A couple of years ago I was talking golf with then New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. I asked where he played, assuming that he used his executive privilege to wangle invitations to the swanky suburban clubs. "I play mostly here in the city," he said. "People are stunned when I tell them this, but we have 13 public courses within the five boroughs—13!—and a lot of them are darn good."
I first discovered Gotham golf in the summer of 1990, a year after having moved to the city. An assignment compelled me to attend a junior clinic at Mosholu Golf Course in the Bronx. I didn't know Mosholu from Mozambique but was surprised to learn that it had a decent driving range and a ragged, but serviceable, nine-hole layout. I spent the rest of that summer riding the No. 4 train uptown to the last stop ( Woodlawn), then walking a few blocks along 213th Street to Mosholu. I can still recall the curious looks I routinely got from the other straphangers. Those subway stares taught me that fuchsia hair and a body full of tattoos won't draw attention in the Big Apple, but carrying a golf bag will.
Urban golf took on a new dimension in the spring of 1992, when I played in my first (of what would be many) New York City Amateur. Qualifying was held at various sites around the city, and I randomly selected Clearview Golf Course in Queens. It was love at first sight; the morning of the qualifier my taxi pulled up to the course, and I was dazzled by the sight of the Throgs Neck Bridge. Very cool and very New York, I thought: a course in the shadow of a bridge. The 6,470-yard, par-70 course was straight and tree-lined—but the greens were true, and the views of nearby Long Island Sound were stunning. I shot a 75 and earned a berth in the 54-hole final, at LaTourette Golf Course on Staten Island.
I had an 8:30 a.m. tee time for the first round. An early start is normally preferable in a tournament, but not when you live on 92nd Street and First Avenue in Manhattan and don't own a car. The trip to the course took two hours, including a 45-minute subway ride to Wall Street, a 30-minute ferry across New York Harbor to Staten Island and then a 25-minute bus ride to the course. By the time I arrived, my eyelids were droopy and so was my game. I don't recall exactly what I shot, but I finished near the cellar.
Still, that City Am earned a special place in my heart. Only in New York would you have to take a subway, a bus and a ferry to play in a golf tournament, but like so much about this challenging city, the extra effort made the experience that much sweeter.