Family tradition goes a long way in the history of the Gazette County Amateur, as the art of playing in this event is often passed on from generation to generation, or from sibling to sibling.
When this year’s rain-shortened 36-hole tournament tees off this morning at 6:30, there will be many familiar names, including Robby Bigley Sr., a five-time winner, and his son, three-time champion Rob Bigley Jr.
Carl Gilbert and son, Chris, will be playing together, as will Kevin Dwyer and his son, Mike. Brian Daley won’t be playing in the same group with his father, Mike, but he’s also in the field. So are Rit and Joe Cimmino, and three Adams brothers — Seth, Connor and Kyle.
But the family with the most entrants this weekend will be the Stoperas, as Jack, Glenn, Greg, Chris and Mike are all trying to make the 40-man cut for Sunday’s final round.
“My parents played, and they got us all into it. That’s how we all got started,” said Glenn Stopera. “It filtered down to the kids. We all joined country clubs or played all the time at some of the public courses. We’re all at different levels, but we all love the game, and we’re all competitive.”
Glenn and Jack, both lefties, are brothers. Jack belongs to Shaker Ridge Country Club, while Glenn, a basketball coach at Scotia-Glenville, plays much of his golf at Amsterdam Municipal.
Greg Stopera is another left-hander who plays out of The Edison Club. He’s a nephew of Jack and Glenn and the son of Dave Stopera. Mike, a right-hander who also recently joined The Edison Club, is Glenn’s son and a former Gazette Newspaper in Education Junior champ. Mike, also a former basketball standout, scored 1,000 points at Alfred. Chris, a righty, is another nephew and the son of Dan Stopera, a member of Mohawk Golf Club.
“I’ve got six brothers and three sisters, and they all play,” said Glenn Stopera. “It’s in the family, and we take it seriously. We all want to compete at some level.”
Interestingly, perhaps the best Stopera doesn’t play in this area.
“I’ve got another brother, Billy, who belongs to the Trump course, and he lives in Westchester. He’s probably the longest hitter of the group. Another brother lives in New Hampshire, and he’s a pretty good player, as well.
“I used to drag all the younger Stoperas with me when I played, and it was bloody out there, but they eventually learned the game,” said Glenn, a 2-handicapper who has competed in more than 20 County Amateurs.
“I went to Linton, and basketball was my first love. Back then, if you played basketball at Linton, you didn’t play any other sport. I didn’t play golf until later. But that’s when I started playing golf with Jim Mueller and Mark Chylinski. They taught me how to be serious at the game.”
Jack Stopera, now 60, is also a 2-handicapper, and he’s played in 37 County Amateurs.
“I didn’t play much golf until I got out of college,” he said. “As a little kid, I played right-handed, because there weren’t any left-handed clubs. I finally bought some left-handed clubs when I got out of college and got enough money. I was reasonably serious about the game early on, and I wanted to get better. I practiced and played all the time. Now, I just play.”
Jack Stopera’s strong suit is his short game.
“I have good touch. It’s more of a natural thing,” he said. “All I did during lunch was chip and putt. I work pretty close to my club, and that’s how I would spend lunch time.”
Jack Stopera has been runner-up in the County Amateur twice. He’s also won a Tri-County Partners Championship and was the club champion at Shaker Ridge CC.
He agrees with Glenn that all the Stoperas are extremely competitive.
“We’re all very athletic and competitive between ourselves,” he said. “We all give each other the elbow, and we’ll get on each other pretty good for bragging rights.”
Ben Bates is the defending champion. Other former winners in the 86-player field are Robby Bigley Sr. and Rob Bigley Jr., Bill Moll, Mike Bayus, Ed Chylinski, Jim Mueller, Paul Pratico, Bob Cooper and Tom Salmon.
6:30 — Brian Daley, Josh Powers, Matt Panneton, Jack Stopera.
6:40 — Jay Singh, Aaron Simone, Lance Hope, Mike Mina.
6:50 — Mike Drake, Jim Fazio, Dave Sutphen, Frank DeGraw.
7:00 — Neil Golub, Mike Bayus, Tony Cristello, Harry Morgan.
