spring and finished his career at Wheatley Hills where he was beloved. As a teacher, his reputation was second to none and he had top amateurs and beginners coming to him for lessons from miles around. He got involved in the leadership of the Section and in 1960 succeeded Claude Harmon as President. His two year tenure along with Harmon’s one year helped usher in a new era of governance after more than three decades of John Inglis’ administration. Mallon also went on to become a Vice-President of the PGA of America, serving three years in that role of national involvement. Jack was a two-time selection as Metropolitan PGA Professional of the Year and was the very first Sam Snead Award winner for his contributions to the game and the Section. Mallon was not a player with a national resume, but was still among the area elite, boasting two back-to-back Long Island PGA Championships in 1953 and 1954.
Jack Patroni was a fixture at Apawamis Club where he served as their head professional and became a mentor to a number of successful club professionals and playing professionals. Among the young assistants that were touched by Patroni’s wisdom and guidance were Miller Barber, Terry Wilcox, Jerry Coats and his eventual successor, Frank Cardi. Patroni qualified for a number of US Open and PGA Championships but some of his best performances came in his later years in the PGA Senior Championship. He played in 8 of the oldest senior majors, making 5 cuts, finishing in the top 25 three times and boasting a tie for 6th in his best finish in 1958. His record locally was also strong and included runner up finishes in the Met PGA, the Westchester PGA and Westchester Open. His greatest accomplishment, however, was his victory in the 1964 Met Open at Briar Hall when he won the Championship over Al Feminelli and Wes Ellis, at the age of 57, the oldest Met Open Champion ever.
Originally from Oklahoma, Jerry turned professional after a successful college career at SMU. He played the PGA Tour for several years in the early 1960’s, with a tie for 5th at the New Orleans Open his best finish. Coming to the Met Section as an assistant at Westchester CC, he promptly won the Met PGA and the Met Open in 1965, establishing himself as a top player. In 1968, now the head professional at The Creek Club, he put together an astonishing performance. At the Masters, he shot 282, 6 under, and finished tied for 7th, only five shots back of the winner. At the US Open, he returned 285 and again finished tied for 7th, this time one shot clear of five major champions, including Snead, Casper, and Stockton. At the PGA Championship at Pecan Valley he finished tied for 37th. Sensing the moment, he entered the British Open, went over and qualified, but missed the cut at Carnoustie. For good measure, he added the 1968 Met Open and Long Island Open. At the Met Open, he and runner up Jimmy Wright produced 14 birdies between them in an epic final round. In 1973, he was selected as the head professional at Seminole, also serving as head professional at The Creek and Saucon Valley for a number of years. In those roles, he would mentor and guide hundreds of assistant professionals and staff, including future National PGA Professional of the Year honoree Tom Henderson. While serving on the Met PGA Board of Directors, he was the Co-Chairman of the Membership Committee, and helped originate the written exam and oral interview, at that time the final hurdles for election to PGA membership. A consummate professional, “Pitt” as he was known to his pals and rivals, exemplified the highest levels of teaching, playing, and service. His feat of playing in all four major championships in the same year as a full-time club professional has never been done before or since.