Down the Fairway: Pros get amateurs organized

he new Capital Region Amat­eur Golf Association, coordinated by the NENYPGA, has taken over many of
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One of the major goals of the PGA of America is to promote the game of golf.

That being said, it’s no surprise that the Northeastern New York PGA is taking on another role that involves many of the Capital Reg­ion’s amateur golfers.

The new Capital Region Amat­eur Golf Association, coordinated by the NENYPGA, has taken over many of the responsibilities of the area’s individual golf organizations under one umbrella. Not only will the local pros help schedule many of the amateur events, but they also will run several of them and serve as a clearing house to prevent scheduling conflicts.

“The idea of us helping out the amateurs came to my mind when I saw their [Capital Stroke Play Championship] cancelled last year,” said NENYPGA exec­utive Tracie Heighes. “I sent Matt Clarke a quick e-mail and told him that it was unfortunate that such an important event was cancelled. I thought there was something we could do to help the amateurs out. We have all the central commun­ication sources in area golf that are perhaps lacking in any one single amateur organ­ization.”

Heighes, the NENYPGA board of directors and several of the amateur golf organization leaders got together over the winter and came up with a plan for a new amateur organization that includes several new tournaments. That’s good news for the top amateur players, who have lost many of their best individual stroke play events over the last couple of seasons.

“For this year, we started what we’re calling a pilot series,” Heighes said. “We didn’t want to jump in too far right away. We decided to schedule four or five events and see how it went. If the amateurs enjoy it and think it’s a good idea, hopefully we’ll be able to progress. It seemed logical for the PGA to take an interest, because we already run a successful junior organization. We took that junior association as a model.”

Two of the new tournaments on the area amateur schedule will be run concurrently with a pair of NENYPGA events.

“They will have two completely different fields, but we’ll run them on the same day at the same site and provide services to both,” Heighes said. “One of the combined tournaments will be the Pro-Am Scratch tournament. We will have separate divisions for both the pros and the amateurs The other combined event will be our Points Challenge, to be held at the Country Club of Troy at the end of the year. The pros will play in their season-ending event, while the amateurs will play in theirs, with the point titles at stake.”

The NENYPGA is also taking over the coordination of the Cap­ital Stroke Play Championship, to be held Aug. 8-9 at Mohawk Golf Club. To be eligible for that event, amateurs must join the CRAGA.

“We made joining the organiz­ation very simple and economical,” said Heighes. “It’s very reasonably priced at $25. Our main focus is not to lose money on it. All we’re trying to do is recoup some administ­ration costs. For example, we now have a data base of 630 amateurs. Just the cost of our mailings can get expensive.”

The NENYPGA also has created a CRAGA link on its Web site (www.neny.pga.com) to make it easier for amateurs to find it. They can apply on line.

“We will have a calendar of am­ateur events on the Web site, and we have an explanation of what

CRAGA is all about. The more imput we have from all the am­ateur golf organizations, the better

CRAGA will be for everyone.”

Heighes said that her organiz­ation is also helping to run the

Albany County Amateur this year. “Players don’t have to be members of CRAGA to play in the Albany County Am, but we’re helping John Bogardus run the event. We’re taking all the entries on line, and we’re doing everything we can for him to help that tournament run smoothly. I think what we’re doing will provide a lot of the structure that was missing in a lot of the other amateur organizations.”

Eventually, CRAGA will be involved with many more amateur organizations.

“We certainly don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but we want to get a strong foothold on it. We feel that what we’re doing is simply a logical step for our juniors who are graduating. Now, they will have somewhere to go when they are finished playing junior golf.

“We have more flexibility than many of the amateur organizations, because we have a professional staff whose job it is to run golf tournaments. Amateurs usually have to depend on volunteers. A lot of the time, that works fine, but for us, it’s much easier to run a tournament. That’s our job. We’re really looking forward to seeing how everything works out in the first year, when the word gets out as to what we’re trying to do. Probably the biggest thing that we’re happy about right now is combining several pro and amateur events and bringing back the Capital Stroke Play Championship.”

SKINS TICKETS SET

A great way to celebrate Mother’s Day is to purchase tickets for the 16th annual Ellis Hospital Skins Game.

Tickets for the event, set for June 16 at Mohawk Golf Club, go on sale today at area Price Chopper supermarkets at $25 each. Proceeds will benefit Bellevue Woman’s Care Center, a service of Ellis Hos­pital. Since 1993, the Skins Game has raised more than $2 million to suport advanced equipment and technology at Ellis.

Headlining the event will be

Scotia native Laura Diaz and Morgan Pressel of the LPGA. Joining them will be Skins Game veteran Blaine McCallister of the PGA Tour. The foursome will be rounded out by the NENYPGA pro who wins the Players’ Classic June 15.

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