Hillman leads by two

Subtle greens are usually enough to prevent extremely low scores at The Edison Club. Throw in a stro
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Subtle greens are usually enough to prevent extremely low scores at The Edison Club. Throw in a strong breeze, and red numbers are rare.

But neither the tricky greens nor the wind slowed down red-hot Berkshire Hills Country Club head pro Josh Hillman Monday.

The 31-year-old defending champion rolled in five birdies en route to a four-under-par 68 to grab a two-shot lead after the first day of the Northeastern New York PGA Stroke Play Championship.

Former champ Steve Vatter of Capital Hills at Albany, Ian Breen of Canajoharie Country Club and Tom Sullivan of Wyantenuck Country Club are tied for second with 70s, while Frank Mellet of Colonie Golf & Country Club and Jim Marston, another former champ from Stockbridge Golf Club, also posted red numbers with 71s.

“I hit a lot of greens and fairways, and I rolled in some putts,” said Hillman. “I’ve heard there are a lot of subtle breaks in these greens, but I must have read them OK because I made my share of putts. The greens were rolling so true that they were like PGA Tour greens. There were no bumps in them at all.”

But what about the wind?

“I grew up playing in the wind in Rhode Island,” he said. “I went to school at the University of Rhode Island, and one of my first jobs as a professional was on the Cape [Cod]. The kind of wind we had today, from 15 to 20 miles per hour, is normal for me.”

Hillman connected on birdie putts on the fifth, seventh, eighth, 11th and 12th holes. His only bogey was on the sixth hole, when he missed the green to the right, and failed to get up and down.

Breen, a former NENYPGA Match Play champion who was in the same group as Hillman, also had just one bogey on his card.

“I was just trying to keep up with Josh,” said Breen. “When someone is playing that well in your group, you tend to play better yourself. This is the best-conditioned course I’ve played all year, and it may have the fastest greens I’ve putted on in a long while.”

Breen posted birdies on the fourth, eighth and 10th holes. His three-putt on the seventh hole led to his only bogey, and he registered 14 pars.

Sullivan’s hot putter kept him in the chase.

“I putted very well today, and I needed to,” Sullivan said. “These greens are hard to read, but I hit my irons pretty solidly, and I was lucky enough to make my share of putts. I’m usually a pretty good putter, and if I get it on the green, I figure I’m all right.”

Sullivan birdied the second, fifth, seventh, 12th and 15th holes.

RESULTS

(Par-72)

Josh Hillman (Berkshire Hills Country Club) 68, Steven Vatter (Capital Hills at Albany) 70, Ian Breen (Canajoharie Country Club) 70, Tom Sullivan (Wyantenuck Country Club) 70, Frank Mellet (Colonie Golf & Country Club) 71, James Marston (Stockbridge Golf Club) 71, Bob Meheran (Cobleskill Golf & Country Club) 74, Brian Lowe (Windham Country Club), Todd Manderson (Ballston Spa Country Club) 74, Jeremy Kerr (Oneonta Country Club) 74, David Lis (Wolferts Roost Country Club) 74, Rocky Catalano (Ausable Club) 75, Bob Mucha (Greenock Country Club) 76, Glenn Davis (Albany Country Club) 76, Matt Felber (Albany Country Club) 76, Mike Durant (Schenectady Municipal Golf Course), John Neet (The Edison Club) 77, Tom Siddon (Massena Country Club) 77, Peter Gerard (Mill Road Acres) 77, Kevin Cain (Hiland Golf Club) 77, David Strawn (Cranwell

Resort Golf Club) 78, Darryl Jack (Woodstock Golf Club) 78, Brian Damon (Schen­ectady Municipal Golf Course) 79, Tom Oppedisano (Orchard Creek Golf Club) 79, Rick Pohle (Taconic Golf Club) 79, WD; Harvey Bostic (PGA Life Member) 81, Sean Madden (Mohawk Golf Club) 82, George Mackey (Ticonderoga Country Club) 82, Tom Falotico (Dick’s Sporting Goods) 82, Scott Warren (Pinehaven Country Club) 83, Tom Haggerty (Glens Falls Country Club) 87.

Today’s Pairings

8:00 — Warren, Haggerty.

8:09 — Madden, Mackey, Falotico.

8:18 — Damon, Oppedisano, Bostic.

8:27 — Strawn, Jack, Hampson.

8:36 — Siddon, Gerard, Cain.

8:45 — Felber, Durant, Neet.

8:54 — Jaycox, Mucha, Davis.

9:03 — Kerr, Lis, Catalano.

9:12 — Meheran, Lowe, Manderson.

9:21 — Sullivan, Mellet, Marston.

9:30 — Hillman, Vatter, Breen.

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