John Dundon


In Memoir, Former Hills West Hoops Coach Billy Mitaritonna Details Story as St. John’s Walk-On 

L. to r.: The cover of Coach Billy Mitaritonna's memoir and Mitaritonna coaching hoops.

Though you won’t find any of the fans at Carnesecca Arena in Jamaica, home of the St. John’s Red Storm, donning ’s number 31 jersey, there’s a good chance that every spectator has something to learn from this Redman’s story. 

It’s a story of perseverance. A story that encourages athletes and nonathletes alike to never give up on their dreams  —  big or small  —  and teaches us that with the right mindset in life, anything is possible. 

“I wrote this book, really, to motivate people,” Billy Mitaritonna tells the Press of his story as a St. John’s Basketball walk-on, Last of the Redmen. “I did this to show kids and parents that failure is OK, it’s important to fail in life on your way to success.” 

Mitaritonna can now put his feet on his desk at Half Hollow Hills West High School, where he still teaches social studies, and reflect on the 17 successful years he spent building the school’s basketball program from the ground up. While under Mitaritonna’s tutelage, the Hills West Varsity Boys Basketball team won four Suffolk County AA Championships, and won back-to-back Long Island championships in 2010 and 2011. 

“He knows how to form relationships with people, and in sports, that’s really important,” says Steve Atkinson, the current Hills West Varsity Hoops coach who was Mitaritonna’s assistant for seven years. “How he dealt with players…he knew when to and when not to. He always had the pulse of the team and that’s an incredible talent.”  

Mitaritonna’s love for the game stemmed from his relationship with his father, Angelo, who had a background in NCAA and semi-pro hoops during the 1950s. Angelo used sports to teach valuable lessons to his son that have endured time like waxed hardwood. Basic lessons like believing in yourself and treating others around you with respect laid the foundation for his son’s life story turned memoir. 

“My father would make one statement and ask one question on the way home from games: ‘I really enjoyed watching you today, did you have fun?’” Mitaritonna says. 

That sort of levelheaded guidance helped Mitaritonna deal with the ups and downs that life threw his way, and become a well-decorated basketball coach in the process. 

As a basketball lover who attended Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, Mitaritonna was cut from the school’s prestigious hoops program in his freshman and sophomore years when he went out for the team. As a junior, and with the reality of a super-talented roster staring him in the face, Mitaritonna took on a new challenge: He was brought in as the team manager. Under the guidance of the legendary high school basketball coach Jack Curran, Mitaritonna soaked in all he could. 

Mitaritonna then attended Westbrook College in Portland, Maine. He made the division III basketball team as a freshman despite the fact that he did not play one minute of high school basketball. When he moved back home to Queens for personal reasons, Mitaritonna wondered where his love of the game would take him next. This was where his underdog story came full circle  —  he joined the St. John’s Redmen, a powerhouse division I basketball program, as a manager. 

Due to a swath of injuries, Mitaritonna was permitted to try out for the team as a walk-on. After making the official roster Mitaritonna was traveling to away games with the team, participating in practices, and of course was given the opportunity to step onto the hardwood as a member of the team he followed as a young boy in six contests during the 1993-94 season. 

“Bill was never the superstar but he was the quintessential team player,” Hills West Baseball coach Tom Migliozzi, who has worked alongside Mitaritonna at Hills West for 20 years, told the Press. “This life experience lets him understand the kids who may struggle with playing time. 

“During practice he gives those kids opportunities to play the game they love,” Migliozzi continues. “He yells positive stuff, makes a big deal of every positive thing these kids do … it makes them feel good.”

As his coaching career unfolded, Mitaritonna was able to translate his personal experiences as a young player into lessons for players he coached. 

“Maybe a big part of it was that I wasn’t that good,” Mitaritonna says. “Maybe it’s good for kids to look at themselves and say ‘I need to go practice more. I need to get better. I tell my son now, ‘Do you want to be the best player in 7th grade, or the best player in 12th grade?’”

Mitaritonna formed a reputation for putting fun first and expressing mutual respect. Those are lessons that can be applied to all aspects of life, even outside of the gym. 

“The most important thing about Bill is that he is the ultimate players’ coach,” says Migliozzi.

“He is not only a role model for these kids, he is a confidant, and does this while maintaining his authority. He wears his passion for camaraderie on his sleeve. He laughs with his team as hard as he competes with his team. This is an art, not a coincidence.”

