Down the Fairway: Region’s premier juniors prepared for busy week

ocal juniors leap into the spotlight this week with a pair of major events.

Local juniors leap into the spotlight this week with a pair of major events.

Wilton’s McGregor Links Country Club, home to numerous state-wide events in the last several decades, will host the New York State Junior and Boys Amateur Championship, as well as the New York State Junior Girls Amateur Championship, on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Some of those same talented competitors will also compete in The Daily Gazette’s Newspapers in Education Capital District Junior Championship Friday at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.

Perhaps the most intriguing story on the state level will be Bailey Cocca, the two-time defending champion of the girls’ division. The long-hitting Cocca plays out of Shaker Ridge Country Club and should be the favorite to win her third straight title.

Two girls are Cocca’s most likely contenders. Danielle Russ, 16, from Oak Hill Country Club, nearly won the New York State Women’s Amateur at Rome Country Club earlier this month until stumbling on the 17th hole on the final day. The other threat will be 15-year-old Nicole Morales from Glen Arbor Golf Club. Morales competed in the 2011 U.S. Junior Girls Amateur Championship and finished tied for fourth in the qualifying rounds with a 75-71 at Olympia Fields Country Club. She lost in the opening round of match play.

Trevor Sluman of Oak Hill Country Club, nephew of Champions Tour standout Jeff Sluman, will be among the favorites in the Junior Amateur, according to Andrew Hickey of the New York State Golf Association. Sluman just missed the cut to play in the New York State Amateur, but he played well in the East Aurora Masters.

Other notables include James Blackwell of Westwood Country Club, who finished tied for 21st at the New York Amateur with a final round of 78, and James Grachos, also from Westwood CC, who shot a three-over-par 74 to earn medalist honors at the New York State Junior Qualifier at Sheridan Park Golf Club in Buffalo.

Alec Bard of Cedar Lake Golf Club is one of the leading threats in the Boys’ Amateur (14 years of age and under).

Top local contenders for the boys include DJ Tozier, Spencer Sautin, Alex Kinkaid, Aaron Simone, Corey Purcell, Davis Jensen, Dylan Gladd and Tim LaSarso Jr.

McGregor Links Country Club head pro Tom Oppedisano says his course will be a severe test for all the youngsters.

“It’s difficult to make miracle shots at McGregor. You need to be patient here,” he said. “Kids today are much more tournament tough than I was in my day, but a kid is still a kid, and it’s hard not to try a tough shot if you think you can make one.”

Oppedisano said many of the competitors — especially from out of town — have already visited McGregor to see the challenging links layout.

“I think the average score will be higher than people think it will, but the winning score could be under par, depending on the weather conditions, which I hear will be good,” he said.

Oppedisano said there are several key holes at McGregor.

“We have two or three par-3s that are tough. The third and 11th holes are long, and they are not easy to get up-and-down on if you miss the green. The 13th hole is a shorter par-3, but the green is tricky there, and again, it’s hard to get up and down if you miss the green.”

Another hole to be extremely careful on is the par-5 15th, which features a ravine all along the right side of the fairway, as well as a pinched-in area of the fairway as you get closer to the green.

“The 15th hole is pivotal,” Oppedisano warned. “You can make very big numbers there, including an eight or a nine. It is a very long hole from the back tees.”

Capital Region junior golfers have been very successful in junior amateur play. The late Peter Famiano of Schenectady (1961), current club pro Ron Philo (1962), Neil Spitalny of Colonie (1967), E.J. Cardish of the Country Club of Troy (1968), the late Bill Gormley of Ballston Spa (1969), Bob Royak of Guilderland (1979), Mohawk Golf Club’s Ben Bates (1997), Ben Eldridge of Ballston Spa (1999), Dennis Gosier of Saratoga Springs (2000), Marco Poccia of Saratoga Springs (2001) and Siena College graduate Don DeNyse III of Capital Hills at Albany (2006) have secured the Hickok Cup for winning the New York State Junior Amateur Championship.

Area champions who won the J. Patrick Keenan Cup in the New York State Boys’ Amateur Championship include Billy Snyder of Troy (1959), Philo again (1961), Rich Serian of Troy (1966), David Bartholic of Schenectady (1977), Poccia (1997), Gosier (1998) and Matt Canavan of Saratoga Springs (2003).

Other local New York State Girls Amateur champions who captured the Betty Deeley Trophy besides Cocca are Gail Sykes (1964), Sara Jane Stuhler (1969 and 1970), former LPGA Tour star and current golf broadcaster Dottie Pepper (1981 and 1983), Amsterdam’s Kerri Murphy (1993-1995) and Katelyn Mannix of Glens Falls (2006).


There are still openings for the Gazette’s Newspapers in Education Capital District Junior Championship.

