Dan Russo is back and in top form, just in time for a pair of major events on the area amateur schedule.
Russo, sidelined for about a month with a rib injury, originally thought he might miss the entire season.
After qualifying for sectional play for the first time in the U.S. Open back in May, he was injured while playing an event at his own club, Rolling Hills at Antlers Country Club. The injury forced him to miss not only the U.S. Open sectionals, but also several other major events on the schedule.
Eventually, he tried to play one-handed, and he wore a corset-like brace.
“I couldn’t stand it,” he said with a laugh. “When it got hot out, I was sweating like a pig.”
But the 50-year-old Russo is ready to make a charge in two of the season’s top events, Monday’s Edison Invitational and Friday and Saturday’s Capital Stroke Play Championship at Mohawk Golf Club.
“I’m 100 percent back,” he said. “I still have a little pain sometimes. I can’t really hit practice balls. I’ve been spending a lot of time chipping and putting.”
Russo has been one of the premier players in the Capital Region for more than three decades. He owns numerous Tri-County Golf Association titles, a couple of Troy Invitational crowns and was the Capital Region Amateur champion, based on the point system, twice.
He knows that after turning 50, his opportunities for more championships are limited, but he’s still a factor, especially in major events.
“I still have a full schedule left,” he said. “I want to play in the MidAmateur qualifier at Schuyler Meadows, and I’ll play the Taconic Two-Ball with Dave Hayes. I’ll play at Edison and in the Capital Stroke Play.”
Russo, who has continued to put up some sizzling numbers while playing at his own club, competed in a tournament at Winged Foot recently, and also missed qualifying for the U.S. Senior Open by one shot.
“I can’t believe how much I missed playing. I was dying without playing golf,” he said. “It was brutal.”
The Capital Stroke Play Championship is back on the area amateur schedule after a two-year absence.
The event, considered the unofficial season championship for the region’s premier players, will now be run by the Northeastern New York PGA’s new amateur organization called CRAGA (Capital Region Amateur Golf Association).
According to NENYPGA Excecutive Director Tracie Heighes, the field will be limited to 40 players. Only members of CRAGA are eligible.
Tee times on both Friday and Saturday will be in the late morning and early afternoon.
Nick Feinberg of the Country Club of Troy leads the CRAGA Amateur Player of the Year standings with 195. Feinberg won this year’s Troy Invitational and played well in the New York State Amateur last month at Pinehaven Country Club.
Jim Gifford of The Edison Club, a former Saratoga County Amateur champ who won this year’s Tri-County Golf Association Match Play Championship and teamed with Don DeNyse III to capture the Haggerty Two-Man Championship, is next on the list with 171 points, followed by defending New York State Mid-Amateur champion John Vaccaro of Wolferts Roost Country Club with 157.13 points. Vaccaro is also a former Capital Region Amateur champion and Tri-County Golf Association Match Play winner.
Rounding out the top 10 on the point list are Justin Deitz (144.13), of The Edison Club, fellow Siena College student DeNyse of Capital Hills (130.83), five-time Gazette County Amateur champion Jim Mueller (123.67) of Orchard Creek, defending Edison Invitational and two-time Gazette County Am
titlist Robby Bigley Jr. (106.17) of Pinehaven Country Club, David Hayes (105) of Schuyler Meadows, five-time Gazette County Amateur champion Paul Pratico (96) and Russo (77.67).
Jim Welch of Winding Brook CC, a two-time Troy Invitational and Tri-County Match Play champion, is 11th with 72 points. The Edison Club’s Chad Stoffer (60.5) and Joe Macaluso (54.5) are 12th and 13th, respectively.
Entries for the annual Gazette Senior County Amateur Golf Championship, to be played Aug. 14-15 at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course, are coming in very slowly.
As of this printing, there were only 34 players signed up, including five-time winner Neil Golub of Mohawk Golf Club and three-time champion Al Nebolini of The Edison Club.
The field will be divided into 50-59, 60-69 and 70-plus age divisions, with gross and net prizes awarded in each.
With the exception of former champions, only Schenectady County residents are eligible.
Entry blanks appear in the Daily Gazette sports pages.
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