Brooks Koepka Repeats as PGA Championship Winner at Bethpage Black

Brooks Koepka, the world's top-ranked pro golfer, takes a swing at Bethpage State Park during the 2019 PGA Championship. (Photo by Kevin Kane)

In a dominant psychical and mental display, Brooks Koepka won his second consecutive PGA Championship with a winning score of -8.

Koepka was the wire-to-wire leader, after shooting a Bethpage Black record 63 in round one on Thursday he rolled through to the final round without issue. He then fended off a Sunday charge from Dustin Johnson, where perhaps his most impressive display of mental strength yet showed through en route to his fourth major victory in the last eight major championships.

“If you start treating tomorrow’s round differently than every other round, I feel like that’s where I would maybe be nervous or start,” Koepka told reporters at the conclusion of Friday’s round. “It’s just like any other round I’ve ever played. It’s 18 holes.”

This was the sort of golf that the 29-year-old Koepka is built for. Every bit of his raw strength was needed to conquer both the golf course, it’s thick rough, and the elements that made it so tricky — including heavy winds on the final day of play.

Koepka cruised through three days, but fended off a late run by the world #1 ranked golfer Dustin Johnson who shot a -1 during the final round. Koepka entered the final round with a seven stroke lead. That lead got as low as down to one stroke.

The win at Bethpage Black completes a Long Island sweep for the West Palm Beach native. Koepka won the 109th U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club last June.

Just six players finished the tournament under par — yet another testament to the difficulty of this behemoth of a golf course. Strong winds on Sunday made the course play more difficult through the final round to par than any other day during the event.

Coming in to the tournament, eyes were heavily fixed on fan favorite Tiger Woods, Koepka’s group mate in rounds one and two. Woods missed the cut after posting a score of three over par during round two’s back nine holes.

This after Woods cancelled a practice round on Wednesday, later telling reporters that he “got a little bit sick,” and decided to stay home and rest. Though it’s impossible to tell what specifically led to the poor performance, it’s difficult to imagine Woods was in perfect playing shape. Koepka outscored Woods by 17 strokes on Thursday and Friday.

Making waves too at Bethpage Black was fan favorite Phil Mickelson, who’s warm connection with the New York fans was front and center yet again. “I’ve always enjoyed playing here. It’s a special environment. The people here are unique,” Mickelson said after his round on Saturday. “And they’ve really given me some great memories and moments over the years.”

After his round on Sunday, Mickelson gave a strong endorsement of what lies ahead for Bethpage Black’s relationship with professional golf — gushing about the upcoming 2024 Ryder Cup being held at The Black.

“The crowds here are going to provide such a great home course advantage, and I’m excited that the PGA of America made that decision,” Mickelson said “I mean, you look at the way it is for a PGA Championship, and you can only imagine what it’s going to be like for a Ryder Cup.”

All in all it was another successful week for the PGA Tour at “The People’s Country Club,” Bethpage Black. Fan presence was lauded through the golf world, while the course proved to be a worthy host site — a strong test worthy of the PGA Tour’s best.



Golf’s Best Descend on Long Island for 2019 PGA Championship

Tiger Woods hits a tee shot off the 17th hole at Bethpage Black during the Barclays on Aug. 22, 2012 in Farmingdale (Shutterstock)

The strongest field of golfers the PGA Tour has to offer has arrived on Long Island for the 2019 PGA Championship.

If there was any question, Bethpage Black is still poised to be as stiff a test one can find  in golf. It’s playing length and long walks from tee box to green and on, combined with a thick, penalizing rough will make for high scores and plenty of frustration from the field this week.

“It’s all the golf course you want,” said Tiger Woods, who is fresh off a memorable Masters win at Augusta. “In order to win this one, driving is going to be at the forefront. With the rough as lush as it is…you’ve got to hit it not only straight, but you’ve got to hit it far.”

All eyes  —  from the outside golf world and also those of Long Islanders  —  will once again be on Woods, the current betting favorite and winner of the 2002 U.S. Open held at Bethpage Black. Woods was the only golfer to finish under par during that event. He also competed at Bethpage in the 2009 Open, and most recently during The 2012 Barclays, a Fedex Cup event. Woods famously injured himself that weekend, and fell to his knees after hitting a shot on Sunday.

This mighty municipal course has long been considered one of the country’s finest public golf courses. “The People’s Country Club” played host to a PGA event last in 2016, though conditions will be more difficult for golfers to navigate this time around, for different reasons.

