Down the Fairway: Pros, amateurs renew rivalry

Ultimately, the annual Gazette Cup challenge matches are an early measuring stick for the area’s

PHOTOGRAPHER:

Ultimately, the annual Gazette Cup challenge matches are an early measuring stick for the area’s

premier players.

If the club pros from the Northeastern New York PGA win Wednesday’s sixth annual compet­ition at Albany Country Club, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are all better golfers than the Capital Region amateur all-stars. The same holds true if the amateurs “upset” the pros.

Yet competitions between pros and amateurs stir up an interesting mix of expectations and emotions on both sides. The competitive juices really begin to flow.

We are fortunate to have a plethora of outstanding golfers in both the professional and amateur ranks in the Capital Region. Even players far down the respective point lists have plenty of game. That’s one of the reasons that the Gazette Cup is one of my favorite events of the golf season.

Good golf and good competition on a great layout. You can’t ask for better than that if you are a golf fan. It all begins with the first tee time at 10 a.m.

“I think just from being a pro as long as I have that amateurs look forward to beating the pros, and vice versa,” said Oneonta Country Club head pro Jeremy Kerr. “But I would add that it’s a no-lose sit­uation for the amateurs, because if I had to guess, the general opinion from watching the pros on TV is that the pros should beat the amateurs every time. On the other

side, if the amateurs beat the pros, the pros can cry about not having enough time to practice. We have a saying among the club pros that a club pro’s par is 80. If we shoot even par, it’s a good day.”

But Kerr, a Schenectady native,

looks forward to playing in the Gazette Cup every year. The

35-year-old former NENYPGA Match Play champion is also a four-time Assistant Professional of the Year. Last year, he represented the section in the Professional National Championship.

“I love playing against the

amateurs,” he said. “I’ve played in every one, and it’s a great event.”

Matt Clarke, a former New York State Mid-Amateur and Troy Invit­ational champion, has been coordin­ating the amateur team for the last several years. The Country Club of Troy member isn’t sure whether he can compete this year because of some family obligations, but he hopes to tee it up for one of the few times this season.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity early in the season to kind of measure our games, and that goes for both the pros and the amateurs,” Clarke said. “As amateurs playing against the pros, we’re viewed as the underdogs, just because we’re amateurs, but a lot of the time, the pros don’t play as much as the

amateurs do. On paper, the pros should come out on top, but the amateurs around here are pretty good.

“I just think it’s a an opportunity to mix and mingle with a lot of good players from both sides,” he said.

Since the new format, the pros lead the series, 3-2, including a one-sided 351⁄2-181⁄2 triumph in last year’s match, also held at Albany Country Club. But in previous challenge cup series, the amateurs had the upper hand, including a four-year winning streak from 1985 through 1988 in what was then called the Bob Smith Cup, and a three-year winning streak from 1976 through 1978 in the old Yamaha Cup series.

Peter Gerard, head pro at Mill Road Acres, is the defending

NENYPGA Player of the Year.

Accustomed to playing with

amateurs every week in pro-ams, he enjoys the competition.

“The key is that when you have to hit a shot, you really focus for 20 to 30 seconds. When I’m concentrating well, I can do that. I know I can’t stay focused for more than four hours in a round, but for those 20 to 30 seconds when I’m hitting a shot, I know I can. I can turn it on and off. That’s why I can have a lot of fun with the amateurs during the pro-ams.

“But this early in the year, very

few of pros have played much,” Gerard said. “I’ve only played about three times myself. Usually, your short game suffers when you don’t play that much. It will be interesting to see how that goes on Wednesday.”

Gerard will be joined on the pros’ team by Kerr, Bob Mucha of Green­ock Country Club, Steve Vatter of Capital Hills at Albany, Glenn Davis

of the host club, Paul Jaycox of

Onteora Club, Bob Meheran of Coble­skill Golf & Country Club, Keith Sprenger of Catskill Golf Club, Ian Breen of Canajoharie Country Club, Josh Hillman of Berkshire Hills Country Club, Frank Mellet of Colonie Golf & Country Club and Tom Siddon of Massena Country Club. Rick Wright, head pro at The Edison Club, is the honorary captain.

Joe Quillinan of the Country Club of Troy will be the honorary captain for the amateur team, which includes Clarke, Dave Arakelian and Dave Mooradian of the CC of Troy, Jon-Michael Socaris from Colonie Golf & Country Club, John Vaccaro from Wolferts Roost Country Club, Mike Wheeler and Jim Cocca from Shaker Ridge Country Club, Steve Owens from Normanside Country Club, Aaron AuBuchon from Sar­atoga Golf & Polo Club, Jim Mueller from Orchard Creek, Dan Russo from Rolling Hills and Dave Hayes from Schuyler Meadows.

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