When Scott Berliner noticed that the legendary Gene Sarazen’s name was on the trophy for the 67th annual Northeastern New York PGA Stroke Play Championship, he set a goal to add his name, as well.
Berliner, in his first season of eligibility, not only coasted to the section’s most important title, but also clinched NENYPGA Player of the Year honors with a two-day total of 10-under-par 134 Tuesday at The Edison Club. Berliner, who shot a torrid 65 during the first round, added a 69 in the final round. He earned $2,100.
Bob Mucha of Greenock Country Club was second with a 72-139 and earned $1,800. Saratoga National Golf Club’s Anders Mattson, the 2009 champion, finished third with a 69-140 and picked up $1,550.
Rounding out the cashers were Ian Breen of Colonie Golf & Country Club (72-142, $1,200), former champion Peter Gerard of Mill Road Acres (72-142, $1,200), Kevin Cain of Colonie Golf & Country Club (72-144, $920), Brinson Byrd of Wolferts Roost Country Club (71-145, $660) and Tom Siddon of Massena Country Club (77-145, $660).
When Berliner, in his first season as the assistant pro at Normanside Country Club, is on his game, it seems every other club professional in the region is playing for second place. His 10-under score was the lowest total in this event since 1986.
“Scott is the best player in this section, head and heels,” said Mucha. “I was just playing my own game, but I would have to play at my very best to have even a chance against him. I knew he wasn’t going to falter.”
Mucha did eventually climb to within a stroke of Berliner on the front nine, but Berliner pulled away again and had a comfortable lead heading into the final holes.
“I was a little shaky on the first hole. I missed the green and had to get up and down for par,” Berliner said. “Then I hit my approach shot into a bunker on the third hole and ended up with a bogey. I missed a short birdie putt on the fourth hole, but I birdied the sixth hole, and I finally settled down.”
One of the turning points was the par-5 eighth hole. Berliner birdied it, and Mucha bogeyed it to fall three shots behind.
The other key hole was the par-4 15th hole. Once again, Berliner birdied, while Mucha bogeyed, and the lead stretched back to five shots.
“I didn’t drive it that well, and the rough was very thick again today,” said Berliner. “It was almost like you were trying to steer it off the tee. I got lucky to make some good shots here and there, and I putted pretty well again. Fortunately, I’m a little longer off the tee than a lot of the guys, and it’s easier to hit out of the rough with a shorter iron.”
Berliner was asked how it feels to be the prohibitive favorite every time he steps to the tee.
“It’s tough, no question, but I put a lot of pressure on myself,” he said. “My goal this year was to win both the Assistants’ Player of the Year title and the regular Player of the Year title. I’ve still got a chance to do both.”
Berliner, 36, was originally
going to try the PGA Tour Qualifying School this winter, but instead will compete on the Florida mini tours.
“The PGA Qualifying School is too expensive,” he said. “I plan on coming back to Normanside Country Club next year. It gives me a lot of flexibility.”
Meanwhile, Mucha said the flat stick let him down in the final round.
“The hole got smaller today,” he said. “I only had one bogey and two missed greens, but I couldn’t get the ball close to the hole.”
The long-hitting Mattson made a run with five birdies, but a double bogey on the third hole and a missed two-foot birdie putt on the par-5 17th ended up costing him.
Scott Berliner (Normanside CC) 69-134, $2,100; Bob Mucha (Greenock CC) 72-139, $1,800; Anders Mattson (Saratoga National GC) 69-140, $1,550), Ian Breen (Colonie G&CC) 72-142, $1,210; Peter Gerard (Mill Road Acres) 72-142, $1,210, Kevin Cain (Colonie G&CC) 72-144, $920, Brinson Boyd (Wolferts Roost CC) 71-145, $660; Tom Siddon (Massena CC) 77-145, $600; Rick Pohle (Taconic GC) 72-146, Glenn Davis (Albany CC) 74-147, Frank Mellet (Colonie G&C) 74-147, Tom Oppedisano (McGregor Links CC) 74-147, Paul Jaycox (Cobleskill G&CC) 73-148, David Lis (Wolferts Roost CC) 75-148, Kevin Hughes (Saratoga G&P) 78-150, Todd Manderson (Ballston Spa CC) 81-150, Brian Damon (Schenectady Municipal GC) 78-151, Matt Smith (Leatherstocking GC) 77-155, Nathan Kain (The Edison Club) 77-155, Craig McLean (The Edison Club) 80-157, John
Mahon (Red Hook GC) 79-157, Noel Gebauer (Town of Colonie GC) 80-159, Steve Plata (Saratoga National GC) 80-160.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette: