Although numbers are currently down quite a bit, enthusiasm and hope are still on the upswing for the historic Eastern New York Golf Association.
The traveling league is sort of like a mini-tournament every week. These days, the ENYGA is mostly for the 50-and-over crowd, and senior stalwarts like 74-year-old Chuck Connolly still dominate. In fact, the 5-foot-6 dynamo from Queensbury remains one of the Capital Region’s most decorated senior players, with an ENYGA record of well more than 300 victories, six New York State Golf Association crowns (three senior, three super senior) and nearly 30 club championships.
When Connolly isn’t making headlines, other senior stars like Mike Armenio, Mark Compton, Ralph Maru and Dick Gunning are the weekly winners. Competition is divided into flights, based on handicaps. The A flight is players with handicaps from scratch to 12. The B flight is for golfers with handicaps in the 13-18 range and the C flight is from 19-25. The D flight is for players with handicaps higher than 25. Gross and net leaders earn gift certificates every week.
At one time, the ENYGA was the premier tournament organizations for elite amateurs, much like the Capital Region Amateur Golf Association is today, and the Tri-County Golf Association was before that. Started in 1932, the ENYGA’s championship event crowned the unofficial local champion when area legends such as Charlie Murphy and Mike Daniels were just starting out their careers.
The ENYGA was run by several extremely dedicated directors of golf over the years, including Earl Feiden, Harry and Bonnie Clark, Ron Farrigan, Stan Dzek and Andy Pludrzynski, who gave up the position at the end of last year after moving to New York City. That left a huge void in the league administration before Normanside Country Club’s professional staff, led by head pro Brian Hampson, stepped in to take over the league. Hampson gives a couple of his staff members time away from their club duties to handle the ENYGA every week.
Now, Normanside CC assistant Alex Demitraszek and his fellow assistants run the league, which competes every Wednesday on courses throughout the region from May to October.
“It’s very rewarding working with the ENYGA players,” Demitraszek said. “Unfortunately, we’ve been getting low turnouts this spring, and a lot of it has to do with the horrible weather. The weather has been so awful. A lot of guys aren’t coming out because the conditions aren’t very good We have modified winter rules for the ENYGA, because our courses have been so wet even on dry days.”
For most of its history, the ENYGA drew well more than 120 golfers every week, and there was a waiting list to play. Now, the attendance figures have dipped to a low of 60-something to a high of 85 players. The average number of players teeing it up is 80.
“When they played in the 1990s, they always had more than 130 players,” Demitraszek said. “It’s become sort of a senior league now, and we lost guys who are sick and can’t play. Some move away, some still work from time to time and miss a few weeks here and there, and some guys just can’t play any more.
“I wish we could bring it back to the time when it was historically very strong. The league used to have four major events every year, including a two-man tournament, a scramble and the championship event. This year, we aren’t going to have the Lou Torre Two-Man because of lack of interest in events that aren’t single-player.
“We are financially stable, but we just don’t have the numbers any more. Now, the senior guys are using the league more as a social event. The majority of players aren’t in it for the competition as much as they are to play with their buddies every week.”
Interestingly, the ENYGA is not really a senior league by definition or league rules.
“Age is not a stipulation,” Demitraszek said. “It’s just that the guys who are left are of an advanced age. We are open to bringing it back to golfers of all ages. There was a time when the guys who were in their 30s and 40s played. We’ve got to grow this league.”
Although many ENYGA members are reluctant to change, the administrators have tweaked some things to make it easier for players and staff, including introducing a GHIN handicap system for all players so that everyone is in the national data base.
“Everyone has an official handicap now, and they can use it to play in sectional or state events,” Demitraszek said. “We’ve also made it easier for players with different range of handicaps playing from the same tees. It speeds up play. If there are three guys playing from the senior tees and another from the white tees, there is way to adjust the handicaps now quite easily.”
Membership is still $30 for the year, and all ENYGA events cost $50. Some events include a hot dog and soda at the turn. If an ENYGA member brings in a new member, their annual dues are reduced.
“We would love to get some new members, and it’s not too late to join,” Demitraszek said. “We are getting some interest from small smaller traveling leagues as to joining us, and we even have a system of subs that fill in for guys who can’t make it. All they’ve got to do is contact me at [email protected].”
Following is the remaining schedule: Wednesday at Hiland Park CC; July 10 at Winding Brook CC, July 17 at Western Turnpike Golf Club, July 24 at Rolling Hills at Antlers, July 31 at Fairways of Halfmoon, Aug. 7 at Town of Colonie Golf Course, Aug. 14 at Kingsbury National GC, Aug. 21 at Mohawk River CC & Chateau, Aug. 28 at Canajoharie CC, Sept. 4 at Orchard Creek Golf Club, Sept. 11 at Columbia Golf & Country Club, Sept, 18 at Pioneer Hills, Sept, 25 at Fox Run Golf Club, Oct, 2 at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course and Oct. 9 at Normanside CC (season-ender with banquet).
The second annual New York State Women’s Amateur & Senior Amateur Four-Ball Championship will be contested Sunday at Ravenwood Golf Club in Victor. Thirty-three tandems will compete in gross and net divisions, beginning with a 1:30 p.m. shotgun start. Capital Region players in the field include former NYS Senior Women’s Amateur champion Sue Kahler with Heidi Harkins of Ballston Spa CC; Debra DiMaggio and Kate Oppedisano of Ballston Spa CC; Cindy Walkanowski and Joyce Bassett of Ballston Spa CC; former NYS Senior Women’s Amateur champion Nancy Kroll of Pinehaven CC with former NYS Women’s Amateur winner Mary Jo Kelly of Wolferts Roost CC; and Laura Rentz of Olde Kinderhook with Emma Vandecar of The Edison Club.
The 54-hole Troy Invitational concludes Sunday at the Country Club of Troy. Schenectady’s Lance Hope is the defending champion.
CC of Pittsfield head pro Eric Mabee, Christman’s Windham House Golf Course assistant pro Jesse Muller and amateur Austin Fox of qualifying host Normanside Country Club will represent the Capital Region in the New York State Open July 16-18 at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course.
John Ruggiero hit an 8-iron for his hole-in-one on the sixth hole at Eagle Crest Golf Club.
Bob VanAllen aced the 150-yard third hole at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
At Stadium Golf Club, Bill Beaudin used a 7-iron to ace the 141-yard eighth hole.