Down the Fairway: Mechanicville Golf Club still popular

Mechanicville Golf Club is 100 years old, and after some tough times a few years ago, the club is do

One of my favorite courses is celebrating a big birthday this season.

Mechanicville Golf Club is 100 years old, and after some tough times a few years ago, the club is doing quite well.

Designed by famed course arch­itecht Devereux Emmet, the nine-hole layout is still semi-private, but according to president Bob Ciulla, public play outnumbers the membership by 3-to-1 or 4-to-1.

“Over the years, we went from 160 members down to about 70, and during that transition, we were ready to pack it in,” Ciulla said. “But a bunch of us, including my dad and my brother, John, said, ‘Let’s give it one more shot.’ ”

The members pitched in and saved the club. Getting former Battenkill Golf Club greenskeeper Steve Johnson was a big help, and Rich Duda has been a key addition as the manager of the pro shop.

“We don’t know where all the play is coming from, but things are going well. The course is in beaut­iful condition. We want to play nine holes comfortably in a little more than two hours, and 18 holes in four and a half hours.”

Although the course only has nine holes, there are 18 tees.

“It’s a challenging course, but it’s also a fun course,” Ciulla said. “We do have some unusual holes. On one hole, you have to look in the mirror to see the green, and on another hole, if you drive the ball too far, you can hit it into the water. There’s a couple of par-5s you can reach in two if you are a big hitter, and the ninth hole coming back toward the clubhouse is a challenging one. Holes three through five are my favorites, because you are out on the part of the course that is surrounded by trees, and you can’t see anyone else while you are playing.”

It’s been a while since I last played Mechanicville, but I remember it as being an enjoyable experience.


Niskayuna native Kevin Ralbovsky, son of the late Marty Ralbovsky, the former Union Star sportswriter who wrote the book “Destiny’s Darlings,” about the 1954 Little League World Series champions from Schenectady, was named Hawaii’s top golf instructor by Golf Digest Magazine for the second time.

Ralbovsky, 41, a 1986 graduate of Niskayuna High School, is also a two-time Aloha Section PGA Teacher of the Year. Among his students are Hawaii standouts Tadd Fujikawa, Stephanie Kono, Mari Chun, Ryan Perez, Amanda Wilson, Lorens Chan, Ayaka Kaneko and California’s Sydney Burlison, currently at Stanford.

Ralbovsky was a wrestler for Joe Bena while at Niskayuna, and only played golf recreationally. He took up the sport seriously while at the University of Hawaii. He turned professional in 1989, and was an assistant pro at Waialae Country Club until 1993. He then took a year’s leave of absence to play professionally on some U.S. mini-tours and the South African PGA Tour. He returned to Hawaii to become a teaching pro at Waialae for eight years before starting the KMR School of Golf.


Major events continue on the women’s amateur and men’s pro schedules this week.

The local pros from the Northeastern New York PGA will hold their annual Professional National Championship qualifier Monday and Tuesday at Mohawk Golf Club. Meanwhile, many of the top area women will compete in the annual Capital District Women’s Open at The Edison Club the same two days.

Thirty-four pros will play in the PNC qualifier, with tee times running from 8 a.m. to 9:50 a.m. each day. Two spots will be up for grabs into the 2010 PGA National Championship, hosted by French Lick Resort in French Lick, Ind., June 27-30, 2010.

Among the top pros competing will be defending Player of the Year Josh Hillman of Berkshire Hills Country Club, three-time NENYPGA Player of the Year Peter Gerard of Mill Road Acres, Bob Meheran of Cobleskill Golf & Country Club, head pro Frank Mellet and assistant Ian Breen of Colonie Golf & Country Club, Steve Vatter of Capital Hills at Albany and Tom Oppedisano of Golf Galaxy.

There will be a total purse of $9,300, with the winner earning $1,800. Second place is worth $1,500, followed by $1,200 for third and $1,000 for fourth.

The CD Women’s Open, won last year by former area standouts Joyce Martin and Karen Krug, who now live in Florida, will have a pair of 9 a.m. shotgun starts. Former champions like Sue Kahler with Suzie Mansfield and Pat Mayne with Karen Feldman are likely contenders.


— Two-time Capital Region Amateur Golf Association Player of the Year Dan Russo, 51, will compete in the U.S. Senior Open Monday through Thursday at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind. Russo who plays out of Rolling Hills at Antlers, has won just about every major tournament played in this area, and will get a chance to play with childhood idols like Tom Watson and Greg Norman. John Vaccaro, another two-time CRAGA Player of the Year from Wolferts Roost Country Club, is hoping to get in as an alternate.

