There are shockingly few places to find food after 8 p.m. on a Monday in Sag Harbor, New York. Luckily, there is the Corner Bar. There is always a Corner Bar.
This particular version separates Main and Bay St. on the far eastern tip of Long Island—otherwise referred to as The Hamptons. One of the final Golfer’s Journal events of the 2021 season brought us here, down the street from an otherworldly collection of golf courses, and yet only one thing is on our mind: Food. Now.
The Corner Bar seemed to have everything one could want after a long day of travel: dim lighting, Monday Night Football, plenty of light beer on draft, a buzzing kitchen, and a trio of open bar seats.
“What’re ya having?” a voice called out from the other end of the bar. It belonged to Tim Luzadre, the Corner Bar’s trusty pourman. He sported a 2021 Torrey Pines U.S. Open hoodie—the exact one I nearly snapped up a few months prior as I watched Jon Rahm roar his way down the stretch to victory.
“Were you there?” I responded.
“Was I where?”
“Oh yeah, I’m at all of them.”
Turns out that when Luzadre isn’t serving last-minute lobster rolls, he’s a camera runner for some of golf’s biggest tournaments. As we waited for our food to arrive, he regaled us with tales from the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst—one of the hottest weeks he’d ever worked. The streaker on No. 13 at Torrey—we both had a good angle of it. And his local conquests of NGLA and Shinnecock—both of which we passed on the way here.
“So where are you boys playing tomorrow?” Luzadre asked as our lobster rolls and fries finally appeared. “Sebonack? Easthampton?”
His mood visibly shifted. His left eyebrow perched and his head began to nod ever so slightly, as if to say: “Now we’re f-ing talking.”
What Luzadre explained next, and what I had failed to grasp before arriving in Sag Harbor, was that Noyac might as well had fallen off Long Island and sunk in the Atlantic less than a decade ago. Its 1960s routing had become mundane, the conditioning was poor in an area where conditioning was everything, and it lacked the type of culture that defined its household-name neighbors.
Rebranding a course anywhere is no simple trick. Doing it in the shadows of the birthplace of American golf is tougher than finding food late on a Monday in Sag Harbor. If Noyac was going to find its voice around the likes of NGLA, Shinnecock, Sebonack, Maidstone, Southampton, Easthampton, and The Bridge, it would need to do some heavy lifting.
Enter Pat Gunning. After assistant stints at Seminole, Shinnecock and Kittansett, he took the head pro job at Noyac with a laundry list of to-dos. He knew what it took to operate at the premier level, and as an active competitive player, he knew his golf course had something to offer. To lighten the load, he placed his wife in charge of the golf shop and began plotting a total operational overhaul. After years of massive tree removals, a heavy emphasis on conditioning, and a bold new practice facility renovation, the vision has started to come into focus.
“It’s tough,” Luzadre says as I finish my last few bites. “Like, really tough.”
The following morning, I realize Luzadre knows his stuff. While the Peconic Bay remains hidden behind a dense treeline for most of the day, my ball still feels its effect. Flat lies are rare, and for most of the day, I’m fighting an uphill battle on my approaches. I don’t hit anything less than 5-iron on the par 3s, and I learned the hard way that it’s not enough to find the fairway on the par 5s—it has to be on the correct side of the fairway. With every stray tee ball, there’s a 50/50 chance that I’ll spend the next five minutes walking back and forth past it as it settles under healthy rough.
As Gunning and I walk off the 18th—a majestic dogleg-right closer that gives me flashes of Scioto and Muirfield Village—I’m embarrassed to not have known more about Noyac before arriving here. What I’ve just experienced is championship golf in every way: a long and sloping parkland that forces you to hit big-boy shots, and rewards you with glassy smooth looks at birdie if you’re up to the task. The bay breeze brings in the same smells as its neighbors down the street, and the same eggshells of excitement break beneath my feet with every step around the property. It doesn’t take a snazzy logo or an updated rankings list to let me know that this place is special. It belongs.
The following day, 100 TGJ Members get a chance to form their own opinion of Noyac. The winds are up, and the Noyac greens staff has taken no prisoners with the pin positions. When a winning score of +1 is announced, a sigh of relief and scattered giggles can be heard from the group. It was a trying day for all, but then again, it has to be. If you want to make your name in this town, you’ve got to toughen up.