Category Archives: Longshore

A True Pro Leaves Longshore

It was a tiny moment. But it changed John Cooper’s life.

When he was 11 years old, dragged to a tag sale, he spotted some golf clubs, and a pot of used balls.

He bought them. But he had no idea how to play, so he got an instructional book.

Instantly, Cooper was hooked.

He hit 800 golf balls a day. He went out before school and after, to the Burr Farms Elementary School field (conveniently located behind his Blackberry Lane house). When it was dark or the weather was bad, he hit balls into a net in his parents’ garage.

A year later on Long Island, Cooper won his first tournament.

At 13 he attended Arnold Palmer’s golf camp — and met his idol. Cooper’s passion for the sport grew even stronger.

Though barely a teenager, he had 2 jobs. He washed dishes at the Inn at Longshore, and caddied on the adjacent golf course. Dave Reynolds — who lived in an old house next to the 2nd tee — helped Cooper learn the game.

The Longshore golf course -- where John Coopepr learned the game. (Photo by Dan Murdoch, via LongshoreGolf.com)

The Longshore golf course — where John Coopepr learned to play. (Photo by Dan Murdoch, via LongshoreGolf.com)

He became a 2-year captain of the Staples High School golf team — and an All-American. As a junior in 1975, he helped coach Joe Folino’s squad win the state championship.

Cooper earned a partial scholarship to the University of Tampa. He captained that team too, and roomed with Brian Claar. Cooper had convinced his fellow Stapleite to go there, instead of his original plan to ski at the University of Connecticut.

In 1986, Claar was named Rookie of the Year on the PGA tour.

Cooper turned pro in 1980. After 2 years on the mini-tour circuit — and the realization that he would not make a living as a player — he turned to his true golf passion: teaching.

He came back to Westport. From 1980-83 he served as assistant pro to the legendary George Buck. He then was an assistant at clubs elsewhere in Connecticut, and Florida.

Buck died in the summer of 1991. Cooper applied for the position, went through the interview process, was offered the job — but declined. He did not think he could make a living with the terms offered.

After negotiating a better contract, he signed. There were early glitches — he walked into a shell of a building with no golf carts and electrical problems — but the past 25 years have been wonderful.

Fore! John Cooper in action.

John Cooper in action.

Over 5,000 junior golfers have gone through Cooper’s program. One — Larry Tedesco — qualified for the US Open. Cooper gave Willard Scott a golf lesson at Longshore — televised live on “The Today Show.”

He was named the Northeast Teacher of the Year, and honored by the Sportsmen of Westport.

Along the way the pro has helped wounded soldiers learn golf, through Project HOPE. He’s also raised money for Folds of Honor (supporting families of injured and fallen soldiers), and the Bridgeport Rescue League. He also created a scholarship for Staples student-athletes on the boys and girls golf teams.

Cooper is very proud that just a few months ago he earned the PGA’s highest designation: Master Professional. The organization has asked him to mentor other teaching pros — including the head professional at TPC Sawgrass.

John Cooper (right) with Paul Taylor, former director of golf at Longshore. John and Parks and Recreation Department head Stuart McCarthy won this golf cart in a closest-to-pin competition at the Met PGA Pro-Am in New Rochelle. Cooper donated it to the town.

John Cooper (right) with Paul Taylor, former director of golf at Longshore. John and Parks and Recreation Department head Stuart McCarthy won this golf cart in a closest-to-pin competition at the Met PGA Pro-Am in New Rochelle. Cooper donated it to the town.

But every course has its rough. While most of Cooper’s contracts were for 5 years, his most recent ran for only 2. This fall, the Parks and Recreation Department put out an RFP. Though he was notified on December 8 that the town wanted him to stay — and he very much wanted to — he felt there were “too many caveats” in the arrangement.

His rent runs to six figures. “I don’t think I could make a living, paying my 12 employees,” Cooper says.

For one thing, a bunker renovation project next spring will render a few holes unavailable until late June.

That — along with the fact that his income is always affected by weather and course conditions — caused him to reject the offer.

