A Good 31-Year Walk Unspoiled
Claude Beudert, whose good 31-year walk, as it were, with East Hampton High School’s golf team was decidedly not spoiled — during his tenure his teams went a collective 285-68, won 17 league championships, 14 of them between 2001 and 2015, and won county and Long Island championships in 2011 — is now utterly retired.
Which isn’t to say he’s idle. Since retiring as a teacher two years ago, he’s been volunteering with the East Hampton Food Pantry, has been certified as a volunteer at Southampton Hospital, and has continued to work with some students in the district. He swims five days a week at Gurney’s, and plays in pickup basketball games three days a week.
“I’d also like to travel,” he said during a conversation the other day at The Star. “My mother’s family came from Genoa, my father’s came from Alsace-Lorraine. . . .”
“Were they French . . . Germans?”
“It all depended on who won the last war,” he said.
Asked to name the top golfers he’d coached, Beudert had no problem: Zach Grossman, Turner Foster, Ian Lynch, Alex Tekulsky, Shane Hannabury, and Kevin Somers, who’s now on the Maidstone Club’s staff.
“Zach was the best golfer on Long Island; he won the counties and was all-state. Turner was the county champ last year and the runner-up this year. He would have been all-state this year had he gone.” Foster forwent the state tourney so he could try to qualify for the U.S. Open Monday in New Jersey. “Ian went to the states three years. Shane and Alex, who tied for the county championship and lost in a playoff, went to the states one year. . . .”
“No,” said Beudert, in answer to another question, “we never had an off- year. Our worst was 7-5. We were just two shots away from sharing the league title this year.”
He demurred when given a chance to toot his own horn, ascribing the teams’ successes over the years to the South Fork Country Club in Amagansett, the Maidstone Club in East Hampton, and to the management at Poxabogue, the public course in Sagaponack.
“Being able to practice on Maidstone’s East course and being able to use its driving range and bunkered putting green, which you can shoot onto from 75 yards out, has been a tremendous help. We play our home matches at South Fork. They’ve bent over backward and they don’t have to. The members love to see the kids. . . . For the past two years they’ve given a $1,000 scholarship to a senior on the team. Luke Vaziri won it last year, Hunter Medler this year. Nobody in our league has the experience that we do with these three facilities.”
“Every kid can hit the ball a ton,” he added, “but it’s the work we’ve done on our short games, around the greens . . . our course management that has paid off.”
South Fork, he said, “used to be the toughest course in the league, when we played on the old nine holes. It was a nine-hole course then. Our kids learned where to hit it. Noyac [Pierson’s home course] is tough — you never have a level lie there. Westhampton, which they’ve changed a lot, is the toughest now. They’ve put traps in different spots, some in the middle of fairways, the greens are fast and some have been made bigger. Southampton has been changed too — they’ve taken down a lot of trees, just like Shinnecock.”
Asked if he hadn’t thought about amassing 300 wins, Beudert, who already is among the state’s winningest golf coaches, said, “No, it wouldn’t have made a difference. Tony Gamboli of Sayville, who retired about a decade ago, has over 600. I never would have caught him.”
As a teenager, Beudert, who went on to play golf all four years at Gettysburg College, lived in Cold Spring Harbor, “which is on the border with Suffolk. It was in the late ’60s, early ’70s. At first, before our A.D. petitioned to play only Nassau teams, we played a lot of Suffolk schools. We’d drive all the way out to Kings Park. I played in a county golf championship at Rock Hill, which isn’t far from here. We’d tee it up and let it fly over the dinkly little trees. They’re huge now. My junior and senior year we played the county championship at Bethpage.”
Bethpage was the scene of East Hampton’s greatest golfing moment, when the team, led by Grossman, who’d returned here from a hiatus in South Carolina, defeated Farmingdale, the perennial Nassau champ, to win the Long Island championship in 2011.
Bethpage Black was Farmingdale’s home course, the pins were the same ones used in the U.S. Open there in 2009, but no matter. East Hampton, following a two-hour-and-15-minute drive, won the encounter 7-2 (four individual wins plus 3 points for carding the lower aggregate score).
The Nassau team’s coach was so certain the championship cup wouldn’t be surrendered that he left it at home 10 miles away. Beudert, once the results were known, asked him to please go get it.
“It was a 25-minute wait,” he said at the time, “but it was worth it. . . . It was really like going into the lions’ den — Farmingdale had won the Nassau championship the past three years, it had won the Long Island championship two years in a row, and they had won Nassau’s championship this year by 51 shots.”
It was the second feather in Beudert’s coaching cap: He was John Goodman’s co-coach when East Hampton’s girls tennis team won the county championship in 1980.
Asked at the time how he compared the golf championship to the tennis one, Beudert said, with a laugh, “I carried John Goodman through that last one — this one I did on my own. Both teams were focused and talented, but I’d say this team loves their sport more than any other team I’ve ever coached.”
He didn’t want the interview to pass without acknowledging his family, the outgoing outgoing coach said. “My family should be thanked. They’ve been so supportive. In a family you make sacrifices to make each other’s life better. We’ve always been there for each other. Any coach would have to thank his family. . . . You know, it’s going to be difficult to find coaches more and more. There are not that many teachers who live here anymore. They can’t afford it. They’re living in Rocky Point, in Quogue, in Shirley. . . . To get to our 6 a.m. pickup basketball game at the high school they’ve got to be at the Canal by 5:30. . . . Even finding junior high coaches is going to be difficult.”
“Then I want to give a shout-out to my assistants, Peter Bologna and Ralph Naglieri, who’ve have been the jayvee coaches. They have the love I have for the game and it shows when they’re with the kids.”
Asked if he had ever wanted to turn pro, Beudert smiled and said, “I always thought I would have been a great club pro, because I liked cheeseburgers and draft beer. . . . Oh, I also have time now to do Sudoku and crossword puzzles, but when it gets to Thursday it’s like I’ve had a lobotomy. I’m always looking forward to Monday.”
As for the coming U.S. Open at Shinnecock, where, in 1995, he had a moment in the sun as Tom Lehman’s standard-bearer with Lehman leading on the third day, “I’ll go to a practice round. I just want to walk the course. I’ve played it twice, and did okay, though not from the tips.”