Down the Fairway: Cooper makes most of chance

Tom Cooper is a late bloomer.

Son of two-time Gazette County Amateur champion Bob Cooper, th

PHOTOGRAPHER:

Tom Cooper is a late bloomer.

Son of two-time Gazette County Amateur champion Bob Cooper, the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake graduate is a junior and a member of the professional golf management program at Methodist College, a perennial Division III golf power.

Although it took three years for Cooper to earn a spot on the traveling team for the Monarchs, he’s made the most of his opportunity.

In three tournaments, Cooper has finished tied for fifth, tied for fourth and tied for seventh. He shot a three-round total of three-over-par 219 at the Jeckyll Island Collegiate Invitational in his season debut, following that up with a two-over-par 216 at the Camp LeJune Intercollegiate. He fired a 67 in the second round of that event.

Cooper then shot a two-round total of eight-over-par 148, including a 69 in the second round, at the Emory Spring Invitational.

His adjusted stroke average is a sizzling 72.9. According to the most recent Golfstat.com Division III

individual rankings, he is No. 1 in the country, although teammate Nick Bova has the best adjusted scoring average (71.60), and has competed in all five of Methodist’s tournaments this spring. By the way, Methodist, the No. 1-ranked team in the country among Div­ision III schools, has won all five of its tournaments.

“It just kind of came together for me,” said Cooper, who was the team MVP as a senior for the Spartans and also competed in track and field.

“I’ve been getting a lot of coaching lately from my head coach [Steve Conley]. He’s been helping my mental side of the game.

Everything is clicking right now, and his short-game lessons enabled me to be more aggressive, because I’m not afraid of missing greens.”

Cooper said he’s glad the waiting is finally over to be a full member of the team.

“It was a little frustrating there for a while. I had played in a few tournaments at home, but I wasn’t able to go on the road. I felt I was good enough, but everything didn’t work out for me. At the same time, it was good that things happened this way, because it made me try harder, and it made me better in the long run.”

To play on the Methodist College travel team, a golfer must prove himself every week.

“We have 72-hole qualifiers for each tournament in order to get on the team,” he said. “But the coach does it fairly. There are two spots up for grabs off the qualifier. He also gets a coach’s pick. You’ve basically got to shoot around par to have any chance. Believe me, you’ve got to earn your spot on this team.”

Cooper said all parts of his game are working now.

“I’m probably hitting the ball better, because I’m also in better shape,” he said. “I’ve been working out this year. It has helped my game a lot, because the stronger you are, the more consistent your shots are. You can hit more shots because of your strength, and I’m also not as fatigued as I used to be after playing 18 holes.”

His short-game shots around the greens have improved dramatically, and his putting has remained consistent.

“Putting has always been pretty good for me, but I’ve changed my putting stroke to straight back and through instead of using an arc stroke. I’m left-handed, except for golf, and putting the ball straight back and through makes me lead with my left hand. That’s an advantage for me. It feels so much more comfortable, for some reason, that it makes me think I can make a lot more putts.”

Cooper doesn’t consider himself a long hitter like his father, but he usually can blast his tee shots about 280 yards.

“I’m not one of the longest hitters, but I usually hit it straight down the middle,” he said. “I use a G2 driver, the Mizuno MP37s for irons, a Scotty Cameron putter and Titleist wedges.”

Cooper is glad he is playing his best with the most on the line.

“We’ve only got two tournaments left this season, and that’s the conference tournament and the NCAAs. I think I’ve peaked just in time.”

Cooper has been a regular competitor in the Gazette County

Amateur when he comes home from school, but he doesn’t think he’ll be around this summer.

“Unfortunately, I won’t be coming back to New York, if my plans work out. I’ve got an internship for my professional golf management program lined up in Georgia. If

everything works out, I’ll be staying down there this summer.”

KAMINSKI MOVES ON

Speaking of local products who went to Methodist, former Mohawk Golf Club assistant pro Phil Kaminski is now the new head pro at Battenkill Country Club.

Kaminski, an Ichabod Crane graduate, spent five years as a Mohawk GC assistant, and another two years at Mohawk as an intern when he was part of the professional golf management program at Methodist.

Although he learned the nuts and bolts of the golf trade at Methodist, he fine-tuned his skills at

Mohawk.

“Working for Rick Wolcott was great. He has tremendous know­ledge about the entire golf business, and he’s won the golf merchandiser of the year award several times. I definitely learned the ins and outs of the golf operation at Mohawk, and I did a lot of teaching while I was there.”

Kaminski considers teaching the game his top priority.

“When I get a chance to expand my teaching skills, I take advantage of it. I’m always reading things to stay current. I also got some lessons from Warren Boggie, a master pro in Florida, and from Craig Harmon at Oak Hill.”

The 27-year-old Kaminski was a three-time Patroon Conference individual champion in high school, and he twice earned a berth on the Section II all-state team. His top performance as a pro was leading his pro-am team to the low-gross championship at the 2006 Bermuda Goodwill Tournament.

He said he likes the layout at Battenkill, which is a nine-hole course founded in 1925 along the Battenkill River.

“It’s a beautiful golf layout with a terrific membership that really loves their course,” he said. “I’m hoping to give them a more enjoyable schedule of tournaments and events that will bring more members out to the club more often, and spur new memberships, as well.”

Kaminski said he will offer lessons to both members and non-members.

“Outside players are always welcome,” he said.

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