The arrival of summer signals the departure of local Long Islanders and visiting tourists headed eastbound for weekends of relaxation across the South Fork. Montauk, the last stop on the Route 27 line, has grown from a quiet fishing village to a quaint, family-friendly vacation spot to, more recently, an increasingly hip alternative to the Hamptons. While the personality of "The End" varies by the season, Montauk remains a draw, and much of the attraction has to do with Montauk Downs State Park and its popular golf course.
Kremer is one of thousands of golfers who visit Montauk and challenge the course each year. His perspective on the Downs, however, is a unique one. Thirty-five years ago, Kremer, the former New York State assemblyman and ex-chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, helped the state purchase Montauk Downs as it teetered on the brink of private development.
His memoir, "Winning Albany: Untold Stories About the Famous and Not So Famous," describes his role at Montauk Downs in addition to his accomplishments in state government beginning in 1966 as an assemblyman from the south shore of Nassau County.
By 1979, the property -- situated on rolling terrain between the Atlantic Ocean, Lake Montauk and Fort Pond Bay -- had been home to golf for more than 50 years. But the private owners were bankrupt, and developers eyed the scenic site for housing at a bargain rate. One bid included plans for 220 houses, and another called for 185, Kremer said. Former Assembly Speaker and prominent Montauk figure Perry Duryea asked Kremer and the state for help in saving the course.
"A week later I was in Albany, and I told [Duryea] that I think I have $3.9 million," recalled Kremer, who had been to the course before and noted its classic layout, natural setting and picturesque views. The state's bid turned out to be higher than the developers', and Montauk Downs was public property.
Though Montauk is a far crawl from Albany and the rest of New York State, Kremer encountered little resistance from government colleagues and counterparts in directing money from a recreation fund to a small park isolated way out near the tip of Long Island.
"They took me at my word that this was an important purchase that would make money for the state," Kremer said. "The Suffolk delegation agreed that it was very important."
Years later, Montauk Downs is considered one of the finest municipal golf courses in the country and one of the most challenging layouts -- public or private -- in New York. After Rees Jones refurbished the Black Course at Bethpage State Park in preparation for the U.S. Open in 2002, the noted course architect headed east to do some touch-up work at Montauk Downs. The project had special meaning to Jones -- his father, Robert Trent Jones, had remodeled Montauk Downs with Rees's assistance back in 1968, a decade before Kremer's rescue. A handful of diagrams and hole sketches penned by Rees Jones are on display in the clubhouse corridor.
"We never dreamt at the time that the golf course would become as classic and as highly regarded as it is today," Kremer said. "I think the state would have been heavily criticized if it wasn't kept as a public facility."
Kremer plays the course a few times each season. In addition to the natural charm of the golf course, he enjoys the constantly changing weather patterns -- "one hole it's foggy, then it's sunny and hot, then it's cloudy again" -- and the fact that scratch players come away impressed with its challenging character.
All proceeds from Kremer's book are donated to the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America and to Alzheimer's research. Find it online at Buffalo Heritage Press, Amazon and Barnes and Noble, or at bookstores across Long Island.
And for more on Montauk Downs, visit the course flyover.