As pinch-hitters go, Pinehaven Country Club is batting 1.000.
Asked last January to be a late replacement as the host for the 86th annual New York State Amateur Golf Championship because the original choice fell through, Pinehaven CC’s administrators and membership stepped up to the plate and hit a home run this week.
It wasn’t easy by a long shot.
First, the course didn’t come out of the winter very well, and there were some growth issues with the fairways and the greens. Then, a hail storm last month gave course superintendent Rob Bigley more problems as he prepared to get the course ready for its second State Amateur in the last 11 years. Pinehaven CC also was the State Am host in 1998.
The Guilderland layout also played host to both the New York State Women’s Amateur and the New York State Senior Women’s Amateur in the last two decades.
Once again, Pinehaven CC received high marks for the course’s condition, setup and hospitality.
“It’s been a great week,” said New York State Golf Association executive director Bill Moore. “I’m very happy with the course setup. It got firm and faster as the week went on. I was a little concerned when we got that thunderstorm and all that rain last Sunday. I played the course, and the greens were extremely soft.
“But I couldn’t be happier the way everything turned out. We wanted to make the course challenging but fair, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Moore said that Pinehaven’s success this week is even more remarkable, considering the circumstances.
“It’s true that it was a last-minute decision to come here, but Pinehaven really helped us out in this situation. “Considering the winter kill they got, and that hailstorm, Rob Bigley and his staff should be commended for what they did. And the Pinehaven membership was great. They had a party on Wednesday to watch the tournament, and they’ve been very quick to help and volunteer. Giving up their course once again this week was not an easy thing to do.
“[Head pro] Scott Warren and his staff did a fine job setting up the course for the tournament, as well,” Moore added.
“Plus, the field was great. It was a great 32 players for match play. They set it up hard, but fair. Also, there was no fluke in the top 32. They were all are great players. I couldn’t be happier with what Pinehaven did this week.”
Warren said that Pinehaven CC continues to surprise some of the state’s top players in how challenging it can be, despite its relatively short length (6,496 yards from the back tees).
“The longer hitters took advantage of our par-5s, and we expected that,” he said. “But we provide some challenges with our greens, and the longer hitters can’t spray the ball around, because we have a lot of trees and some narrow fairways. Our greens are elevated, and they have plenty of slope in them. You must be accurate to play well here, and you must be able to read the greens well and putt well.”
Warren said Pinehaven CC didn’t think twice about bailing out the New York State Golf Association, and that his membership enjoys giving back to the game of golf.
“We’re honored to be the host this week,” he said.
The Capital Region will be the State Amateur host three times over a six-year span. Country Club of Troy was the host in 2006. Albany Country Club will be the host in 2010.
Although the Capital Region contingent couldn’t end the State Amateur winless streak — Jay Gunning last won in 1986 — the eight players who advanced to match play represented the area well.
Jim Mueller of Orchard Creek, Justin Deitz and Jim Gifford of The Edison Club, Nick Feinberg of the Country Club of Troy, John Vaccaro of Wolferts Roost Country Club, Greg Levings of Burden Lake Country Club, Chris Barach of Mohawk Golf Club and Paul Pratico of Schenectady Municipal Golf Course were among the 32 match-play contestants, and Robby Bigley Jr. of Pinehaven and Jim Buchanan of Wolferts Roost just missed out on joining a playoff for the final spot.
Four of those players — Deitz, Vaccaro, Mueller and Feinberg — won their first-round matches, and two more — Deitz and Mueller — won their second match, as well, before losing, 4-and-2, in Friday afternoon’s quarterfinals.
Can this area compete with the state’s best?
Absolutely. Don’t forget that the Capital Region did produce two New York State Mid-Amateur champions — Vaccaro and Matt Clarke — and a New York State Junior Amateur champion, Don DeNyse III, in the last three years.
Sooner or later, the locals will take possession of the Ganson Depew Cup and secure another State Am title.
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Bob Weiner at 395-3147 or [email protected]
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