“I survived when the greens died a few years ago,” Cooper says. “I’m just getting out of debt now. I can’t risk taking that chance again.”

He’s leaving with nothing but fond feelings — and great memories — of his quarter century at Longshore.

The course closed December 11, so he could not thank golfers personally for all their support over the years. “I’ve made many close friends,” Cooper says. “I’ll truly miss everyone. I wouldn’t trade a thing for this 25-year journey.”

John Cooper and his sons.

John Cooper and his sons.

He also thanks his employees “who stood with me,” and the “wonderful people at the Parks and Rec Department. They were great to work with.”

But of all the fantastic things that happened at Longshore, the best was meeting his former wife. Together, they had 2 “wonderful” kids: Dobson, a Staples junior, and Shane, a freshman at Fairfield Country Day School.

Cooper looks forward to spending more time with them.

“Life is good,” Cooper says.

And how good is it that — several decades ago — he spotted that set of clubs and used golf balls at a tag sale that everyone else has long since forgotten?

 

 

Photo Challenge #103

No one slipped up on last week’s photo challenge.

It was an image of a huge pile of snow. We haven’t had a big snowstorm yet — but 16 alert “06880” readers knew it had been dumped nearby, by the Longshore PAL skating ring Zamboni.

Congratulations to Monika Lazaro, Michael Calise, Chris Swan, Marc Hartog, James Weisz, Tony Lantier (who better have known — he runs the rink!), Martin Gitlin, Shirlee Gordon, Leigh Gage, Marty Bell, Susan Schmidt, Andrew Colabella, Rich Stein, Carmine Picarello, Seth Braunstein, D. Jacobs and Linda Amos. (Click here for the photo and all comments.)

This week’s vaguely Christmas-y looking challenge comes courtesy of Mary Sikorski:

photo-challenge-december-18-2016

If you know where in Westport you’d find this, click “Comments” below.

PS: Happy Holidays, from the Photo Challenge!

Only 21 Days Until Christmas…

(Photo/Robert Augustyn)

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Robert Augustyn)

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Luisa Francoeur)

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Luisa Francoeur)

Oh My 06880 — Photo Challenge #95

In honor of autumn, last week’s photo challenge featured Andrew Colabella’s orange-filtered shot of some trees and reeds.

They could have been many places in Westport. Lots of alert “06880” readers zeroed in on the Longshore/Gray’s Creek/Compo Beach Road area. They were close.

But only Peter Barlow and Diane Bosch knew that the shot was taken in Longshore’s lower parking lot — beyond the golf course. It showed the east bank of the Saugatuck River. Click here to see the gorgeous image (and read all the ohsoclose responses).

This week’s photo challenge is also seasonal. The season was spring — but this Adirondack chair perches on the grass all year long. If you know where it is, click “Comments” below.

photo-challenge-october-23-2016-fred-cantor

(Photo/Fred Cantor)

Longshore Lighthouse: The Back Story

For decades, no one thought about the Longshore lighthouse.

Yesterday, I published a photo of it as part of “06880’s” Friday Flashback series.

I had no idea that Westporters Dick Stein and Tracy Hinson had just offered an oil painting of that same scene to the town, as a gift.

Dick told official curator Kathie Motes Bennewitz that he found the painting behind an upstairs desk at last year’s Red Barn tag sale. Owner Tommy Nistico asked Dick if he knew where the lighthouse had been located. Dick remembered it instantly from  his youth.

The painting — by artist Harriet Horowitz, who moved from Westport in 1972 — was dusty and dirty. But Dick bought it, hoping it would one day hang in the Parks and Recreation Department office — at Longshore.

He had it cleaned and lightly repaired. Now he’s given it to the town.

Longshore lighthouse painting by Harriet Horowitz

That’s a great story. But there’s one more part.

According to alert “06880” reader Peter Barlow — who sent the lighthouse photo along for the “Friday Flashback” — in the late 1960s a popular Parks and Recreation Commission official ordered the demolition of the lighthouse.

Years later, he admitted it had been a mistake.

The commission member’s name?

Lou Nistico — father uncle of Red Barn owner Tom Nistico, who sold the lighthouse painting to Dick Stein.

