“You got to practice, practice, practice,” he said Monday afternoon from the front seat of fellow golfer and Brookridge resident Charlie Hofsess’ Lincoln Continental.
As they drove south on U.S. 19, DeMariano talked about his many years as a golfer.
“I drive 100 golf balls every day, I putt 100 golf balls every day and make 100 chip shots every day,” DeMariano said.
The number 100 seemed so appropriate, especially on Monday.
After arriving at The Links Golf Club in Hudson, by surprise, Hofsess took DeMariano by the arm and headed into the clubhouse.
Greeted by hoots and hollers from a band of “seasoned” golfers, Hofsess presented DeMariano with an early birthday cake. With a golf ball and fairway illustration on the white icing, the words inscribed in green read, “Happy 100th Birthday Mickey D.”
Although the group was ready to slice up the cake, DeMariano said, “Nothing doing, I’m taking this cake home for my friends.”
By home, DeMariano meant Angola, N.Y.
While the guys at The Links are friends, too, DeMariano said, “I’ve got some really good, long-time friends up there who I’m saving it for. I’ll eat the cake with them.”
Hofsess said they wanted to celebrate the soon-to-be centenarian’s birthday now, “because he will still be in New York on his birthday before coming back to Florida.”
DeMariano was born in 1913. That year was also a significant year in golf history, when a little-known amateur and former caddie Francis Ouimet upset the field at the 19th U.S. Open and beat the British leaders, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray.
According to golf historians, Ouimet’s victory sparked public interest in the sport, bringing more people to the game, not only to watch it, but also to participate and compete.
Two decades later, one of those people who would take up the game of golf was DeMariano.
“When I was a young guy I would find golf balls at a nearby golf course,” he said. “I’d hit ’em and drive ’em down one of the fairways.”
At about the time DeMariano was learning to play golf, a man by the name of Sam Snead, another self-taught golfer, joined the PGA Tour in 1936.
Snead was once one of the top golfers in the world, playing professionally for about 40 years. He was DeMariano’s inspiration.
“Snead had such a smooth swing,” DeMariano said.
He watched him play in person and on television and even read Snead’s golf tutorial newspaper columns.
If there was a golf swing to emulate, it was definitely Sammy Snead’s “perfect” golf swing.
Many who have played golf with DeMariano say his golf swing is a good imitation of Snead’s.
“Technically, from a golf swing standard, Mickey is right on,” according to Ray Cisbani, golf pro at The Links. He has played golf with DeMariano numerous times at different golf courses.
“It’s amazing to see how limber he is, the full range of motion the guy has, even his club head speed. I mean, he can putt the ball out there very nicely for a man that’s almost 100 years old. It’s amazing,” Cisbani said.
If there is such a thing as old-school golf, DeMariano plays it.
“You have to understand that back then the wrist action was different, it was more of a flatter golf swing in regards to the swing plane of it,” Cisbani said. “Mickey’s swing is very rhythmic, very smooth.”
After all, Cisbani said, DeMariano is out at The Links seven days a week.
“He practices religiously from 8 to 10 a.m., and then goes for breakfast. He comes back in the afternoon and practices his short game, plus he plays twice a week. It’s amazing.”
Cisbani, who has known DeMariano for 10 years, said he can still shoot in the 70s.
“He is very keen on the rules of the game,” Cisbani said. “You know as you progress in age you forget a lot of things.”
By trade, DeMariano said he was a master plumber during his working years and retired in 1977.
“When I started getting my Social Security, we came to Florida,” he said.
He was married to Theresa, who died 13 years ago. They had three daughters, one of whom has also died.
DeMariano is eager to get back to Angola.
“They don’t open up the golf course there until I come home,” he said.
He usually arrives back in New York at about the time when the ground is defrosted and the weather gets mild.
With his birthday cake in tow, DeMariano, who drives a car as well as he plays golf, will head over to the town of Collins, N.Y., home of the Gowanda Country Club.
DeMariano praised Gowanda’s golf pro Paul Agone for his assistance and friendship over the years, along with several other golfers he plays golf with regularly.
“My best game was a 68. But that was years ago when I was young,” he said.
When asked about his secret to his longevity, DeMariano said he owes it all to golf.
“If you would take at this present time, Mickey against Arnold Palmer, Mickey could beat him.” Cisbani said assuredly. “This guy can play the game of golf. There’s no doubt about it.”
Hofsess shook his head in affirmation, saying, “Mickey D is a legend.”