Egg Harbor Township Patrolman Mike Finnerty wears a T-shirt that says, “God invented cops so firemen can have heroes.”
But the rivalry has to stay friendly, because his three best friends, his brother-in-law and even his twin brother, Pat, are firefighters, he said.
Finnerty, 32, organized Sunday’s second annual Police vs. Fire St. Patrick’s Day Golf Tournament at McCullough’s Emerald Golf Links in Egg Harbor Township.
“It’s great to be hitting the ball with your buddies, the guys that you go to battle with every day,” he said as the foursomes set out in carts for a shotgun start. “It’s not a fundraiser. It’s about camaraderie and having a good time.”
There were 116 golfers playing, he said, about the same number that came out for the inaugural tournament last year.
About 60 percent were police officers and 40 percent firefighters, he estimated. Most were from Atlantic County, but some came from as far away as Vineland.
It was a cold day for golf, participants agreed as they came back to the clubhouse for Irish food and drink.
”I play golf year-round, and this was one of the coldest days I’ve ever played,” said Ocean City police Officer Matt Schaffer. “There was a steady, cold wind.”
It helped to have some Guinness stout and Jameson’s whiskey with them on the course, said Mike Finnerty. He played in a foursome that included Egg Harbor Township Patrolman Patrick Daly, 35; Margate Patrolman Shane Coneskey, 41, of Egg Harbor Township; and his dad, Frank Finnerty, 70, of Egg Harbor Township, a retired Absecon science teacher and the outgoing president of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.
Son Mike is the incoming vice president, he said. Both the elder and younger Finnerty dressed in kilts for the event, as did Coneskey.
Earlier, as Finnerty’s team finished their first hole at No. 17, a team of four Atlantic City firefighters drove up and let Finnerty’s team know how slow they were.
“We’re the bravest, so there really isn’t much of a rivalry,” joked Atlantic City firefighter Mike Costabile, of Absecon, who said he works with Pat Finnerty. Also on his team were Chuck Gowdy, of Atlantic City; Shaun Moore, of Egg Harbor Township; and Andrew Hunt, of Ventnor, one of those three best friends of Mike Finnerty’s.
Hunt said he met Finnerty at Holy Spirit High School, where they played football together. They were roommates when they were both single guys, he said.
Later, in the clubhouse, firefighter Costabile said he comes from a family that includes police.
“My dad, Louis Costabile, was a motorcycle cop,” he said.
He credited the cops of the world for what they do.
“Cops show up to a gun,” he said. “I show up to a fire. I know what to do with a fire.”
Mike Finnerty said both sides face a lot of stress on the job, and the events he finds most stressful to handle – such as responding to major accidents with serious injuries — are those cops and firefighters share.
His worst memories on the job include doing CPR to no avail on a 2-year-old drowning victim when he had a 2-year-old child at the time; and being the first to show up at a double murder scene, where a mother and her daughter were stabbed to death.
“It puts life in perspective,” he said. “It makes me that much happier to go home to my wife and kids.”
Brigantine Fire Department’s team of Mike Lang, Dan Jackson, Dan Jackson Jr. and Tom Rehill won the tournament and got a return foursome from McCullough’s, and they will have their names engraved on the perpetual plaque that hangs in the clubhouse, said McCullough’s spokeswoman Theresa Prendergast.
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