Berliner whips Breen for Match Play title

Modesty prevents Scott Berliner from saying what every other club professional in the Northeastern N

Modesty prevents Scott Berliner from saying what every other club professional in the Northeastern New York PGA is thinking about him this season.

“Scott is the best player in the section,” said Colonie Golf & Country Club assistant pro Ian Breen after losing to the Normanside Country Club assistant pro, 6-and-5, in the finals of the NENYPGA Match Play Championship Wednesday at The Sagamore Resort.

“I needed to play my best to have any chance at beating him, and I didn’t play my best today.”

Neither did Berliner, but the section’s comfortable leader in player of the year points played well enough to turn a close match into a rout.

Berliner, 36, earned $1,000 and picked up another 500 player of the year points for his efforts. He will be heavily favored to win a second major championship next week when the NENYPGA Stroke Play Championship is held at The Edison Club

“I work hard at the game,” said the Lake Luzerne native, who has won numerous events on the NENYPGA schedule this year, including the Professional National Championship at Hiland Golf Club and the FAM Funds Classic at Coble­skill Golf & Country Club. “I don’t like to toot my own horn. I play a lot, and it helps. I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to play as much as I do. Not every club professional gets that chance.”

Berliner, who was ineligible to play in the section’s major events until this year when he earned his Class A card, only had two birdies all day in a pair of matches. He didn’t notch his first birdie until clinching his semifinal victory over Greenock Country Club head pro Bob Mucha on the par-5 17th hole in the morning. In the afternoon match, he didn’t sink a birdie putt until the 12th hole. He had 10 pars and one bogey to shoot even-par in the finals.

“A lot of match play is momentum,” said Berliner. “He [Breen] was down on himself, and I could see it in his body language. I made some big up-and-downs that kept my mom­entum and forced Ian’s hands. I was not happy with my ball-striking today, but when you are confident in your short game, you are not as stressed.”

After beating Mucha, 2-and-1, in a semifinal match that was postponed a total of 21⁄2 hours because of fog, Berliner took a quick 1-up lead over Breen on the first hole of the final. Breen, a former Match Play titlist, hit his tee shot into the trees on the right, and had to hit another drive when he couldn’t find his ball. Meanwhile, Berliner punched a short iron from the left rough on the green and two-putted for par.

But Berliner gave that lead right back on the next hole when he sliced his tee shot into a hazard in the right rough and finished with a bogey.

Berliner, a former assistant pro at Shaker Ridge Country Club and Hiland Golf Club, retook the lead on the fourth hole when a poor Breen tee shot resulted in a bogey.

Both Berliner and Breen got up and down for par on the fifth hole, but Berliner’s second up-and-down par of the match, this one from a greenside bunker, gave him a two-hole lead on the seventh hole.

Another par saver on the eighth hole helped Berliner make the turn with a 3-up lead. He made another fine pitch to save par on the 10th hole while Breen suffered back-to-back three-putt bogeys to fall behind, 5-down, in the match.

A seven-foot birdie putt on the 12th hole gave Berliner a 6-up lead, and both players parred the 13th hole to end the match.

“I played well this morning [in a 1-up victory over Albany Country Club assistant pro Matt Felber] by shooting two-under-par. I made a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to beat Matt,” Breen said.

“But in the finals, I lost my rhythm. Against Scott, I had to make a lot of birdies to have any chance of winning, and I couldn’t do it. The bag boy at Colonie G&CC could have beaten me this afternoon.”

Berliner agreed that the long delay before the morning match affected both players.

“Yesterday [Tuesday] was fun, but today was a struggle,” he said. “That fog delay was tough, because it was hard for us to get our rhythm. It was very frustrating. In the afternoon, we were trying to play quickly. I’m a pretty quick player, and Ian is quick, as well. But we got behind a lot of [public play customers] in the afternoon, and that slowed us down.

“I leaned on my short game. I was trying to make birdies and trying not to go by what he [Breen] was doing. I was trying to make the best score possible on each hole.”


Semifinals — Ian Breen (Colonie G&CC) def. Matt Felber (Albany CC), 1-up; Scott Berliner (Normanside CC) def. Bob Mucha (Greenock CC), 2-and-1.

Finals — Berliner def. Breen, 6-and-5.

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