Course maintenance crews generally opt to go for more difficult course conditions to challenge the field during a Major Championship. But heavy rains dumped in the days leading up to the event mean that fairways will offer less roll out off tee shots. It gives a distinct advantage to those who drive the golf ball farthest.

“I mean, 7,500 yards, par-70, it’s a long golf course, and it plays even longer with the cold and wet conditions,” said Rory McIlroy, who is playing The Black for the third time as a professional. “It could play more like 7,700 because of those factors.”

In 2009, the 109th U.S. Open was held at The Black and marred by continuous, torrential downpours that resulted in sloppy play. Though showers will be in the area, particularly on Thursday and Friday, they are not expected to impact play as severely as the last Major Championship to be held at The Black.

Officials expect upwards of 200,000 spectators to make their way through the grounds at Bethpage State Park Golf Course this week. The tournament has already produced increased levels of vehicle traffic in surrounding neighborhoods, including some road closures near the park.

Nassau County and PGA officials are encouraging spectators to use alternative means of transportation for getting to the grounds. Long Island Rail Road trains will ferry fans to the grounds via shuttle service from the Farmingdale train station. According to the MTA, up to 18,000 spectators are expected to use the LIRR to get to the course per day.

There are even accommodations for Uber and Lyft riders, who can take their rides to a designated PGA Championship pickup and dropoff destination that will then be connected to the course via shuttle service as well, according to the PGA.

The tournament kicks off early Thursday morning at the crack of dawn. The week’s featured threesome of Woods, defending PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka, and Italian star Francesco Molinari tee off at 8:24 a.m.

13 Must-Tee Public Golf Courses on Long Island

Tiger Woods hits a tee shot off the 17th hole at Bethpage Black during the Barclays on Aug. 22, 2012 in Farmingdale (Shutterstock)

Whether aiming to try the same greens as legends such as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have in the past or play country club-quality courses at an optimal value, these public golf courses on Long Island are must-plays this summer.

Bethpage State Park, Black Course
“The Black” has hosted U.S. Opens and PGA events. It’s the longest public golf course on LI. Walking only! 99 Quaker Meeting House Rd., Farmingdale, bethpagegolfcourse.com.

Bethpage State Park, Red Course
The Red Course’s changing elevations, thick cuts of rough, and trees are akin to the challenges posed by its big brother, the Black Course. Precision is key. 99 Quaker Meeting House Rd., Farmingdale, bethpagegolfcourse.com.

Bergen Point Golf Course
Located on the Great South Bay, the stiff winds and open layout here allow golfers playability and room to miss without penalties. 69 Bergen Ave., West Babylon, bergenpointgolf.com.

Cherry Creek, Links Course
This behemoth trails only Bethpage Black, playing at 7,187 yards. It’s for long hitters who appreciate playability. The fairways are wide and forgiving, with hazards and bunkers enclosing many of the green layouts. 900 Reeves Ave., Riverhead, cherrycreeklinks.com

Crab Meadow Golf Course
This neatly kept course nestled in the hills overlooking the Long Island Sound has elevated tee boxes and greens combined with prickly placed hazards, making for an aesthetically pleasing but challenging 18 holes. 220 Waterside Rd., Northport crabmeadow.com

Eisenhower Park, Red Course
This is not the premier public course in the eyes of many golfers, but it’s draped in history. The Red Course has played host to PGA majors and has been given prestigious honors by golf publications for decades. Stewart and Merrick avenues, East Meadow, nassaucountyny.gov.

Harbor Links Golf Course
The Championship Course, playing at just a shade under 7,000 yards, is seated atop rolling hills and long fescues that give the feel of a country-club quality round. Its well-manicured fairways and greens serve players well. 1 Fairway Dr., Port Washington, harborlinks.com.

Heatherwood Golf Course
Looking for a warm-up round, or just a shorter course in general? Heatherwood features 12 par 3’s and comes it at a total par 60. Wellkept facilities and greens make this round worth it! 303 Arrowhead Ln., Centereach, heatherwoodgolfing.com.

Lido Golf Club
Lido is one of the toughest tracks on the Island. The course is surrounded by water, and that’s apparent while playing the back nine. Between that and the wind gusts, make sure to bring lots of balls. 255 Lido Blvd., Long Beach, lidogolf.com.

