Down the Fairway: Ballston Spa CC has a rich history

Ballston Spa Country Club is not only one of the most scenic courses in the Capital Region, but it a

Ballston Spa Country Club is not only one of the most scenic courses in the Capital Region, but it also has one of the most interesting club histories, with plenty of local ties.

For the first time, the member-owned club has put together a written hsitory of its past. History tournament chairman Bill Tucker and his staff found plenty of unus­ual stories, including how the club got started in the first place. “BSCC: Our Story” has been included in several issues of the club’s newsletter, “The Fox.”

Incorporated in 1925, the 6,165-yard course located on Route 67 in Ballston Spa has been home to such golfing standouts as Gail Sykes, Bill Gormley Jr. and Lonnie Parks. In the last two decades, Sue Kahler has dominated the women’s club championship and also has been among the best golfers in the Northeastern Women’s Golf Association.

Sykes, called “Little Miss Grand Slam,” won the USGA Girls Championship at age 16, and won the Gazette Women’s Amateur in 1964, 1968 and 1969. She won the NCAA women’s championship in 1968, and in that same season, also won the Northeastern Women’s Senior and State Junior Girls Championship. She was ranked ninth among women amateurs by Golf Digest in 1968 and captured the Ohio Women’s Amateur Golf Tournament in 1975. The NEWGA best-ball championship is named after her.

Gormley, one of many golfing Gormleys, was the New York State Junior Amateur champion in 1969 and also won the Eastern New York Boys’ Championship and the Eastern New York State Junior Champ­ionship. He was a club champion in 1970, 1972 and 1973, and eventually became a teaching pro at Ballston Spa CC before taking head pro jobs at numerous area courses, including Country Club of Troy, Stadium and Sacandaga Golf Club.

According to club archives, Parks was a club champion seven times and shared the course record with Jim Farina before Farina broke it with a 63. There is some cont­roversy over this point, as current pro Todd Manderson is supposed to have the course record from the back tees with a 64.

Ballston Spa CC has been the host site of the New York State Senior Women’s Amateur in 1997 and also was a regular site for several NEWGA tournaments, as well as the Capital District Women’s Open.


Accuracy more than length is the key ingredient for scoring at this course, which utilized several springs and the winding Gordon creek for its initial water source.

The club began when Mohawk Golf Club head pro/superintendent Jim Thomson designed the first nine holes and positioned the greens to take advantage of the creek. According to the Ballston Spa CC archives, the versatile Thomson, who spent 50 years at Mohawk as both its head pro and greens superintendent, was paid a $50 share of stock for his services. It cost $4 per day for labor and $8 per hour for a team of horses and a tractor to carve out the original course. John Noonan, using horse-drawn equipment, removed most of the large stones.

DeForest Weed was considered the founder of the course and served as its first president. Stocks were sold at $50 a share.

Total cost of the original project was between $12,000 and $15,000. The land itself cost about $6,500.

The initial price of dues was set at $25 per year, and it cost $1 a day, $5 for a week and $15 a month for greens fees.

Ballston Spa CC also had tennis courts, but they were shelved after the 1941 season.

The first pro at the club was Tim O’Connell, who was hired in 1933 for $500 to run the golf shop. A year later, he obtained the right to operate the store and the taproom. He also ordered score cards, and drew up the golfing rules that same season.

Ballston Spa CC received membership in both the USGA and the Women’s Northeast Golf Assoc­iation in 1934.

During World War II, advance dues from 10 of the members kept the club functioning.

Club handicaps were established in 1954, and memberships were closed with a waiting list begun in 1954.

The club always had problems with running its kitchen until 1958, when William Strianese was hired to operate the bar and kitchen for $3,000.

Later that season, the state decided to widen Route 67. The club was to lose 31⁄2 acres of land, meaning three of the existing nine holes needed to be altered. Later, the club was notified by the state that only the seventh green had to be moved. Ballston Spa CC brought legal action against the state, and a damage claim of $14,000 was paid in 1962.

Club membership increased from 232 playing members and 25 social members in 1960 to 300 playing members by 1964, when there was a waiting list of 86. A membership limit was established at 300 in 1965 and then was increased to 375 in 1968.

Electric carts were first allowed in 1964, and a lookout tower on the former fourth hole (currently the 10th) was removed that same year.

The club’s board of directors looked into expansion as early as 1960. Gino Turchi, a Ballston Spa CC member who also would build and own Northway Heights Golf Club, now the current Eagle Crest Golf Club, joined with head pro Jim Farina, Thomson and Armand Farina to design and develop another nine holes.

Tees were reshuffled, and doglegs and hazards were added to the new nine, which was built over an additional 69 acres. The back nine opened in 1965.

A water system for the fairways was installed in 1968. An add­ition to the clubhouse was built in 1971-72, and the clubhouse’s interior was refurbished in 1974-75.

In 1995, the club began to pipe in water for the clubhouse from Milton.

A handful of head pros have served at Ballston Spa CC. O’Connell, the original pro, was at the course from 1933 through 1953, when Jim Farina and served for 13 seasons before Dick Osborne, the current head pro and owner at Sacandaga Golf Club, took over and served until 1985.

Mike Shpur, Jim Hefti and Manderson have also continued the tradition of talented head pros at Ballston Spa CC.


— Brian Rhodes, head pro at Airway Meadows Golf Club, was recently awarded the Northeastern New York PGA Junior Golf Leader Award, It is the third time in the last five yers that he has won the award. “Your overall contributions and commitment to the game of golf, and your outstanding community relations leadership demonstrates that in addition to being an asset and resource to the NENYPGA Section and a credit to our organization, you serve as an example to your peers,” wrote NENYPGA executive director Tracie Heighes. Rhodes will be honored at the section’s spring meeting April 20 at Columbia Golf & Country Club.

— Doug Lonnstrom, professor of quantitative business analysis and founder of the Siena Research Institute, will host “Tee Time” on Time Warner Cable Ch. 3. The half-hour show will air on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. Included will be tips from local pros, a history minute, rules discussions and the origins of golf terms. Lonnstrom is the autor of two local golf history books.

— The United States Golf Association and World Golf Tour have formed an agreement to host the first Virtual U.S. Open Champ­ionship on It will take place on a state-of-the-art simulation of the Black Course at Bethpage State Park. Golf enthus­iasts will be able to play the course online from their computers at no cost. Visitors of the site can play qualifying rounds for the Virtual U.S. Open beginning May 25 through June 21. The top 156 qual­ifiers, plus ties, will then square off for the Virtual U.S. Open title on June 22. The winner will be a guest of the USGA at the 2010 U.S. Open at at Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif. A closest-to-the-hole challenge will be available beginning Monday. For more information, visit

— The Competitive Players Camp, run by Ron Philo Jr. and Ron Philo Sr., will be held April 15-17 at Eagle Crest Golf Club. The camp is designed for young golfers who want to maximize their scoring pot­ential. The ideal ages for the competitors are high school freshmen, soph­omores and juniors wishing to play at the college level. Cost of the camp is $595. Call (904) 321-1498 for more information.


Carol Aiello of Mohawk Golf Club aced the 127-yard second hole with a 7-wood at Burning Ridge Golf Club in Myrtle Beach last month.

Categories: Sports

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