Already host to three major New York State Golf Association tournaments over the last decade, Pinehaven Country Club stepped up to the plate once again when the NYSGA needed a home for the 2008 New York State Men’s Amateur Golf Championship.
The most prestigious tournament for the area men will be held July 15-19, with the local qualifier set for Eagle Crest Golf Club on June 4.
Pinehaven not only hosted the New York State Women’s Amateur in 2006, but it also played host to the New York State Men’s Amateur in 1998, as well as the Senior Women’s Amateur a few years after that.
It’s hard to find private-course members who are willing to give up their course so frequently.
“We enjoy hosting this event. This will be our third state championship since 1998,” said Pinehaven CC head pro Scott Warren.
The NYSGA originally planned on having its most celebrated event at another course, but plans fell through.
CAME TO THE RESCUE
“The way it happened is that John Blain, who is a good golfer and the sales rep for Sun Mountain Sports, came to see me late last fall,” Warren said. “He said there was a hole in the schedule. The State Am was set to be played at Oak Hill next year and at Albany Country Club in 2010. Something fell through, and they needed some place to host the tournament this year.
“We got to work on it, and we thought it would be a nice opportunity to host the event once again. We really enjoyed hosting it in 1998, and we thought this was a chance to help out the NYSGA.”
Warren was asked why Pinehaven is called upon so often to entertain NYSGA events.
“For one thing, I think the state golf officials believe that we have a really good course,” he said. “Our course superintendent, Rob Bigley, is a good golfer himself, and he looks at the course through the eyes of a highly skilled golfer. That’s how he takes care of the course.
“The other thing is that we’ve had experience hosting other events here. Our course is not only in great shape, but we can set it up very fairly while still being a good challenge.”
Warren said that Pinehaven takes pride in upgrading its facilities.
“Three of our holes will be quite different for those who played in the 1998 State Am here,” he said. “We put a lot of money into improving our golf course. Holes eight, 13 and 18 have been renovated since the last state championship.”
Warren said that, depending on whether you’re talking about the medal-play qualifier or the match-play portion of the tournament, different holes will be key for the competitors.
“When the guys are trying to qualify, the key holes will probably be the par-5s, Nos. 6, 15 and 17, because they are fairly reachable. You must score on those holes to keep your round going.
“But once it gets to match play, I believe that the eighth and 14th holes will be crucial because of the severity of the greens. If you get above the hole on either one during the championship match, you could be in trouble. You can be on the green in regulation and three-putt, while the guy who comes up short might get up and down for par.”
Warren knows Pinehaven as well as anybody. Born in Johnstown, he moved to Guilderland early on and graduated from Guilderland High School.
“I grew up and played high school golf at Pinehaven, and I also worked there in the bag room and in the pro shop,” he said. “After graduating from Hudson Valley Community College, I got into the PGA program. I was an assistant pro here for seven years, and then became an assistant at Wolferts Roost Country Club for two more years before coming back here as the head pro. This is my 10th year as head pro here.”
Warren has seen Pinehaven CC grow, and he believes it is one of the area’s best courses for championship events.
“Talk about change. I’ve seen the instal-lation of our irrigation system here, and I’ve seen the course go from being firm, where you sometimes would rather hit your shot into the rough rather than in the fairway, to being in the excellent condition that it is right now.
“A lot of the credit has to go to Rob Bigley. Rob and I have a good relationship for a pro and greens superintendent. It’s nice for a golf pro to have a superintendent who is also an excellent golfer. You can prepare the course better. It’s better from both an economic and playing standpoint.
Only five Capital Region players have ever won the State Amateur. Joe Ruszas was the first local champ in 1944, while Albany’s Billy Shields was the only multiple winner, taking the title in 1951, 1952 and 1955.
Rich Serian, then playing at the Country Club of Troy, took the state crown in 1977, while fellow CC of Troy member Bill Boland triumphed in 1983. The last area player to bring the title was Jay Gunning in 1986.