Mill Pond
Looking for a wide-open track with lots of room for erratic shots? Mill Pond is perfect. There are very few trees or natural obstructions from fairway to fairway, making every shot feel important. A scrambler’s best friend. 300 Mill Rd., Medford,

Rock Hill Golf and Country Club
Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Rock Hill offers prime value with green fees as low as $46 on weekdays. From the tips, Rock Hill’s slope rating (136 at the end of last year) is the third highest of the Island’s public tracks. 105 Clancy Rd., Manorville, rockhillgolf.com.

The Golf Club at Middle Bay
This private club became a public course in 2014 and has been a top South Shore course since. Golfers need long irons and woods in the bag for lengthy par 5’s that are a distinct feature of Middle Bay. 3600 Skillman Ave., Oceanside, thegolfclubatmiddlebay.com.

West Sayville Country Club
Another Suffolk-owned course, this gem on the Great South Bay gives golfers fits with wind gusts and heavy dune out-of-bounds areas lining many fairways. 200 Main St., Sayville, westsayvillegolf.com.


5. Bethpage Red: This is a pure straight hitters course that punishes inaccurate drives like few other courses do.

4. Rock Hill Golf Club: Even if all clubs in the bag are working for golfers, the putter can unravel the entire round at Rock Hill.

3. Montauk Downs: Golfers will be forced to play through windy conditions to the greens where they’ll then find some of the most difficult putting greens on the Island.

2. Lido Golf Club: The final five holes at Lido could be the most difficult stretch of public golf on the Island.

1. Bethpage Black: The Black’s thick rough, elevation changes, and length will give even the best golfers in the world fits.

U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills: Driving Pros Mad

The magic of Southampton’s Shinnecock Hills Golf Club lies in its history.

It is one of the inaugural five golf clubs of the U.S. Golf Association. Its clubhouse is the oldest in America. And it’ll soon be the only venue to have hosted the Open in three different centuries.

But for USGA officials tasked with making sure the Open venue poses a stiff test for the world’s best golfers, the layout of the East End’s crown golf jewel carries more weight than its illustrious backstory.

“They’ve been growing the fescue out over the past couple of weeks,” Shinnecock Caddie Master Greg Gagliardo tells the Press. “They brought the fairways in tighter back in September.”

The most recent design modifications undertaken at Shinnecock Hills involved seven years of back and forth with USGA officials. The renovations undertaken were intended to make the course more Open-centric. Seven acres of fairway were converted into rough.

The latest modifications came after the 2017 U.S. Open at Wisconsin’s Erin Hills, where the course played far too easy for the pros and featured a winning score of 16-under par. It was clear that USGA officials were keen on creating a stiffer challenge in 2018.

“The club undertook a restoration to return the golf course to its roots,” USGA official Jeff Hall told Golfing World late last year, speaking of that first renovation.

“The restoration work was wonderful, but we need to strike a balance between being true to the architecture and testing the best players in the world,” Hall said. “In collaboration with the club, we’ve undertaken a tightening of the golf course.”

Shinnecock Hills Golf Club

Many tees have also been pushed back. The course will be playing around 7,500 yards, far longer than the length of 6,996 it was back in 2004, the last time the Open came to Southampton.

“I think we’ve struck the right balance between making sure accuracy is a key component…and being true to the architecture and design,” Hall said.

Long Islanders will make the trek to the East End and watch a new generation of PGA pros try to take on one of America’s original golf masterpieces. Of the top 10 golfers according to the Official World Golf Ranking, only 2013 U.S. Open Champion Justin Rose has played at Shinnecock Hills before. Rose missed the cut back at the ’04 Open, shooting an impressively bad 15 over par Thursday and Friday combined.

Shinnecock’s layout has a few blind tee shots, but the course’s beauty is evident right off the first tee box. Doglegs, bunkers, and of course the iconic thick fescue are visible more often than not from the slightly elevated tee boxes overlooking Peconic Bay.

“The first tee offers a nice view of the golf course,” Gagliardo says. “The fescue will be blowing in the wind. Even with the tents in the way, it’s a nice panoramic view of the course.”

Shinnecock had not previously been a course that mandates 325-yard drives down every par-4 to be in contention on Sunday. In light of these modifications though, it seems that USGA officials are intent on rewarding long hitters like Dustin Johnson, moving with a common trend in the game.

Back in 2004, it was not the course’s length or tightness that gave golfers fits. The par 3 seventh hole was the most contentious point of the weekend.

“The seventh hole is unplayable,’’ PGA tour pro Ernie Els said at the time, when only two golfers finished the weekend under par.