Among the favorites in the boys’ 15-18 age division are Jeff Palmerino of Glenmont (1 handicap), Louis Walsh of Clifton Park (1), Aaron Simone of Niskayuna (2), Jonathan Farah of Niskayuna (3), Tim LaSarso of Queensbury (3) and Alex Coyne of Schenectady (4).

Vinny Croce of Schenectady (8) holds the lowest handicap in the boys’ 12-14 division. Grace

Ziamandanis of Slingerlands (10) and Sarah Adamowski of Amsterdam (13) are the favorites so far in the girls’ division.

Entry fee is $35 and includes lunch and prizes.


u The Capital Region Amateur Golf Association’s Stroke Play Championship will be played Friday and Saturday at Schuyler Meadows. Among the leading players in the player of the year standings are Justin Deitz of The Edison Club, Don DeNyse III of Capital Hills, Dan Russo of Rolling Hills at Antlers, John Vaccaro of Wolferts Roost Country Club, Jim Welch of Winding Brook Country Club, Jim Gifford of Saratoga National Golf Club, Jeb Buchanan of Wolferts Roost Country Club, Brandon Haase of Mohawk Golf Club and Jim Cocca of Shaker Ridge Country Club.

u Next stop on the Eastern New York Golf Association’s tour is Wednesday at Town of Colonie Golf Course.

u The Peter Famiano Memorial Golf Tournament, part of the Schenectady City School District Hall of Fame festivities, will be held Sept. 11 at Schenectady Mun

icipal Golf Course. Cost for the four-person scramble is $300, and includes golf, cart, continental breakfast and a buffet. There will be gross and net winners. Contact Bob Pezzano at 346-9297 if interested. The tournament is named after the late Famiano, who was inducted into the SCSD Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008. A member of Linton’s undefeated New York state championship golf team in 1960, Famiano is also a member of the New Jersey PGA Hall of Fame. One of the new inductees into the SCSD Hall of Fame will be former Muny head pro Armand

Farina, who once played on the PGA Tour and set a nine-hole scoring record with a 28 during the 1950 Rio Grande Open.

u The sixth annual Golf Tournament to Benefit Amanda’s House, will be held Sept. 11 at Country Meadows on Route 149 in Fort Ann. Amanda’s House is a home away from home for families of patients at Glens Falls Hospital. Entry fee is $25 per person and includes golf and the food. The format will be four-person scramble. Country Meadows is a 14-hole executive course. Entry deadline is Sept. 4. Make checks payable to Amanda’s House and send them to Country Meadows Golf Course, 10786 Route 149 Fort Ann, NY 12827.

u The Glenville Rotary Club is sponsoring its 13th annual Golf Classic Thursday at Van Patten Golf Club. For more information, contact Frank Quinn at 377-7748.

u Sean “The Beast” Fister, three-time ESPN RE/MAX Long Drive World Champion, will be the special guest at the 13th annual George J. Dennis Memorial Golf Tournament Aug. 8 at McGregor Links Country Club. Funds benefit The Alzheimer’s Association of Northeastern New York. Call McGregor Links CC at 584-6664 for more information.


Bok D. (Alex) Pai recorded his second career hole-in-one with a 3-iron on the sixth hole at Eagle Crest Golf Club.

At Briar Creek, Terry Pangburn holed out with a 9-iron on the 120-yard ninth hole.

Also at Briar Creek, John Rutnik aced the 145-yard fifth hole with a 6-iron.

After 47 years of golfing, 82-year-old Gerry Woodard collected his first two holes-in-one recently. He aced the 158-yard third hole with a choked-down driver at Hilton Head National and then used a 3-wood on the 136-yard second hole for a hole-in-one on his home course, Ballston Spa Country Club.


Bob Smith pitched in for eagle on the par-5 first hole at Cobleskill Golf & Country Club and two days later chipped in for eagle on the ninth hole at Schenectady Municipal while competing in the Chippers league.

Craig Stalker holed out with a sand wedge on the par-4 340-yard 15th hole at Cobleskill Golf & Country Club en route to a one-under-par 70. He will be a senior on the Schoharie High School team this season.

Pete Rings eagled the seventh hole with a driver and 9-iron while playing in the Mongrel’s league at Stadium Golf Club.

John Becker Sr. of Rotterdam eagled the first hole at Briar Creek.

While playing in the AC Body Works league at Briar Creek, Ryan Petersen eagled the 18th hole.

Frank Saburro of Schenectady also posted an eagle at Briar Creek by sinking a 4-iron on the par-4 10th hole.

Clyde Driggers eagled the par-4 16th hole at Mechanicville Golf Club.

Also at Mechanicville Golf Club, Art Manso holed out with a pitching wedge for an eagle on the par-4 10th hole.

Lance Truax eagled the 535-yard par-5 18th hole at Airway Meadows Golf Club.

Chris Cate, playing in the Unisys league at Van Patten, eagled the 25th hole.

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