Most Capital Region golfers compete against their favorite course and “Old Man Par.” Some enjoy squaring off against their buddies and trying to beat their weekly playing group. Others get a big kick out of league competition.
But a smaller group of scratch players appreciate the ultimate challenge — and pressure — of tournament competition. Although COVID-19 put a damper on that form of play for several months, last week’s Troy Invitational at the Country Club of Troy finally gave the area’s best players a chance to prove themselves in a major event.
About 60 players in the championship, senior and junior divisions tested the historic Brunswick layout in the 77th edition of one of the Capital Region’s most respected events. Former Siena College golfer Jared Nelson of Rutland, Vermont, rallied from well back in the pack to shoot a 4-under-par 67 for a two-day total of even-par 142 to capture the title by three strokes over fellow Vermont resident Garren Poirier (73-75-145).
Hoosick Falls native Taylor Bellemare, a former CC of Troy member and first-round leader, was third with a 68-78-146. Chad Stoffer of Niskayuna, last year’s Capital Region Amateur Golf Association Stroke Play champion, tied for fourth with a 75-72-147, while two other local players, former Troy Invy champion Lance Hope of Schenectady and all-time local major tournament winner Dan Russo of Hagaman, tied for seventh with a 150.
Nelson, 20, who transferred from Siena to the University of Connecticut for his sophomore season, was invited to play in the tournament by defending Troy Invitational champion Jack Downey of the host club. Downey was Nelson’s teammate at Siena. Nelson grew up playing at Rutland Country Club, where his father was the head pro for almost 30 years.
It was Nelson’s first-ever trip to the CC of Troy, and he had to play under the pressure of Troy’s famed entourage of members in carts, who followed him most of the back nine.
“I had a goal of getting it back to even,” Nelson said about his final round after shooting 75 in the opening round and trailing the leader by seven shots. “I needed some help, but I tried to get it back to even par for the tournament and see what happened. I was a little more patient today and less aggressive on some of these pins and let it come to me more.”
Although Nelson appeared to be back in mid-season form for the second round, several other top local players admitted that they were a little rusty for the first major event of the season.
“Pretty much regular golf out here this weekend,” said Stoffer. “I haven’t had as much time to practice, and I’m a little rusty coming out of the chute. All in all, it’s good to be out here. No question this is my first tournament of the year. I probably had four weekends of play before this, maybe 8-10 rounds before this, but the ranges weren’t open and I couldn’t hit balls at the range. It’s great to be out there. I finally feel normal again. Somewhat.”
For Hope, it was also his season debut.
“Some good days; some bad days. I’m too inconsistent right now,” Hope said. “I’m just too rusty and too inconsistent. Next for me is a two-man tournament in Massachusetts, I guess. I don’t really know what’s next around here. I’m not sure what’s next in New York. Not much to play yet around here.”
Russo, who plays out of Schuyler Meadows, didn’t have his ‘A’ game, but was glad to finally tee it up again.
“It’s so much fun to be playing again, but I couldn’t hit a wedge this weekend,” he said. “It’s so fun to be out here again. I wouldn’t call what I did competing actually, but it’s great to be playing tournaments again. That’s what it is all about.”
Russo, 62, said he doesn’t have anything on his upcoming schedule except for his annual trip to Winged Foot for the Anderson Memorial with playing partner David Hayes next month. Russo is the Capital Region’s all-time leader in major tournament victories with 18 and also won his first state tournament in the rain-shortened NYS Senior Amateur at Calvary Golf Club in Syracuse last season.
While the amateur men finally got their tournament season untracked, the local club pros continued with their delayed tournament schedule at the Northeastern New York PGA’s Individual Stableford Event at Columbia Golf & Country Club. The Stableford scoring system credits players with points for eagles and birdies while taking away points for bogeys and worse.
Chris Ferraro of Ascot Park Golf Learning Center won the open division with 41 points, three points ahead of defending NENY PGA Player of the Year Scott Berliner of Saratoga Spa Golf Course. Tom Sullivan of Wyantenuck CC won the Legends Division with 38 points.
Next up for the pros is Monday’s Pro Classic at Pinehaven Country Club. Their first major tournament of the season will be the Donald Ross Classic at Glens Falls CC and The Sagamore Resort June 28-29.
Capital Hills at Albany became the last local golf course to open its season on Tuesday.
The first state tournament in an abbreviated schedule this season will be the NYS Women’s Amateur & Mid-Amateur Championship June 29-30 at Teugega Country Club.
Speaking of the New York State Golf Association, its foundation is accepting scholarship applications for the 2020-21 academic year. The NYSGA has awarded more than $300,000 in college scholarships and grants supporting junior golf since 2009. For more information, contact Kara Cushman at [email protected]
Briar Creek Golf Course’s Coors Light Tournament is set for July 10. Entry fee for the four-man scramble is $70 per golfer and include cart, continental breakfast, lunch and dinner. Call 518-355-6145 to register.
The Catskill Classic will be played July 17-18 at Catskill Golf Club. Entry fee will be $280 per two-man team. The format will be a scramble in the first round and best-ball in the final round. The field is limited to 30 teams. Contact head pro Brian Lowe (518-943-0302)or Tony Vizzie (904-233-4257) for more information.
Steve Wik used an 8-iron on the 150-yard sixth hole on the red nine for a hole-in-one at Van Patten Golf Club.
At Normanside Country Club, Karen Murtagh recorded her first ace with a driver on the 163-yard 13th hole. That’s the third hole-in-one at Normanside CC in the last two weeks.
Rich Strum collected his first hole-in-one with a 4 hybrid on the 154-yard third hole at Pinehaven Country Club.
Schenectady’s Bill Kot aced the 128-yard 17th hole with an 8-iron at Pioneer Hills Golf Course.
At Battenkill Country Club, Dan Degregory holed out with a 3-wood on the 210-yard 17th hole.
Darren Romanski got a hole-in-one on the 100-yard seventh hole at Briar Creek Golf Course.
At Eagle Crest, Jeff House swung an 8-iron for his perfect shot on the 152-yard sixth hole.
Chris Reilly registered the shot of the season in area golf so far with an albatross on the par-5 18th hole at Eagle Crest Golf Club last weekend. Reilly holed out his second shot from 238 yards with a 3-wood.
Connor McNulty didn’t have an eagle before this month, but he recorded two in a hurry. On June 6 at Eagle Crest Golf Club, he hit a 6-iron for his second shot on the par-5 13th hole to set up a 1-inch tap-in. Three days later at Pioneer Hills, he drove the 298-yard opening hole with a 2 hybrid and nailed the eagle putt.