Kelly’s surprise win not really an upset

A relatively unknown in major area tournament circles and considered an underdog in a talented field
PHOTOGRAPHER:

A relatively unknown in major area tournament circles and considered an underdog in a talented field, Niskayuna High School graduate Ben Kelly had a few secrets to tell after his surprising victory in the 15th annual Eagle Crest Shootout Thursday.

Kelly, a 21-year-old mathematics major at Boston College, rolled in an eight-foot birdie putt on the final hole to edge Siena College standout Don DeNyse III for his first area major championship.

But after Kelly explained his background, his victory wasn’t all that stunning.

A four-year letterman on the Niskayuna baseball (catcher), hockey (winger) and golf teams, Kelly worked for Eagle Crest Golf Club course superintendent Dave Gordon on the grounds crew a few years ago. That experience definitely gave him a thorough knowledge of the course.

Plus, as an intern at Brookline Country Club, former host of the Ryder Cup and the U.S. Open, Kelly has the opportunity to play one of the premier — and more demanding — courses in the country on a regular basis .

“I play it all the time,” said Kelly about his new home course. “It’s a great layout.”

Kelly, whose father, Pat, carried his bag all day, was surprised his return to Eagle Crest ended so well, especially after what he called a mediocre morning qualifier.

“It’s great to win, because a lot of people know about this tourn­ament. But I had no expectations coming here,” he said. “This morning, I had 15 pars, and I made three bogeys. I had no birdies at all.

“But I figured if I made 15 pars, that’s all I might need. I knew it’s a war of attrition out here in this format. Bogeys usually get out quickly.”

Dan Seiter, who plays out of Eagle Crest, took medalist honors with a one-over-par 73. After the morning 18-hole qualifier, 10 players who shot 77 or better made the shootout field , which started play on the 10th hole. The format for the shootout was that the player with the highest score on each hole was eliminated. Ties were broken with “chipoffs” from various areas around the greens.

Steve Owens of Normanside Country Club was the first player eliminated with a double bogey. He missed the green and three-putted to get Mike McCarroll off the hook. McCarroll hit his tee shot into the water hazard, but hit his third shot on the green and posted a bogey.

Five-time Gazette County

Amateur champion Paul Pratico, who was the Shootout runner-up a year ago, was the next to leave when he hit his tee shot out of bounds and finished with a double bogey. Mike Wheeler of Shaker Ridge Country Club chipped in for birdie on that hole.

On the third hole, Chuck Connolly of Hiland Golf Club, a former Shootout champion, was elimin­ated in a chipoff, and on the fourth hole, McCarroll was ousted with a

double bogey.

DeNyse, a former New York State Junior Amateur champion and Albany County Amateur titlist who plays out of Capital Hills, rolled in a 25-foot birdie on the fifth hole of the shooout. In a superb three-person chipoff among Saratoga Springs High School graduate Joe Lanci, Wheeler and Seiter, Wheeler was ousted when his chip landed two inches outside of Seiter’s.

Lanci’s triple bogey on the 15th hole knocked him out of the competition, and Seiter dropped out when he lost a chipoff to five-time Gazette County Amateur winner Jim Mueller of Orchard Creek. Mueller’s lob shot landed six inches from the cup.

But Mueller’s luck ran out on the par-3 17th hole. He and Kelly both bogeyed the hole, and Mueller’s pitch shot from the 18th tee during the chipoff never reached the green.

That set up the final hole.

DeNyse boomed a big drive, and his second shot on the par-5 18th hole landed pin-high in the right rough. Kelly’s tee shot sliced well to the right, but he hit an outstanding second shot that landed just short of the green. His pitch shot landed eight feet right of the cup and on the correct level of the two-tiered green.

DeNyse didn’t have much room to maneuver, because he short-sided himself. His pitch shot rolled past the cup and down to the bottom level of the green, some 25 feet away. He missed his birdie putt by a couple of feet, and then Kelly locked up the win with his own birdie putt.

RESULTS

(Par-72)

Qualifiers — Dan Seiter 73, Mike Wheeler 74, Steve Owens 74, Jim Mueller 75, Paul Pratico 75, Don DeNyse 75, Ben Kelly 75, Joe Lanci 76, Mike McCarroll 77, Chuck Connolly 77.

Other scores — Chris Comi 78, Steve Candlen 78, Jim Gifford 78, Andrew Weise 78, Mike Bayus 78, Bill Paulsen 79, Aaron AuBuchon 79, John Cuddeback 80, Robby Bigley Jr. 80, Tim Flanigan 80, Dick Field 80, Peter Broderick 80, Stan Moore 80, Chris Haggerty 80, Mike Daniels 81, Dave Lafleche 81, Jerry Brescia 82, Mike Zablocky 83, Dave Pallas 83, Mike Macielak 84, Rocky Couser 85, Andy Bennett 85, Matt Salvadore 85, Mike Gifford 87, Bill Burrill 87, Greg Bennett 87, Sal Romano 89, Spencer Sautin 94, Jim Cocca NC, Eric Snow NC, Kevin Heath NC, Corey Doyle DNS.

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