Former junior champ Stasiak first-round medalist

Home-course knowledge wasn’t worth much help in the opening round of the 86th annual New York State
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Home-course knowledge wasn’t worth much help in the opening round of the 86th annual New York State Men’s Amateur Championship Tuesday at Pinehaven Country Club.

Although a handful of Capital

Region standouts shot two-over-par 72 to put themselves in excellent position to make the match-play portion of the five-day event, the best scores of the day came from out-of-towners, like first-day medalist Matthew Stasiak, a 19-year-old native of Clarence.

Stasiak, who will be a sophomore this fall at Miami (Ohio) University, holed out for an eagle on the seventh hole with a pitching wedge from 140 yards, and added four birdies en route to a four-under-par 67.

Low numbers don’t scare

Stasiak at all. He won the 2005 New York State Junior Amateur crown, was the 2006 International Junior Masters champion and also shot a course-record 63 en route to victory in the 2007 Junior Match Play Championship.

“I hit the ball pretty well today. I hit a lot of fairways and greens,” said Stasiak, who dropped only a pair of shots with bogeys on the first and 12th holes.

“I was hitting it straight off the tee, so the trees they have here didn’t come into play for me today,” he said. “My goal is to shoot for more birdies [today], even though it looks like I’m in good position already to make the match play. I love match play.”

Jim Mueller of Orchard Creek, a former Pinehaven CC member, John Vaccaro of Wolferts Roost Country Club, Nick Feinberg of the Country Club of Troy and Chris Barach of Mohawk Golf Club posted 72s. They are in excellent position to make the match-play portion of the tournament, which begins Thursday. Only the top 32 from today’s second round advance. The expected cut will be at 148 or 149.

“I was three-over-par after the first five holes, but then I turned it around,” said Vaccaro, the defending New York State Mid-Amateur champion who is also a former Capital Region amateur point champion.

“I told my caddy that I was three-over-par, and I hadn’t hit a bad shot yet. There were a lot of tough pins out there.

“My season got off to a slow start, but I would love to win the Mid-Amateur and the State

Amateur in the same year,” he said.

“It was a lot of fun in my group today. I was playing with the current New York State champion and the New York State Junior Amateur champ.”

Vaccaro birdied the sixth, 13th and 15th holes. He finished with a bogey on the 18th hole after hitting into a bunker.

Chris Barach, who played his early college golf at Old Dominion but is hoping to transfer closer to home, accomplished his mission of staying out of any big trouble so he can advance to match play.

“I played pretty steady,” he said. “I made a mess of the 17th hole and settled for a bogey, but I was playing pretty well all day. I missed some short birdie putts out there today, but I stayed out of any big trouble.”

Barach birdied the sixth, ninth, 10th and 15th holes.

Mueller, a five-time Gazette County Amateur champion, was upset with his round, even though he was only one-over-par.

“It was the ugliest 72 that you can imagine in your whole life,” he said. “I scrambled all day. I hit only 11 greens, and that’s counting some fringes. I had three three-putts. The course wasn’t playing that hard. I’m not happy with my round at all.”

Mueller has twice qualified for match play in previous New York State Amateurs.

Feinberg, who moved to the Capital Region from Cooperstown two years ago, is this season’s Troy

Invitational champion. Like Mueller, the recent graduate of St. Andrews University wasn’t thrilled with his round.

“I hit the ball really ugly, but I putted well,” he said. “I needed just 12 putts on my front nine, which was the back nine, and then I hit the ball a little on my back nine, and had just 17 putts.”

Feinberg didn’t take any solace that his first-round score put him in good position to advance to Thursday’s match play.

“I want to win, and I’m not even close to the leaders,” he said. “I chipped so poorly today. My goal is that I’d like to be seeded as high as possible for the match play. I don’t want to be in the middle of the pack.”

Feinberg birdied the second, 10th and 11th holes.

Robby Bigley Jr., a member of the host course and a two-time Gazette County Amateur titlist, posted a 73, and was moderately happy with the result.

“I was two-over at the turn,” he said. “The greens are firm, and they will get even quicker the rest of the week. I think I’m in good position for [today]. But I have to play well again. If you don’t play well in both days of qualifying, you don’t deserve to go on to match play.”

There will be two rounds of match play Thursday and Friday, with the 36-hole finals set for Saturday.

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