Golf: Cancer survivor Watroba gives back

Joe Watroba knows all about accepting help and giving back.
Mohonasen graduate Joe Watroba takes a swing at TPC Sawgrass in a Make A Wish tournament in 2008. Watroba, a cancer survivor, has organized a benefit tournament to raise money for cancer research.
Mohonasen graduate Joe Watroba takes a swing at TPC Sawgrass in a Make A Wish tournament in 2008. Watroba, a cancer survivor, has organized a benefit tournament to raise money for cancer research.

Joe Watroba knows all about accepting help and giving back.

Now 24, Watroba discovered he had cancer during his sophomore season on the Mohonasen High School golf team. With plenty of help from family and friends, he eventually was able to battle through the effects of his treatments well enough to return to the team his junior and senior campaigns, and he eventually became the Mighty Warriors’ No. 1 player.

Watroba has been in remission since September of 2007, and his life has taken a dramatic upward swing. He won the Fighting Spirit Award at the annual Siena-UAlbany Albany Cup game in 2008 and became the manager of the Siena men’s basketball team for then-head coach Fran McCaffery. He graduated from Siena with a Masters degree in accounting and is now a CPA for UHY Advisors in Albany.

But Watroba hasn’t forgotten all the help he received when he was ill. That’s why he and his family have started the Play It Foreward 518, Inc. program. The not-for-profit foundation will hold its first golf tournament Aug. 20 at Van Patten Golf Club, and the proceeds will help make donations to both the Make A Wish of Northeast New York and to The Bernard & Miller Duke Children’s Hospital at Albany Medical Center.

“My family and I wanted to give back to the community that stood behind me during my time of illness,” Watroba said. “My brother and I actually talked about wanting to do something like this when I first got sick. It’s always been an idea of ours, and when I got into the accounting field, I got a chance to see how other people handled their not-for-profit foundations. So, we went for it.

“I think the fact that the donations will be tax deductible will help people feel like they can give a little more, especially because it’s for a good purpose,” he said.

Cost for the four-person scramble will be $135 per person and includes golf, cart, lunch at the turn, a buffet at the Vista restaurant afterward, use of the driving range and chances for prizes, including a Lia Infinity for a hole-in-one.

Andrew Catalon of CBS Sports will be the emcee.

“Being our first year, we don’t want to set the bar super high, but we’d love to get 80 to 100 people,” Watroba said. “If people like what they see in the first year, they will bring back a foursome of their own for years to come. Golfers can sign up their own foursomes, but if they only have one, two or three, we will put together groups for them.”

Registration will be at 8 a.m., followed by the golf at 9.

Watroba, who also played basketball at Mohonasen, said his illness gave him a different insight into what life is all about.

“When you are 16, all you are thinking about is what kind of car do you want to drive or what kind of gadgets will you buy,” he said. “When I was diagnosed with cancer at age 16, I knew I was lucky to just ride my bide or walk down the fairway and play the game I love. It brought everything into perspective, from golf, going to school and getting a job. Everything in life isn’t a given.”

As the team manager for the Saints, he received an NCAA tournament ring, one of his favorite moments.

“There’s a lot more to life than just sports, but sports allows us to get away from life,” he said. “There’s a balance to it. I still stay in contact with coach McCaffery. I saw his teams play at Penn State twice and at Madison Square Garden. We established a great relationship. It’s unfortunate what happened to his son, Patrick [thyroid cancer]. It brought us together again, and I know it won’t stop his son from playing sports again. I understand what they are going through.”

By the way, Patrick McCaffery’s last check-up had him cancer-free. The McCaffery family will be presented the same Fighting Spirit Award at the Coaches for Cancer Basket Ball fund raiser this September at the Franklin Plaza in Troy.

Watroba still loves playing golf. He competes in a league at Van Patten once a week and also plays in numerous scrambles every summer.

“I’ve shaved my handicap down to about a 10. I can shoot a 38 or a 39 for nine holes every once in a while, but then again, my scores can go up from time to time. That’s what golf is all about,” he said.

Same with life.

If you are interested in playing in Watroba’s scramble, or just making a donation, call him at 461-4354 or send him an email at [email protected]


u Friday’s annual Eagle Crest Shootout has an entry of $160 per team, including greens fees.

u The Gazette’s 17th annual Capital Region Junior Newspaper in Education Golf Tournament, now a part of the Northeastern New York PGA Junior Golf tour, will be held July 31 at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. It’s also open to non-NENYPGA juniors. Entry fee is $50 and includes divisions for both boys and girls ages 8-12 (nine holes), 13-15 and 16-18. The entry fee includes golf, range balls, prizes for first through third, lunch, snacks and raffle prizes. Register at tourmembershipinfo/

u The Union College Dick Roberts Memorial Golf Tournament, which supports the Fighting Dutchmen Gridiron Club, will be held July 31 at Mohawk Golf Club. Entry fee is $175 and includes golf, cart, meals and contest entries. Call 388-7176 for more information.

u Canajoharie Country Club will host the fifth annual Lady Hilltoppers Golf Scramble on Saturday at 2 p.m. Cost is $80 for non-members and $65 for members. The top three teams will win prizes, but every golfer gets a welcome gift, as well as a free certificate for a wedge or a hybrid courtesy of Warrior Custom Golf. Call Phil Karker at 844-6943 for more information.

u Airway Meadows will hold its 12th annual Benefit Tournament Aug. 15. Cost is $89 per player, and it includes a barbecue picnic after golf. This year’s proceeds will help benefit Code Blue, a walk-in emergency homeless shelter in Saratoga Springs. Call 792-4144 for more information.

u Windy Hills will host the Washington County Amateur on Saturday.

u Local club pros will compete in the Pro Classic No. 4 at Normanside Country Club on Monday.

u Next up for the Eastern New York Golf Association will be Wednesday’s Harry & Bonnie Clark Memorial ABCD Championship at Orchard Creek.


Bill Verzole collected his first hole-in-one with a 7-iron on the 140-yard ninth hole at Pinehaven Country Club.

At Pioneer Hills, Clay Hagel aced the 120-yard sixth hole with a 54-degree wedge.

George Ostrowsky used a 6-iron to hole out on the

153-yard fifth hole at Saratoga Lake Golf Club.

Mike Deines found the cup with a 7-iron on the 150-yard eighth hole at Stadium Golf Club.

Mike Arminio aced the 150-yard 16th hole with an 8-iron at Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course.

Jim Sullivan used an 8-iron to post a hole-in-one on the 145-yard fifth hole at Mechanicville Golf Club.

At Fairways of Halfmoon, Cathy Saplin aced the 138-yard fifth hole with a 9-iron.


Mark Rosa eagled the par-4 10th hole with a sand wedge from 145 yards out at Stadium Golf Club.

David Graham Sr. eagled the par-4 eighth hole at Saratoga Lake Golf Club.

Linda Klimchak eagled the 17th hole at Briar Creek while competing in the GE Women’s league.

Gary Siekierski eagled the ninth hole at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.

Categories: Sports

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