Down the Fairway: Near-misses motivate Connolly

The New York State Men’s Senior and Super Senior Amateur Championship conjures up images of both ult

The New York State Men’s Senior and Super Senior Amateur Championship conjures up images of both ultimate success and extreme frustration for Queensbury’s Chuck Connolly.

Connolly, 63, captured the 2000 state crown, but he also came up one shot short in three consecutive seasons: 2004, 2005 and 2006.

“I didn’t play last year because there was a death in the family, but I’d really like to win another one,” said Connolly, who will be among the favorites to win this year’s event, to be played Tuesday through Thursday at Normanside Country Club.

“It’s fairly obviously that lots of people have won once, but there aren’t too many that have won more than once. I would like to win again in the worst way. Nobody really cares except me, but it’s a goal of mine, and I’m really trying to accomplish it.”

Despite getting a little older, Connolly is having one of his better campaigns. He teamed with John Vaccaro to win the Shaker Ridge Invitational, captured his 23rd career club championship and has piled up 12 victories on the Eastern New York Golf Association weekly tour. Known as the king of the ENYGA, Connolly triumphed 15 times in each of the last three seasons.

“I’m playing well right now, but you never know,” said the Troy native known for using the long putter. “My game ebbs and flows. I definitely played well at Shaker, and I also played well at McGregor. Time will tell. I’m cautiously opt­imistic about this year’s State Senior Amateur.”

Connolly played in the Normanside Invitational late this spring just to get a good look at the course as sort of a practice round.

“I’m driving the ball very well right now, and I’m hitting it dead straight all the time,” he said. “But the key at Normanside is hitting your long irons on their tough par-3s. There are some critical 5-irons and 4-irons that you have to hit well. They are the key shots. I can get around most of the course, but the par-3s are the keys for me.”

Connolly said his career highlight was winning the State Senior Am­ateur, but his resume is full of other honors, like his 13 club championships at Hiland Golf Club, five at Tee Bird, four at Queensbury Country Club and one at Bay Meadows.

“For me, club championships have always been a pretty big deal, because during my teaching and coaching career, I was only able to play two months a year. My goal was always to win the club championship. The Glens Falls area had a local tournament of champions, and everybody wanted to get into that tournament. Only four guys, the winners of the four club championships, were eligible. I was always focused on that, because I had to be back coaching and teaching in late August,” said Connolly, who taught at Queensbury High School and coach the Spartans’ track and cross country teams.

“Still, the State Senior Amateuer is the biggest thing I’ve ever won. I’ve only played in one State Mid-Amateur, but next year they’ve scheduled it in Glens Falls, so I’m sure I’ll play in that one. I haven’t played in a State Amateur yet.”

Connolly admits that age may catch up with him eventually, but he’s been an iron man lately.

“I play in a lot of tournaments. I play every week that I can,” he said. “I play a lot up north, too, in tourn­aments in Vermont and in northern New York. I’m older now, but I’m still feeling pretty good.”

If Connolly wins a second title, he will join Duane L. Tower (four times), Gerald Perkins (four times), Don Allen (three times), William Bogle (three times), Jack Hendry (twice), James Infantino (twice) and Robert Gunnell (twice) as multiple champions since the tournament began in 1940. The Super Senior division began in 1996.

Capital Region players have won two of the last eight State Senior Amateur championships. Former Shaker Ridge Country Club standout Mike Daniels won in 2004.

Normanside plays to only 6,349 yards and a par-70 fro the blue tees, but it is an extremely challenging layout.

“The challenges here are in the par-3s,” said Tom DeBerry, director of golf. “Obvoiusly, 12 [206 yards] and 13 [200 yards] are tough, as they are long irons, but even the shorter par-3s have tricky greens and are well bunkered, so they are not easy either.”

Ralph Maru of Mechanicville (2003), and John Dennett of Lake George (2006) are area Super Sen­ior titlists. Perry Noun, a former member of The Edison Club but now playing in Oswego, won the Super Senior crown in 2005.

Other local players who have their sights set on winning the Bill Stark Bowl (senior trophy) or the Howard Sprague Trophy (super senior trophy) include Joe Quillinan of the Country Club of Troy, Bill Frutchy of The Edison Club, Tim Bethel of Ballston Spa Country Club, Bob Jones of Capital Hills at Albany, Al Stranahan of Shaker Ridge Country Club, Don Maki of Shaker Ridge Country Club, David Lafleche of Van Patten, Maru of Van Patten, associate member Mike Bayus, Jim Mannix of Van Schaick Island Country Club, Stan Milos and Kevin Broderick of Pinehaven Country Club, Marv Gertzberg of Orchard Creek, Jack Maxstadt of Town of Colonie, David Cooman of Saraoga Lake Golf Club, Peter Spitalny of Colonie Golf & Country Club and John Reagan of Schen­ectady Municipal.

Quillinan is a multiple Troy Invitational and Tri-County Golf Association champion who appeard in two U.S. Senior Opens. Frutchy and Bayus are each three-time Gazette County Amateur winners.

Only players 55 and older are

eligible for the State Senior Amateur. The cutoff for the State Super Senior Amateur is 65.

Ron Bayer of Newburgh and Mickey Gallagher of Groton are the defending state champions.

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