7:10 — Bill Moll, Jim Gardy, Glenn Stopera, Bill Sweet.
7:20 — Kenny Hall, Andy Bennett, Mario Marino, Ross Lackey.
7:30 — Tim Lewandowski, Woody Winslow, Paul Carnivale, Mike Daley.
7:40 — Nicholas Longo, Greg Stopera, Jim Follain, Dave Nicholson.
7:50 — Rit Cmmino, Jor Cimmino, Toby Harding, Craig Schoonmaker.
8:00 — Paul Pratico, Ben Bates, Jim Mueller, Tom Salmon.
8:10 — Bob Cooper, Ed Chylinski, Brandon Haase, Jerry Brescia.
8:20 — Carl Gilbert, Chris Gilbert, Larry Edwards.
8:30 — Todd Trepess, Chris Pierpont, Randy Bird, Frank Manell.
8:40 — Mike DiGirolamo, Richard Florkiewicz, Gary Slater, Tom Kenneally.
8:50 — Allen Cromer, Robert Alheim, Ryan Gallagher, Nicholas Kearns.
9:00 — Jay Taub, Dave DeMarco, Brandon Alois, George Hillenbrandt.
9:10 — Derrick Brown, Mike Pollock, Steve Mango, Mark Compton.
9:20 — Kevin Schlansker, Alex Olbrych, Patrick Woodfield, Seth Adams.
9:30 — Jeremy Youngs, Kevin Betzwieser, Don Dobbs.
9:40 — Connor Adams, Kyle Adams, Chris Stopera, Mike Stopera.
9:50 — Rob Bigley Jr., Todd Czepiel, Chad Stoffer, Rob Bigley Sr..
10:00 — Kevin Dwyer, Mike Dwyer, Don Blaha, Peter Andrikopoulos.
2012 — Ben Bates
2011 — Jim Mueller (7)
2010 — Jim Mueller (6)
2009 — Rob Bigley Jr.
2008 — Paul Pratico (5)
2007 — Bryan Bigley (2)
2006 — Rob Bigley Jr. (2)
2005 — Paul Pratico (4)
2004 — Bryan Bigley
2003 — Rob Bigley Jr.
2002 — Tom Salmon
2001 — Paul Pratico (3)
2000 — Bob Cooper (2)
1999 — Bill Moll (3)
1998 — Paul Pratico (2)
1997 — Bob Cooper
1996 — Jim Mueller (5)
1995 — Rob Bigley Sr. (5)
1994 — Jim Mueller (4)
1993 — Grier Bibby
1992 — Bill Frutchy (3)
1991 — Bill Frutchy (2)
1990 — Jerry Jeong
1989 — Bill Frutchy
1988 — Jim Mueller (3)
1987 — Jim Mueller (2)
1986 — Ed Chylinski (3)
1985 — Rob Bigley Sr. (4)
1984 — Jim Mueller
1983 — Rob Bigley Sr (3).
1982 — Rob Bigley Sr. (2)
1981 — Mike Bayus (3)
1980 — Ed Chylinski (2)
1979 — Bill Moll (2)
1978 — Paul Pratico
1977 — Rob Bigley Sr.
1976 — Mike Bayus (2)
1975 — Mike Bayus
1974 — Ed Chylinski
1973 — Bill Moll
1972 — Art Hemker (3)
1971 — Fred Maurer (2)
1970 — Doug Grabowski (3)
1969 — Doug Grabowski (2)
1968 — Doug Grabowski
1967 — Fred Maurer
1966 — Cleo Alberts
1965 — Bobby Duval
1964 — Don Buell (2)
1963 — Dave Philo Jr. (2)
1962 — Ed O’Keeffe
1961 — Don Buell
1960 — Dave Philo Jr.
1959 — Stu Smith (2)
1958 — Stu Smith
1957 — Art Hemker (2)
1956 — Stan Ziobriowski
1955 — Art Hemker
1954 — Johnny Maurycy
1953 — Lonnie Parks
1952 — Sig Makofski (2)
1951 — Sig Makofski
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