Down the Fairway: Youth golfers set for AJGA Albany Championship

Bob Weiner's weekly golf column
Nicole Criscone who will participate in AJGA event at Ballston Spa Country Club July 28-Aug. 1.
Nicole Criscone who will participate in AJGA event at Ballston Spa Country Club July 28-Aug. 1.

Categories: Sports

Many of the brightest young stars in the nation, including some of the best up-and-coming golfers in the Capital Region, will have the opportunity to show off their talents when the American Junior Golf Association’s UHY Albany Championship is contested July 28-Aug. 1 at Ballston Spa Country Club.

The AJGA, which began in 1978, is a non-profit organization dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women aspiring to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf. There are more than 7,000 junior members, age 12-19. Juniors can compete if they haven’t started college yet.

AJGA alumni from the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour number more than 300, and those stars have earned more than 900 victories. Among the PGA Tour stars that started their careers in AJGA tournaments are Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Justin Leonard, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson and reigning U.S. Open winner Gary Woodland.

AJGA grads that went on to star on the LPGA Tour include Paula Creamer, Vicky Hurst, Cristie Kerr, Brittany Lincicome, Lexi Thompson, Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis and Morgan Pressel.

Twenty-two of the past 30 NCAA Division I men’s champions and 23 of the past 30 NCAA Division I women’s titlists are AJGA alums.

“I think, personally, hosting this event says a lot about the direction this club has been going for the last five years,” said Ballston Spa CC treasurer Rick Funaro. “We’ve got 350 golfing members now, and we’ve created a dues structure for our younger players, including $40 for juniors, $600 for young adults and $900 for junior executives. The number of young golfers at our club has exploded, and they love it. Hosting this is just a nature for us.”

The projected field size is 96, but so far, 169 applications have been received for the boys’ field and 57 for the girls. The main tournament will be 54 holes, but there is a 100-player qualifier on the first day to determine 10 spots in the main draw.

That qualifier on July 29 will be a Junior-Am open to anyone interested in playing with a potential pro star. Three-person teams are available for $1,200, and single spots are available for $450. Each player receives a round of golf with cart, breakfast, lunch, a sleeve of balls, a hat, and a golf towel, a package valued at $200.

Among the local standouts who have entered for the boys are Anthony Cavotta, Will Braxton, Kellen Dean, Declan Ladd and Brendan Joyce of Saratoga Springs, Nick Lyons and Aidan Fitzgerald of Albany, Madison Bentley of Greenville, Clarkie Carroll of Wilton, Nicholas Tellone, Logan Kerry, Patrick Daley, Mathew McClenon and Jimmy King of Niskayuna, Paul Goetz of Clifton Park, Ryan Lovelass of Galway, Thomas Tyrrell II of Loudonville, Anthony Fiacco of Mechanicville and Chris Huban of Cohoes.

Isabella Diaz of Ballston Spa, Nicole Criscone of Clifton Park and Kennedy Swedick of Altamont are locals in the girls’ field.

This is also a charitable event, with 50 percent of the net proceeds going to the AJGA ACE Grant programs for scholarships and the other 50 percent going to the Double H Ranch, a local charity that runs a summer camp for children with serious illnesses in Luzerne.

“We’re all pretty excited about it at Ballston Spa CC,” Funaro said. “I think people will come away from their experience here loving the conditions. Ballston Spa CC is a shorter course, but I’ll take our conditions and match them up against any course in the area. The greens are tiny with a lot of undulations in them.  When they are fast, this course is a real challenge.”

For more information, visit the Ballston Spa CC website at


This will be a busy week for major tournament action involving Capital Region players on the road.

The New York State Women’s Amateur and Mid-Amateur Championships will be held Tuesday through Thursday at Lancaster Country Club. Local reps include Laura Rentz of Olde Kinderhook, Isabella Diaz of Ballston Spa CC and the New York Golf Association’s eClub-Capital District, and Emma Vandecar of The Edison Club.

Many of the best local men’s amateur will be competing in a U.S. Amateur sectional qualifier Monday at Seven Oaks Golf Course in Hamilton. There are just two qualifying spots and two alternate positions available for the 68-player field.  Cap­ital Region players competing include Mike Dwyer of Scotia, Jim Gifford of Ballston Lake, Alexander Bond of Broadalbin, Greg Bennett of Brunswick, Jim Welch of Valatie, Austin Fox of Delmar, Anthony Cavotta of Saratoga Springs, John Malicki of Loudonville and Dan Ireland of Wynantskill.

Local pros from the Northeastern New York PGA will visit Saratoga National Golf Club on Monday for the annual Ellis Medicine Pro-Am.

The next Eastern New York Golf Association stop will be Wednesday at Winding Brook CC in Valatie.


Mark Anderson used a 7-iron for his first hole-in-one on the 128-yard third hole at Eagle Crest Golf Club.

At Normanside Country Club, John Corson scored his second career hole-in-one with a pitching wedge on the 120-yard third hole.

Brent Sheehan used an 8-iron to ace the 17th hole at Eagle Crest Golf Club.

At Pioneer Hills Golf Course, Earl Welshhaus hit a 9-iron for his ace on the 125-yard 17th hole.

Jack Dowling recorded his third career hole-in-one when he aced the par-3, 175-yard third hole at Pinehaven Country Club.


Kyle Sacks recorded an extremely rare double eagle (albatross) on the 497-yad par-5 fourth hole at The Edison Club. After a huge drive, he holed out his second shot with a 9-iron.

Charlie O’Brien eagled the par-5 10th hole at Airway Meadows Golf Course with an 8-iron on his third shot.

Gary Scott chipped in for eagle on the par-4 fourth hole at Stadium Golf Club.

Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected] or @BobWeiner58 on Twitter.

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