Friday Flashback #3

This was not a working lighthouse.

But for decades it served as a welcoming beacon for everyone entering Longshore — first the private beach club, then (after 1960), the town-owned park.

I don’t think anyone was allowed inside. But I clearly remember where it stood: Just inside the entrance across from the tennis courts, near where the pavilion and snack bar are today.

If you’ve got any memories of the Longshore lighthouse — or never knew it, but want to react to the photo — click “Comments” below.

(Photo courtesy of Peter Barlow)

(Photo courtesy of Peter Barlow)

 

Here’s Looking At You, Longshore!

A few years ago — very quietly — the entrance to the Longshore pool and tennis courts was renovated and upgraded.

What had been a shabby, neglected piece of the park is now a warm, welcoming space.

Alert “06880” reader/longtime Longshore fan Fred Cantor took this image the other day. The entryway frames the park — and Fred’s shot frames it beautifully.

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Fashionable Summer Wear

As Westporters try to figure out hot trends for this summer, we should look back too.

Longshore - Anne Peacock 1936

Eighty years ago — on June 1, 1936 — Westport’s “Miss Anne Peacock” strutted this look.

The photo caption describes her “suit with red and white halter neck, water proof woven beach bag, red and white practical and comfortable sock-beach shoes, and a natural straw coolie hat.”

The shot was taken at “the fashionable Longshore Club in Westport, Conn.”

(Hat tip: Seth Schachter)

 

Great Day For A Wedding

I was at the Longshore pavilion tonight, for Mary Ann West’s low-key birthday party and book launch.

But as I wandered past the tennis courts, to take a photo of the stunning sunset, I stumbled on a wedding at the Inn.

Or, at least, the picture-taking part of it.

Longshore wedding - 2

I have no idea who the happy couple is.

But they sure started their marriage on a beautiful night.

Longshore wedding - 1

Fred Cantor Grants Staples A Special Gift

All year long, Staples Tuition Grants raises money for scholarships.

Tonight, they give it away.

Staples Tuition Grants new logoOver 100 students — soon-to-be graduates as well as alumni from the past 4 years — will receive $300,000 in college aid.

The ceremony is low-key, but warm and inspiring.

And very, very important. Contrary to myth, there is plenty of need right here in Westport.

Fred Cantor did not receive an STG grant when he graduated from Staples in 1971. He no longer has formal ties to the school; he’s just a proud alum.

But the longtime Westporter is eager to give back. Recently, he found a unique way to do so.

For the 1970s on, he’s taken photos of iconic Westport scenes. Now he’s licensed 5 of them to STG: Main Street with Remarkable Book Shop; Fairfield Furniture and the Saugatuck River; Fine Arts Theater; Longshore’s main entrance, and Railroad Place.

They’re displayed on gift items like luggage tags, coffee mugs, magnets, note cards and tote bags. They’re on sale to the public — with all profits going to the scholarship organization.

Actually, they’ll go to one specific fund: the STG award named after Chou Chou Merrill. The 1970 grad reveled in her childhood and youth here — the memories she shared, the friendships she nurtured, the opportunities she was given. She died in 2014.

A luggage tag, with an image of the Longshore entrance.

A luggage tag, with an image of the Longshore entrance.

Fred says that the photos and souvenirs are a perfect way for Westporters, current and spread around the globe, to show their affection for this town. And help a great cause.

How generous of Fred — an avid “06880” reader — to think of Staples Tuition Grants in this way.

How fitting that he’s chosen Chou Chou’s scholarship to be the recipient of his generosity.

Now all you have to do is click here for a great Fred Cantor-themed/Westport-style/STG-assisting souvenir. (NOTE: More items will be added soon!)

(The public is invited to today’s Staples Tuition Grants ceremony [Thursday, June 9, 5:30 p.m. in the Staples library]. To donate to Staples Tuition Grants, click here.) 

all feature Fred Cantor's photos of Westport.

Luggage tags, coffee mugs, magnets, note cards and tote bags feature Fred Cantor’s photos of Westport. Fairfield Furniture is now back to its original name: National Hall.