— Local players had a tough time in last week’s New York State Open at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course. Mike Tulacz of Twaafskill Country Club led the area contingent with a nine-over-par 219, good for 12th place. Shaker Ridge Country Club assistant pro Scott Berliner was 31st (225), and Oppedisano was 61st (237). Missing the cut were Hillman (plus-17), Meheran (plus-17), Wolferts Roost Country Club assistant Tye Grissom (plus-18), Capital Hills at Albany amateur Donald DeNyse III (plus-19), Wolferts Roost Country Club amateur Michael Duncan (plus-19), Whispering Pines amateur Kirk Armstrong (plus-20) and Capital Hills at Albany head pro Steve Vatter (plus-21).

— There are still two Gaz­ette-sponsored tournaments on the schedule for August. The 12th annual Newspaper in Education Capital District Junior Championship will be held Aug. 7 at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. Boys and girls ages 12-18 and from Schenectady, Montgomery, Schoharie, Fulton, Albany, Rensselaer and Warren counties are eligible. Entry fee is $30, and includes lunch and prizes. Also on tap will be the Gazette Senior County Amateur Golf Championship, set for Aug. 13-14 at Schenec­tady Municipal. Entry fee is $35. Only the low 20 and ties advance to the final round. Prizes will be awarded in the 50-59, 60-69 and 70-plus age divisions. Tony Cristello is defending champ­ion. Watch the Gazette for entry blanks.

— Former Pinehaven Country Club standout Bryan Bigley, a Schalmont High School and Siena College graduate, won his sixth professional tournament last week on the Coulter Pro Tour at Deer Brook in Charlotte, N.C. Bigley shot a four-under-par 140, and earned $1,100. He birdied the first extra hole for the win. From there, he went on to compete in the Southern Open on the Tar Heel Tour, and finished tied for 39th with a three-under-par 210, earning $1,450.

— Mohawk River Country Club & Chateau will host the 31st annual Invitational Golf and the Gift of Life Tournament, sponsored by the Rotterdam Sunrise Rotary, Aug. 11. Entry fee is $139 per golfer or $520 per foursome, and includes breakfast at 7:30 a.m., a shotgun start at 9 a.m., lunch at the turn, complimentary refreshments on the course and a buffet dinner. There will be a scramble format for men, women and mixed teams, as well as individual competition for men and women with Calloway scoring. For more information, call Phil Tiberio (377-8000, ext. 104), Ed Minkiewicz (373-3880) or Rich Hodge (260-7236).

— Airway Meadows will hold its annual Couples Tournament Aug. 8. Entry fee of $70 includes golf, cart, a steak and chicken barbecue and awards. Entry deadline is Aug. 3. Call 792-4144 for more infor­mation.

— Schuyler Meadows Club will host the first Capital Region Amateur Golf Association Father- Son Championship Aug. 2. Any father and son amateur team with a combined team USGA/GHIN handicap index of 16.0 or less is eligible. Format will be Modified Pinehurst (alternate shot). Entry fee is $150 per team, and includes golf, cart, barbecue and awards. Call 785-8191 to reserve a caddy. There will be a 1:30 p.m. shotgun start. the field will be limited to the first 36 teams.

— The second annual Philip J. La Civita Golf Tournament to benefit cancer research will be held Aug. 8 at Fairways of Halfmoon. The format will be four-person scramble. Call Greg at 279-4792 for more information.

— Saratoga Bridges raised more than $10,000 (net) at its sixth annual J. Michael Fitzgibbons Golf Classic earlier this month at The Edison Club. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the J. Michael Fitzgibbons Memorial Scholarship Fund. Pro golfer Briana Vega was the special guest.


John Feldman hit a 7-iron for a hole-in-one on the third hole at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.

The third hole was a popular one at Schenectady Municipal. Tom Benson also aced that hole, and so did Chris Rogers, with a 9-iron.

Paul Bearup of Albany scored a hole-in-one with a 4-iron on the 202-yard 17th hole at Turning Stone’s Shenendoah’s Golf Club.


Nick Maciariello recorded back-to-back eagles at Mechanicville Golf Club. He drove the par-4 16th hole and sank a putt, and then eagled the par-5 17th hole with a driver, 4-iron and wedge.

At Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course, Bob Rogers and Chris Mathewson each eagled the third hole, Bill Sobkowicz eagled the seventh hole and Ron Smith eagled the 10th.

Charlie McCullough eagled the fourth hole with a driver, 5-iron and wedge at The Edison Club.

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