As a former basketball player and current basketball and women’s golf coach at Union College, Mary Ellen Burt knows that the game of golf requires equal parts physical talent and mental acumen.
Coming off perhaps her best season a year ago, the new Mohawk Golf Club member, along with partner Anne Van Buren of Pinehaven Country Club, should be among the top contenders when the annual Gazette Women’s Best Ball Championship tees off this morning at Briar Creek Golf Course.
Twenty-four teams, divided into two divisions, will compete for gross and net titles. There will be an 8 a.m. shotgun start.
Other formidable teams vying for the gross title include defending champions Leslie Arakelian of Pinehaven Country Club with Mary Sicard of Queensbury Country Club; Gail Brophy of Saratoga National with Heidi Vittengl of Glens Falls Country Club, who lost on the third playoff hole a year ago; and three-time NEWGA champion Pat Mayne of Western Turnpike with Halfmoon resident Jenn Lachell.
Burt, who won both the NEWGA Championship and the Capital District Women’s Open with partner Mary Jo Kelly a year ago, has been tweaking her game at her new course this spring.
“It’s great being at Mohawk. The greens are so different here, and I’m learning a lot. I’ve enjoyed meeting all the new people and thinking through the game while I’m out on the course,” said Burt.
“What makes Mohawk so different is their greens. They look benign, but there are some subtleties to them. One breaks a certain way, and another is fast. It’s been fun learning a new course. When you play it every day, it really helps.”
Burt isn’t sure how this year’s game will compare with a year ago.
“I was very happy with the way I played last year. It’s always fun to compete,” she said. “But some days you have it, and some days you don’t. This is the hardest game I’ve ever played. There are so many facets that go into it. It’s the muscles between the ears that give you the most problems in golf. In basketball, everything is a reaction. In golf, there is a long time to walk between shots and think about the good and bad shots that you hit.”
Meanwhile, Arakelian said she is in top form after playing a great deal this spring.
“I’m playing quite a bit,” she said. “The weather has been great, and I have a friend at Saratoga Lake Golf Club. I’ve been playing over there quite a bit, besides playing at my own club.”
Arakelian’s game is solid. She teamed with Jackie Quinn to finish third in Thursday’s NEWGA Two-Person Scramble at Winding Brook Country Club. Once considered one of the longer hitters among the women, she is still a big hitter and with fellow long driver Sicard should have plenty of short approach shots at Briar Creek.
Few local women boast Arakelian’s credentials. The tennis instructor has won four NEWGA Championships as well as numerous partner events since switching her focus from tennis to golf.
The Brophy-Vittengl tandem should also be competitive. Brophy is a former New York state super senior women’s amateur champion, while Vittengl, the former Heidi Mann, has numerous Glens Falls Country Club championships to her credit. A former track and field standout, she is also the longest hitter in the field.
The A Flight consists of teams with a combined team handicap of 38 and below, while the B Flight consists of teams with a combined team handicap of 39 and above.
The course will be set up at approximately 5,550 yards. There will be a continental breakfast at 7 a.m. Beverage and fruit stations will be set up on the course, and a luncheon/awards reception will take place following play.
1A — Anne Van Buren-Mary Ellen Burt; Jenn Lachell-Pat Mayne.
1B — Gail Brophy-Heidi Vittengl; Leslie Arakelian-Mary Sicard.
12A — Kye Soo Cheon-Yeon Lee; Linda Sagendorf-Mary Lee Pollard.
12B — Mary Reagan-Michelle Aguilar; Kim Oppelt-Linda Doody.
13A — Barbara Dietrich-Vicky Williams; Kerry Koch-Paula Trexler.
14A — Kathleen Hill-Stephanie Mumford-Brown; Jeannine Mannix-Joey Laiacona.
15A — Ellen Kattleman-Suzanne Ryan; Kathie Arnold-Kathleen Patterson.
15B — Diane Coons-Diane Keith; Gail Czelusniak-Gail Sundling.
16A — Audrey VanAlstine-Peg Cerutti; Anne Poulin-Carol Aiello.
17A — Cathy Hadersbeck-Laura Brown; Darlene DiLorenzo-Doreen Ditoro.
18A — Darcie Trapasso-Diane Hobaica; Kathy Canestrini-Sarah Ireland.
18B — JoAnn Lampman-Pat Reynolds; Amy Fey-Elaine Neiss.
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