THE NEW YORK POST: Home-Course Advantage. N.Y. dreamer will build par 3 in your backyard
Ever have the urge to drop everything in life, say "to hell with it all," and just live out your fantasy? Michael Lehrer, a certified public accountant by trade, is now a certified public fanatic about his new life since he brushed his previous life aside to pursue his dream. And, not only is Lehrer doing everything he always wanted to, but he's actually making a damn good living doing it. Among other things such as producing a line of clothing called, "Fairway to Heaven," Lehrer designs and builds par 3 golf holes on people's private property. If you're a golf nut, and would love to practice at home, what better way than to have a hole in your back yard? Talk about private golf. This is the ultimate. Lehrer doesn't profess to rival the marvelous things that Donald Ross has done for golf courses or being a young Tillinghast or even competing with today's best course designers such as Rees Jones for example. He has his own niche and loves it. He's living it. Lehrer's path to this business was a roundabout, if bizarre, route. Lehrer, who's always been fanatical about collectibles (he has an utter sports memorabilia shrine in his home) got into collecting old, wood shafted golf clubs, among other items. When he moved into his home in Armonk, Lehrer was walking around in the woods behind the house with his kids and he had a vision. "I saw this big rock and an opening," Lehrer said. "I got into it. I became obsessive. I was out here all the time." Before he knew it, he was cutting trees down and moving earth and suddenly there was this spectacular 90-yard 3 par behind his house from a breathtaking elevated tee built atop a huge bed of boulders about 75ft. above the yard. The green, slightly elevated, is bent grass. And there is a steep bunker below, facing the elevated tee box poised to gobble up short wedge shots. "I got into it," Lehrer said. "I got hooked." Before long, Lehrer had three other tee locations shooting to his bent grass green one from the side of the road and his driveway, one from the other side of his house and one (get this) from the deck outside his kitchen. Soon, his curious neighbors took notice and suddenly he was in business he barely dared to dream of being in. As word of mouth spread, Lehrer could barely keep up with requests from people asking him to build par 3 holes on their property. After consulting with things like the USGA spec green manual and superintendents, Lehrer was in business. He said he's done about 25 of them already and has a handful in progress. So this week, The Post challenged Lehrer to match on nine of the holes he's built in the Westchester area, beginning with the four tee positions on his property "Deck and Duck, Sidehouse Lie, Road Hole and Boulder Hill." Lehrer took early lead off the 40-yard "Deck and Duck" hole with a par to my bogey. We both bogeyed from the side of the house with several windows dangerously close to our thread-the-needle tee shots. I miraculously prevented Lehrer from going 2-up when, after flying the green with my initial tee shot, I stuck another to within two inches to save bogey and halve the hole. We both then pared the 60-yard "Road Hole" and tied the match up with a scuffing double-bogey on the 90-yard "Boulder Hill" hole from the top of the rocks with my sand wedge tee shot sailing ornately into the woods to the right. Lehrer, though, was in worse shape, plugging into the deep trap and taking two to get out. So we left his property in Armonk for five other locations all square. The pivotal hole no. 5, a 55-yard par 3 on his brother's property in Banksville, on which I feathered a half wedge to within eight feet and drained the birdie putt. It gave me a one-hole edge I would never relinquish.
I staggered Lehrer's will on our No. 7 hole, the 110-yard "Winged Foot North" hole on the property of Giants owner Wellington Mara's son, Chris, who was nice enough to leave small blue "Giants" cooler with four cold beers. Lehrer, seemingly sure to tie the match again, had his hopes dashed when I chipped in, rattling in off the stick with a sand wedge from about eight feet. That earned me a halve of the hole heading to No. 8 a 125-yarder on an estate in Bedford Hills. It was here, with a (gulp) four-putt 5 that I closed out Lehrer, who took a triple-bogey 6. Finishing out with another win on No. 9, the 135-yard "Pasteurized Cows" hole on a farm-like estate in Mount Kisco, I ended up defeating Lehrer by three holes, shooting a 6-over 33 to his 36. So now, instead of seeing only numbers, tax breaks, and income statements, while he's daydreaming Lehrer sees tee boxes, greens and pin positions. Using synthetic greens (very easy to maintain), he's done some elaborate jobs for as much as $25,000, but has also done some smaller jobs for $4,000 and $5,000. During our mini-tour of his holes, as we drove past people's homes along the road, Lehrer would intermittently blurt out things like, "There's a perfect teeing-area," and "See what a perfect place that is for a green?" "I think I have the eye that matters to make a golf hole," he said. "It's just a vision you have to picture a hole in your mind. I'm living my dream. How many people can say that?"