By Gavin Menu
With a few extra minutes before my weekly radio show with Gary Sapiane at WLNG, our conversation drifted to golf. Gary had a nagging injury that was upsetting his weekly round at Cedars, a delightful par-three course tucked away on 13 acres off the Main Road in Cutchogue. I told him how much I loved the little gem where you’d better bring a razor-sharp short game to approach scores anywhere near par 27. That was the first time I heard the name Rod Stankewicz, who, according to Gary, played the entire course with a putter.
“He drives with a putter?” I asked.
“He plays the whole round with a putter!” Gary exclaimed.
With our fitness and outdoors magazine coming down the line, I told Gary, who has played a weekly round at Cedars for the past 25 years, that I wanted to make a trip to play a round with Rod and see for myself what he could do with a putter off the tee, which I did earlier this month. I learned that Rod doesn’t play every shot with a putter. He does, in fact, carry a wedge or two in his bag for that rare occurrence when he might need to chip out of the rough. When we stepped to the first tee, Rod whipped out his Odyssey soft-face putter — one of two putters he carries in his bag — teed up the ball, took a full swing, and with a perfect left-to-right fade landed his shot roughly 100 yards away on the back right of the green. Two putts later, par. Similar scenarios unfolded over the ensuing holes until an occasional 4 snuck onto his card with a rare wedge shot or two.
Rod’s playing partner every Sunday morning is Dick Horton, who joined us for a late afternoon round in steaming hot conditions in early July. Dick is retired, while Rod still works in landscape and property management. Both are family men, both grew up on the North Fork and proudly made lives for themselves here and both take the game of golf seriously. After I treated myself to a mulligan off the first tee, I learned that these gentlemen play strictly by the rules, count every stroke, play first when you’re away, finish every putt and truly revere the game of golf.
“The first time I ever played here I was 12 years old,” said Rod, who is now 57. “We can come out here, it’s a beautiful course, we can leave our house, play nine holes and be home in two hours.”
Or less, with the way these guys play. Rod’s best score at Cedars is a 25, a round where he quite likely needed nothing but two putters — the one he uses to drive is heavier and, after all these years, bent a little, so he keeps a second to use for, well, putting. He routinely shoots scores of 30 or less while Horton keeps up the best he can, especially on the 3rd, 6th and 9th holes, where a bit more is on the line than just bragging rights.
“We play $2 for lowest round, $1 per hole on those three holes, unless you get a birdie and then it’s $2,” they explained. The match was tight as we approached the undulated 9th green, although Rod had the top score of the day firmly in hand. He stepped up to the tee, pulled out his putter and drove it 100 yards to about eight feet from the pin.
“It’s the money hole that’s why he never misses,” Horton chimed in. Except when we got to the green, he did just that. Missed a putt. Then another. Then knocked in his third for a “do-do” four, which comes just before a “Jimmy five”, a “shitty six” or “sucky seven”.
“Dick and I definitely concentrate more on the 3rd, 6th and 9th hole,” Rod said with a laugh in the parking lot as his friend ceremoniously handed over a dollar bill and bragging rights until Sunday. Just another day at Cedars.