Wait is worth it for Connolly

Chuck Connolly is an iron man in local golf circles. The 63-year-old Hiland Golf Club member plays v
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Chuck Connolly is an iron man in local golf circles.

The 63-year-old Hiland Golf Club member plays virtually

every day from spring through fall. He works out and lifts weights to keep in shape, and in the winters, he runs to break up the boredom.

The former Queensbury High School track and golf coach likes to keep busy, and that’s why it was so difficult for him to wait around for five hours before he officially received word that he won his second state senior championship.

Connolly fired a final-round two-under-par 68 — the first red numbers of the tournament — to finish the two-day event at two-over-par 142 in the 52nd annual New York State Men’s Senior and Super Senior Amateur Champ­ionship Thursday at Normanside Country Club.

Connolly, who won his first state senior crown in 2000, defeated Mickey Gallagher of Stone Hedges Golf Club by two shots. Gallagher, 66, finished as the overall runner-up, as well as the Super Senior (age 65 and over) champion for the second consecutive season. He’s been the overall runner-up three times in his career.

Tuesday’s rainout forced tourn­ament officials to shorten the event from 54 to 36 holes. They also decided not to re-pair the field after the first round. That’s why Connolly, who played in the morning grouping, had to wait so long before he knew for sure that he won.

“It’s been eight years since I last won. I’ve had some close calls,” said Connolly, who finished as the runner-up twice and also finished third in 2004. “Hanging around for five hours was pretty weird. I called my wife to tell her the news, and she said that I was probably already making plans to win my third state title. She knows me too well.”

Although he had a sore back during the first round, Connolly isn’t going to rest after his big win.

“I’ll play [today] with the guys over at Hiland,” he said. “I’ve been retired for eight years, and I play every day now.”

Connolly birdied the first, 14th and 17th holes. His only bogey was on the par-3 13th hole.

“I just didn’t hit any goofy shots,” he said. “[Wednesday], my back bothered me, but [Normanside head pro] Tom DeBerry showed me some stretching exercises that really helped.

“I really played much better today than I did in the first round. I almost had a hole-in-one on the 17th hole. The ball hit six inches from the cup. I only missed two fairways and maybe two greens all day.

“I’m just happy that I played good golf today. I knew if I shot a good score, I would have a chance. This feels great, because a lot of guys have won once, but not too many guys have won two state titles.”

A Troy native and Siena College graduate, Connolly is a former

Eagle Crest Shootout champion, and owns 23 club championships at Hiland, Queenesbury Country Club, T-Bird and Bay Meadows. Winner of this year’s Shaker Inv­itational with partner John Vaccaro, Connolly has also dominated the Eastern New York Golf Assoc­iation’s weekly tour, with 57 wins over the last four years.

Gallagher, who posted two birdies to help offset four bogeys, was the last player with a real chance at catching Connolly, and he teed off on the second-to-last tee time of the day.

“I didn’t know until the 18th hole that he [Connolly] had shot a 68,” said Gallagher. “I don’t think it would have mattered much to me if they had re-paired the field for the final round, because I just play my own game.”

Tied for third at 146 were Jim Hamburger, who plays out of Red Hook, and Shaker Ridge Country Club member Al Stranahan.

Hamburger, who recently retired after 32 years as a police

officer, shot a 71 in the final round. He birdied the fourth, 10th and 11th holes.

Stranahan, despite a triple-bogey on the fifth hole, shot an even-par 70. This year’s Albany County Amateur senior champion rolled in six birdies.

Kevin Broderick of Pinehaven Country Club was fifth at 147, while former local resident Doug Vergith, who now lives on Long Island, was next with a 148 after shooting back-to-back 74s.

Other top area players included Joe Quillinan of the Country Club of Troy (151), Ken Brown of Shaker Ridge Country Club (151), Craig Dalton of Capital Hills at Albany (153), Peter Spitalny of Colonie Golf & Country Club (153), assoc­iate member Mike Bayus (154), Dick Field of Pinehaven CC (154), Tom Venter (155) and Earl Winchester (155) of the host club and Ralph Maru of Van Patten (155).

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