Russo tough to beat

When Dan Russo is on his game, few area golfers can match his ball-striking ability, even though he
PHOTOGRAPHER:

When Dan Russo is on his game, few area golfers can match his ball-striking ability, even though he is now a “rookie” senior at age 50.

Throw in a solid partner, and the odds for victory increase dramat­ically.

With longtime friend Bill Sul­livan pulling his weight by making several key shots down the stretch, Russo shook off some unusual poor shots and led his best-ball tandem to the Stadium Classic championship Sunday at Stadium Golf Club.

Russo and Sullivan, who trailed first-round leaders Adam Bunkoff and Matt Cole by one shot when a scramble format was used on Saturday, combined for a five-under-par 66 in the final round for a two-day total of 14-under-par 128.

Former New York State Mid-Amateur champion John Vaccaro of Wolferts Roost Country Club and Chuck Connolly of Hiland Golf Club were second with a

67-132. Tied for third at 133 were two-time champions Jim Mueller with Aaron AuBuchon (67-133), Robby Bigley with Todd Czepiel (70-133) and Dave Arakelian with Chris David (69-133).

“I felt like I was really there playing, instead of carrying the bag,” said the 39-year-old Sullivan, who, like Russo, is a member of Rolling Hills at Antlers Country Club. “Most of the time, I just watch Danny in awe. He’s a great player. It was nice to help him out a couple of times.”

Sullivan not only knocked in a few pars to keep his team’s round going, but he also rolled in a four-foot birdie putt on the 13th hole, a two-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole and a five-foot birdie on the 18th hole to let Russo have a free run at his two-foot eagle putt to close out the round.

Along with his eagle, Russo added birdies on the fifth and 11th holes.

“Bill and I don’t do anything else competitively anymore, so it’s nice to get together and play in a tourn­ament like this,” Russo said. “We had our chances early, and I thought that when we didn’t take advantage of them that it might come back to bite us. I had a couple of poor shots, like a botched chip on the seventh hole, a few errant drives and a

couple of poor fairway-wood shots, but sometimes, you hit your shots, and sometimes, you don’t.”

It was the first Stadium Classic title for Russo, who has won almost every major area championship, including a pair of Troy Invit­ational titles, five Tri-County Golf Assoc­iation crowns, several Edison Inv­itational victories and a win in the now defunct Capital Region

Amateur. Russo, who also has dozens of partners’ championships under his belt in tournaments like the Mohawk Member-Guest, Normanside Invitational and Wolferts Roost Invitational, is also a two-time Capital Region Amateur Point champ.

“You can joke around with your partner all you like, but when I’m out there, I’m always trying as hard as I can. There is never a lack of effort on my part,” Russo said. “I told Bill that if we didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot on the front nine during the second round that we would have a chance at winning this.”

But with tricky pins and cool temperatures holding the scoring conditions down, none of the lead groups were able to get anything going on the front nine.

First-round leaders Bunkoff and Cole, who shot a 61 during the scramble format on Saturday, were still in contention until the last four holes. They bogeyed the 16th hole, double-bogeyed the 17th and bogeyed the 18th.

LEADERBOARD

(Par 71-142)

Dan Russo-Bill Sullivan 66-128, John Vaccaro-Chuck Connolly 7-132, Robby Bigley-Todd Czepiel 70-133, Chris David-David

Arakelian 69-133, Aaron AuBuchon-Jim Mueller 67-133, Jerry Brescia-Lee Reeves 69-134, Jerry Wander-Earl Winchester

67-134, Andy Bennett-Mike Gifford 68-134, Mike McCarroll-Mike Courtney 69-135, Keith Gillespie-Mike Trunzo 68-135, David

Degenero-Cody Bielawa 67-135, George Roe-Dan Vignone 67-135, Ken Bessette-Chris

Braman 67-135, Kevin Cassidy-Justin

McCarthy 66-135, Adam Bunkoff-Matt Col 75-136, Bill Assman-Chris Gambacurta 70-136, Steve Williams-Spencer Abbott 69-1136, Bob Bruda-Skip Caark 73-167, Bob Gennarelli-Bob Stranahan 73-137, Jim Welch-Dave Pallas 72-137, Fred Guzielek-Ed Skoda 72-138, Mike Bayus-Doug Kilmer 71-138, Eric Wasserbach-Andy Gangemi 71-138, Brandon Hemmerich-Mike Almy 70-138, Zeke Zilka-Tim Zilka 71-139, John Cooney-Dan Ireland 70-140, Mike Saccocio-Stan Moore 72-140, Dan Grignon-Chris Doring 72-140.

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