Gazette Cup gets season off to running start

One of the fiercest competitions on the Capital Region golf schedule often sets the tone for the ent
PHOTOGRAPHER:

One of the fiercest competitions on the Capital Region golf schedule often sets the tone for the entire season.

The sixth annual Gazette Cup, which pits the Northeastern New York PGA against the Capital Region Amateur Golf Association, brings together many of the best players in the area in a play-for-pride event. No money changes hands for the pros, and no gift certificates are handed out to the amateurs. The winning side simply keeps possession of the Gazette Cup — and local bragging rights — for a year.

This year’s tournament, slated for May 7, will once again be at Albany Country Club, where the pros crushed the amateurs a year ago.

The local club professionals lead the

series, 3-2.

Berths on these all-star teams are earned. Both sides use their own point list, and the top 12 golfers on each list make the team. If someone can’t play for any reason, the next player on the respective point list is asked to play.

Competition is divided into partners match play in the morning and individual matches in the afternoon. Players earn one point for the front side, one for the back and one for the match.

“I can’t wait to get a shot at the pros again,” said amateur Aaron AuBuchon, who recently switched his club affiliation from Saratoga National Golf Club to Saratoga Golf & Polo Club. “Playing against the pros is always a lot of fun. We’re looking at some revenge after what happened last year.”

“I love playing the amateurs,” said Albany Country Club head pro Glenn Davis. “I think having a point list for the amateurs and the pros really sets up the competition. People can follow both lists, so they will have a good idea who will be playing in this event.

“We as pros often see the amateurs competing against each other, but rarely, except for the U.S. Open Local Qualifier or the New York State Open, do we compete directly against them. And remember, just because you are a PGA pro doesn’t necessarily mean you are a great player, and just because you are an amateur doesn’t mean that you’re not as good as many of the pros. Guys like Dan Russo, Matt Clarke and Dave Hayes are just as good as any golf pros in the area.”

Jim Welch of Winding Brook was the Capital Region Amateur point list champion with 226 points. Welch, a former Skidmore College standout and a two-time Troy Invitational champ, won the Eagle Crest Shootout a year ago.

New York State Mid-Amateur champion John Vaccaro of Wolferts Roost Country Club was second with 213 points, followed by Gazette County Amateur titlist Bryan Bigley (Pinehaven), who recently turned professional and won’t be eligible for this competition.

Peter Gerard, a four-time Northeastern New York PGA Player of the Year out of Mill Road Acres, was the top local club pro a year ago. One of the most consistent players in the region over the last two decades, Gerard is also a six-time winner of the NENYPGA’s Vardon Trophy for lowest stroke average.

The Gazette Cup is one of my favorite events, for obvious reasons. It’s also close to my heart because former Cobleskill G&CC head pro Dal Daily and I helped put a pros vs. amateurs event back on the area schedule after more than a decade absence.

Spectators are welcome. Come on out and support your favorite local pro or elite amateur player.

NEW RELATIONSHIP

The local PGA section continues to reach out in order to promote the game of golf across the Capital Region.

Last year, the PGA and The Daily Gazette signed on to become partners, with the Gazette becoming the “official media” outlet for the NENYPGA. Twice a week, the local pros present a package of standings, statistics, news, schedules, etc. in the Gazette sports section.

This season, the PGA will administer a tournament “pilot” series for members of the Capital Region Amateur Golf Association.

In order to “promote interest, participation, enjoyment and involvement in the game of golf,” the NENYPGA will offer resources in office administration and communication technology to bring local tournament golf under one roof.

The “pilot” series will include a minimum of four tournaments made up of two 18-hole stroke play events, a combination of PGA professional and amateur team events, and a season-ending 18-hole stroke play points challenge event. Each of the tournaments will have player of the year points associated with them. Amateur members will be charged a $25 fee. Benefits to local amateurs include online tournament registration, e-mail tournament reminders, tournament starting times, and updated player of the year standings.

It’s about time the local pros and amateurs were centralized under one roof. The new relationship should help avoid tournament conflicts and will better serve all golfers in the region.

PROS ON THE MOVE

Former Battenkill Golf Club head pro Jay Potter has left that club, with former Mohawk Golf Club assistant Phil Kaminski taking over. Bob Meheran, the long-hitting head pro at Berkshire Hills, has taken over the head pro duties at Cobleskill Golf & Country Club, while former Taconic GC assistant Josh Hillman has replaced Meheran at Berkshire Hills CC.

Among the assistant pros, Matt Heighes has moved back to the Country Club of Troy, where he was in the 2006 season, from Schuyler Meadows; Jim Rossi has left Ballston Spa Country Club; and Mike Durant has signed on to become Brian Damon’s assistant at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.

Kevin Cain of Hiland and Erik Smith of Normanside earned their Class A cards.

SCHEDULE HIGHLiGHTS

This season may be one of the best in recent years as far as playing and observing major events.

With the pros helping the area amateurs to beef up their schedule, there are now more stroke play events available to the elite players.

The Capital Region will play host to both the New York State Men’s Amateur at Pinehaven Country Club and the New York State Men’s Senior and Super Senior Amateur at Normanside Country Club.

The Ellis Hospital Skins Game will feature the homecoming of Scotia’s Laura Diaz, who will be joined by fellow LPGA Tour standout Morgan Pressel, while football legend Bill Parcells will host a huge pro-am in late June at Saratoga National Golf Club.

The Futures Tour returns to Capital Hills, and the PGA Tour is back at Turning Stone Resort.

I hope you all have a successful season on the links. Keep your shots in the fairways and on the greens, and most of all, remember to have fun, no matter what your scorecard looks like.

Categories: Sports

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