Down the Fairway: Clutch Bigley posts first pro win

All golfers must conquer pressure to succeed, but professionals are expected to battle nerves better
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All golfers must conquer pressure to succeed, but professionals are expected to battle nerves better than the amateurs.

First-year pro Bryan Bigley’s confidence level kicked up several notches last week when he beat his peers with a clutch birdie on the final hole.

The former Schalmont High School and Siena College standout picked up his first pro trophy last week when he won the Carolina Lakes Open on the Carolina Pro Golf Tour. Although his check was a modest $1,500, the satisfaction of winning an event against fellow professionals will last a lifetime.

“It’s a smaller tour, and is nowhere near the level of the Tarheel Tour,” Bigley said. “It’s one of three major tours in South Carolina. The thing that was so great about it was the way I won the tournament. I actually had to birdie three of my last six holes on the second day.”

Bigley, a former member of Pinehaven Country Club, where he helped his father, course superintendent Rob Bigley, on the grounds crew, led the two-day event at Carolina Lake Golf Course by one shot going into the second round, but he got into trouble right away on the second day.

“I immediately bogeyed the first hole after taking that one-shot lead,” Bigley said. “Then, I shanked a chip shot for another bogey on the sixth hole. When I hit an iron shot out of bounds on the 10th hole, I was trailing by one, and I thought I was in trouble,” he said.

“But then I played even-par golf the rest of the way. I birdied the 13th, and all three of us leaders birdied the 17th hole. That left three of us dead-even going into the 18th hole. I hit a good drive. The first guy hits his approach shot to 20 feet, and then the next guy hits a great shot to within just eight feet. I hit wedge to 15 feet. The first guy misses, I made my 15-footer and then there was a lot more pressure on the guy who hit it close. He ended up missing his eight-footer, and I won.

“It was kind of cool to hang in there like I did after hitting that iron shot out of bounds,” he said. “Coming down the stretch and making putts like that felt great. This

really adds confidence to my game. I haven’t really played much golf recently, except for the U.S. Open and State Open qualifiers. I haven’t played in a tournament since April. But I was extremely pleased with the way I played, especially coming down the 18th hole and getting the job done.

“It’s funny, because I’ve been making birdies on the 18th hole a lot lately when I practice, and I tried to feed off of that. I told myself that I always birdie the 18th hole, and that doing it then was no big deal.”

Bigley, a former Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year, said he netted about $1,000 after the entry fee. “That’s not bad for two days of work,” he said. “I shot a 68-70-138 for the two days. It was a great experience.”

Bigley, 23, made the cut in two of his first three pro tournaments on the Tarheel Tour. He finished in a tie for 19th place and earned $1,600 in his pro debut at the River­towne Open in Mount Pleasant, S.C. The 23-year-old two-time Gaz­ette County Amateur champion missed the cut at the TPGC Classic at Oldfield Country Club, but then finished tied for 26th and earned $1,352 in The Manor Classic.

He’s been working on his game and has a job on the grounds crew at Rain Tree Country Club. He also gives junior golf clinics at a local driving range.

“To be honest, I’m really having a blast down here,” he said. “Some of the guys really grind every day, and I’m not sure if they are really having fun. If you are playing golf for a living and not having fun, what good is it? I want to enjoy going to the golf course.

“I think that’s what separates some people in this game. Once you get to a certain level, everybody hits the ball great, and everybody has a great short game and are great putters. The difference is not that much what they do physically. It’s more how the guys handle things mentally.”

Bigley said he might play another tournament or two on the Carolina Pro Golf Tour before returning home to get ready for the New York State Open July 15-18 on the Black Course at Bethpage State Park.

“I’ve never played Bethpage before, and I’ve never played the State Open before. It’s always up against the New York State Amateur, and I was always playing in that,” Bigley said. “I’m really looking forward to playing there.”

GAZETTE JUNIORS SET

It’s not too early to begin thinking about the 11th annual Gazette Junior Newspaper In Education Golf Championship, to be held Aug. 1 at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. Entry fee is $30, and includes golf, lunch and prizes.

There will be trophies and gift certificates awarded in the boys’ 12-14 age division, the boys’ 15-18 division and the girls’ 12-18 div­ision. Gross and Calloway prizes for first, second and third will be awarded in each division, along with longest drive and closest to the pin contests.

Residents of Schenectady, Sar­atoga, Montgomery, Schoharie, Fulton, Albany, Rensselaer and Warren counties are eligible. Send entries to N.I.E. Junior Golf Tournament, The Gazette, 2345 Maxon Road Ext., P.O. Box 1090, Schenec­tady, NY 12301-1090. Entry deadline is July 28. The first 120 entries will be accepted in order of postmark. Make checks payable to The Gaz­ette. Please do not send cash.

Participants must be at the golf course by 7:30 a.m.

Categories: Sports

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