NJ Law Enforcement Open once again generates drama, memorable moments, a heap of chirping and chatter and an unprecedented day of appreciation
Upon arriving at the Ballyowen Golf Course in Hamburg, Colts Neck Local 333 member Brian Matthews headed to the first tee and immediately greeted fellow competitors from Warren County Local 280 with some playful ribbing. This is what makes the annual NJ Law Enforcement Open so extraordinary. Winning distinction as NJ Law Enforcement’s best golfer is not as important as chopping it up with fellow members.
It was the duty of every member to make sure trash talk ensued after a missed putt, a mishit into the bunker or even a score over par on any hole.
“It’s a different atmosphere, because again, the teasing is just so much fun,” Matthews revealed. “It’s just the camaraderie around law enforcement, both retired and active guys. That’s what makes a difference, just getting together with people that we wouldn’t normally have met, but we all do the same job, and we all have the same stories. Today, it’s all about teasing and relaxing, and the stories are just about golf.”
After the Law Enforcement Open was canceled last year due to the pandemic, nearly 100 twosomes representing PBA Locals across the state were quick to participate in the fifth annual rendition of this one-of-a-kind experience that Crystal Springs Resort has built. For numerous departments, that even meant traveling a substantial distance to relax, bond with their fellow members and feel the appreciation from Crystal Springs.
“We really needed to just kind of let loose and just have a good time,” Matthews added. “And that’s the best thing that brings all of us together from all around the tri-state area.”
There was no dampening the spirits of members who attended, even with a threat of rain that persisted all morning before the scheduled 1 p.m. start.
“We were a little worried about the weather,” Crystal Springs Director of Marketing Chris Mulvihill confided. “The weather experts were saying it was going to hail, but we dodged a bullet.”
Nothing was going to stop this event from providing a great day off while raising money to support the Police Unity Tour.
“I was a little afraid we were going to lose some momentum from previous years, because we had to cancel the event last year,” Mulvihill continued. “But I was relieved when I heard a lot of guys saying that there was no way they were going to miss this event because they really missed being here.”
The format of play was once again best ball, with the four lowest-scoring teams qualifying for a one-hole shootout to determine the champion. The shootout, of course, takes place on the 18th hole, with all players overlooking the green and accelerating the ribbing and trash talking.
Not that any additional pressure comes with that. Or from the fact that the winners receive the First Responder Flex Membership, which entitles two golfers per day from their agency to play unlimited golf Monday through Friday at Black Bear Golf Club and Wild Turkey or Ballyowen on Tuesdays for the next 12 months.
Ultimately, this year turned out to be the fiercest competition in the history of the NJ Law Enforcement Open. Seven teams qualified for the playoff, with four of those tying with a round of 72.
“Playing in the playoff was so surreal out there,” said Bergen County Sheriffs’ Department Local 134 member Jeffery Hilbert, who combined with partner Robert Del Corpo to shoot a 72. “It gets your legs shaking with the chirping and the chatter.”
As a challenge from the crowd came — “All righty, boys, give us a good show” — the intensity seemed to turn up another notch. Joining Local 134 in the playoff were teams from Lakewood Local 71, Margate Local 65, Ramsey Local 155, West Orange Local 25, Mountainside Local 126 and the NYPD.
As the playoff transpired, the chirping picked up.
“You call that a putt?” one member yelled.
“I can’t believe you’re in the playoff,” another member from the crowd trash-talked.
In the end, Del Corpo and Hilbert emerged victorious after Del Corpo sank a 60-foot birdie putt, sending the crowd into a frenzy. One observer seemed to capture the moment, saying, “That was one crazy putt. That’s something you would have seen on the PGA Tour.”
Hilbert and Del Corpo claimed they had confidence going into the tournament, but they seemed to be in a state of shock following their victory.
“We didn’t have great expectations,” Del Corpo confessed. “We just wanted to go out there and have fun and post something respectable. When we got through three-quarters of the round, we realized that if we got a couple of more birdies, we could get under par. I was shocked even par was good enough to make the playoff.”
Del Corpo and Hilbert proved to be a consummate team. When one had a bad hole, the other would pick him up. Winning was not only above and beyond their expectations, but a great taste of icing.
“Overall, we were really happy that everyone got back out here,” Hilbert confirmed. “It was an unbelievable atmosphere, and it was a great time. We couldn’t believe how much fun the day was.”
Part of the fun is also the opportunity to win something for your department. Port Authority Local 116 member Geoffrey Jeppson knows that feeling, having teamed with Joe Della Serra to win the last Open.
“We like to play for ourselves, but this is more for our department, so our guys can get a day out whenever they can, which is awesome,” Jeppson noted.
By the end of the event, players were quick to thank Mulvihill and Crystal Springs Resort for their support and hospitality. Such appreciation was also a big reward for playing in this event.
“Just the support that we get from a major company like Crystal Springs like this,” Jeppson added. “In today’s day and age, it’s not very easy to back the blue with everything that’s going on. Chris and this company have gone above and beyond for law enforcement, so we think that’s amazing.”
That’s where this story ends. At the end of the day, it was all about making memories that can come in every round of golf. One good shot is all it takes to keep you coming back.
“The primary objective of this event is for law enforcement to feel appreciated and to feel like this is a day when they can come out and really relax and really enjoy themselves,” Mulvihill emphasized. “That’s why we host this event, to let them know that we stand by them.”