“The majority of the field is going to make (bogey) there,” Els ranted. “It’s ridiculous. The green has to be a little bit receptive. The green slopes right to left away from you, and where they put the flag, you had no chance. They didn’t quite set it up the way the hole was designed.”

Ex-Met Ed Kranepool Fighting for His Life

Ex-Mets first baseman Ed Kranepool.

For New York Mets legend Ed Kranepool, the letters “A.B.” used to be an abbreviation for his next at bat, of which he amassed 5,436 throughout his playing days in Flushing.

Now, it’s an important detail – his AB blood type – in Steady Eddie’s quest to find an organ donor to replace one of his defunct kidneys. His are functioning under 20 percent, according to his doctors. Time is of the essence.

“I thought, originally, that I was having a heart attack when the kidneys began to shut down,” says Kranepool, of Old Westbury. “I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t walk more than 10 feet.”

That day, at the behest of his wife and grandchildren, Kranepool sought medical advice. Physicians ruled out a heart attack. The path forward became as clear as the route to first base: Get a clean bill of health and be a candidate for a kidney transplant. But Kranepool was dealing with a serious infection that kept him off the transplant list.

“You need to be in tip-top shape for (transplant specialists) to consider you for a transplant,” Kranepool says. “So, we met with so many doctors. We went to the heart doctor for stress testing, then back to the kidney specialist. I even had to get a signoff from my dentist.”

When all of the potential harbors for infection were checked, Kranepool received the OK to pursue a kidney match. It has since become the focus of his attention. While under very different circumstances, this isn’t the first time Kranepool has overcome adversity.  Being sent down to the minor leagues just a few months after winning the World Series stands out.

“With the Mets for six or seven years at this point, we win the World Series in ‘69, you go from one year playing in the Major Leagues to the next where they send you down,” Kranepool says. “That’s a tough bullet to bite. It takes something inside of you to want to fight your way back.”

But, he did it.

“If you go down there and sulk, hit .100 or .200, you’re getting released,” Kranepool says. “You show them that you can do it, so I went down there and tried to hit .350. I earned my way back.”

For good measure, “Kraner” hit .280 his next season in the majors. That was the best batting average by season during his illustrious 18-year career in the big leagues.

Although he was never fleet of foot as a player, Kranepool, now 73, takes especially slow, ambling strides as he walks to ensure the loss of his recently amputated toes don’t cause a fall. He does this across his basement-turned memorabilia display, brandishing dozens of autographed photos and baseballs acquired throughout his playing days in MLB, pointing out certain precious moments with his intimidating Louisville Slugger- turned walking cane.

Kranepool has been selling memorabilia to fans and collectors, giving others a chance to enjoy some of the precious items he collected.

“We were always raising money for something,” Kranepool says as he expands upon a few select plaques from his countless days of charity work, digging in excitedly at every piece featuring charitable events organized in the name of Yankees’ legend Joe DiMaggio.

Kranepool grew up in the Bronx and was, admittedly, a Yankees fan. Now though, Kranepool has many more precious moments to live for. He’s got seven grandchildren who keep him active. He loves boating and looks forward to getting back on the many local golf courses he’s walked for charitable causes.

Martin Gover, President of Momentum Sports Management Inc. and Kranepool’s friend, says that it’d be tough to find someone more deserving of the help.

“Ed is a true New Yorker through and through, someone who has always given back,” Gover says. “He’s the longest-tenured Met and is beloved by fans.”

With luck, Kranepool will have a pinch hitter of his own come through in the clutch.


Kranepool is offering a limited number of collectors the opportunity to visit him at his home to examine and purchase unique Mets and Yankees memorabilia directly from his collection. The items for sale are autographed vintage photos, autographed assorted team and individual baseballs, great baseball memorabilia from different teams, as well as unsigned, never-before seen photos from when he was with the Mets.

This is an opportunity to visit Kranepool for a Meet and Greet at his home this spring. The meetings will take place between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, as well as some weekends. All home visits will be by appointment only. This memorabilia sale will help pay for some of Ed’s major medical bills from this past year.

Those interested should contact Martin Gover of Momentum Sports Management, Inc. at 212-918-4545.

Organ Donor Need By The Numbers

114,882: People on the national waiting list for organs.
9,359: People waiting in New York State.
8,110: People waiting in the New York Metro area.

In NY, you can register to become an organ donor when you visit the DMV, register to vote, apply for an idNYC card, register for health insurance through the health benefits exchange, or at LongLiveNY.org.