Down the Fairway: Polaro’s main goal is to be nice to golfers

Rich Polaro is in his seventh year as the Van Patten Golf Club starter/ranger.
Rich Polaro is in his seventh year as the Van Patten Golf Club starter/ranger.

Van Patten Golf Club starter/ranger Rich Polaro has one important job description above all others: “My main responsibility is being nice,” he said.

An avid bowler and baseball player all of his life, the 70-year-old Polaro didn’t become serious about golf until the last 20 years or so. Now, golf is his No. 1 passion, and he treats all Van Patten GC customers like family.

“I’ve got three nines here, and a lot of the times when I’m busy, I’ve got to use my brain to get them all out. It never comes out of my mouth that they can’t play. I try to get them out no matter what, and I try to get them out on the right nine,” he said.

Polaro is in his seventh year as the Van Patten GC starter. He works five days a week and piles up about 35 hours.

“The money helps. I’m not a millionaire,” he said. “But I love people. I’ve got so many new friends since I started here. This job was made for me. I love meeting new friends. I try to keep the job simple.”


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Polaro believes in being as kind as possible, no matter how challenging that can be sometimes.

“I don’t want to be a sergeant, and there is no reason to be rude,” Polaro said. “I’ll get players out on the course one way or another. I’ll ranger if I have to, and when I do, I just help everyone play more ready golf. I was brought up to treat people with respect and to be nice to them.”

Polaro was born in Troy and attended Heatly High School in Green Island. He currently lives in Watervliet. He played baseball/softball until he was 50 years old, and during the off season, he bowled. The Troy Bowling Association Hall of Famer has eight perfect games.

“I finally started playing golf when I was 50 years old, because I couldn’t play baseball or softball any more,” Polaro said. “I was in three or four leagues, and I was a pretty good player, but I got my ankle stepped on, and I had to quit. I maybe played golf twice a year or so before I turned 50, but then I started playing a lot of golf, and I really enjoyed it.”

Polaro used to run a weekly skins game on Sundays at various courses in the Capital Region. The late Gene Stefanacci, the Van Patten GM at the time, offered Polaro and his group a great deal to come and play at Van Patten every week, and he accepted. When he neared retirement, he asked then pro Bob Kennedy if a job at the course ever opened up to give him a call.

“He called me in March of 2014, and that’s when I started,” Polaro recalled. “I love playing golf. On the two days of the week that I don’t work at the course, I’m playing golf there. I’m down to an 11-12 handicap now. The best part of my game is the driver. I hit my driver good, and I rarely miss one.

“I would say the hardest part of my game are my approach shots, but I’m doing better now. I’m not a great putter. I wish I was better. But I do chip the ball well, and I’m getting up and down more than ever before. Now, instead of an 88, I can shoot an 82.”

Polaro is grateful that he became part of the Van Patten GC family.

“There is no question that meeting new people is the thing I love the most. I love these people. The golfers here are like my family,” he said.

The Van Patten GC crew feels the same way about Polaro.

“Richard Polaro is an outstanding and infallible staff member,” said Van Patten GC head pro Adam Panagopoulos. “He consistently handles anything we can throw at him. The customers really love Richie and his friendly personality.”


Members of the Northeastern Women’s Golf Association play their first major event Monday with the annual Gail Sykes Better Ball of Two at Shaker Ridge Country Club.

The next major tournament for the amateur men will be the Capital Region Amateur Golf Association Stroke Play Championship Aug. 1-2 at Schuyler Meadows Club.
Saratoga Spa Golf assistant pro Scott Berliner won the Northeastern New York PGA’s Pro Classic No 3 with a 7-under-par 64 at Whiteface Resort & Golf Club. Normanside CC assistant pro Justin Hearley was second with a 68. The local club pros play next on Monday at Saratoga Golf & Polo Club. Many of them will then compete in the Woodstock Open on July 27.

AJ Cavotta of Saratoga Springs shot a two-day total of 2-over-par to win the overall boys title in the Northeastern New York PGA Junior Tour’s third major tournament of the season at Orchard Creek this week. Kennedy Swedick won the overall girls’ title by shooting 1-over-par.

Airway Meadows Golf Club hosts the K of C for St. Therese Food Pantry 14th annual tournament Aug. 1. There will be an 8:30 a.m. shotgun start. Entry fee is $100 and includes cart, Continental breakfast and a grilled London broil and chicken barbecue lunch. Contact Peter Riggi at 518-695-4577 for more information.

Steve Bass (75-76-151) won the overall men’s senior title, and Nadine Toma (65-76-141) won the overall women’s senior title at Pinehaven Country Club last week.
The annual Swing Fore Kids charity event at Rolling Hills at Antlers has been canceled because of Covid-19 restrictions.

The Albany Twilight League Golf Tournament is set for Sept. 17 at Town of Colonie Golf Course. The four-man scramble has an entry fee of $100 and includes carts and lunch. There will be a 9 a.m. shotgun start. Make checks out to Albany Twilight League Alumni and send them to Bill Levy, 21 Tattersall Lane, Albany N.Y., 12205.

Scott Daigle won his 10th club championship at Battenkill GC.


Tom Buckley aced the 210-yard 12th hole with a driver at Normanside Country Club.

Dave Walrath used a 7-iron for his hole-in-one at the 145-yard 13th hole at West Point.

At The Edison Club, Dan Crayon recorded his first hole-in-one with a 4-hybrid on the 13th hole.

Andrew Daily, son of Battenkill GC head pro Dal Daily, posted his first hole-in-one on the 10th hole at Salem Country Club. Andrew is 22 years old. Dal got his first ace when he was 21, and Andrew was there for Dal’s eighth career hole-in-one.


My apologies once again to Bill Rourke. Last year, he recorded an albatross, an extremely rare feat, and I spelled his name O’Rourke instead of Rourke. Last week, he posted an eagle at Mohawk River CC in the Bent Iron league. I again misspelled his name, this time as Roarke. Keep shooting great scores and I’ll get it right the next time Bill.

Keith Hall eagled the ninth hole at Eagle Crest with a pitching wedge.

What a week for Clyde Driggers. He eagled the par-5 fourth hole at Mechanicville GC with a driver, 3-hybrid and putt. He then eagled the par-4 third hole with a driver and lob wedge. Friday ,he eagled the par-4 12th hole with a sand wedge out of the bunker.

Also at Mechanicville GC, Jim Sullivan eagled the third hole with a driver and wedge.

At Rolling Hills at Antlers CC, Noah Moran, Jeff Cantine and Andy Caddell each eagled the 10th hole.

Chris DeMura eagled the 16th hole at Van Patten by holing out from 135 yards. On his next round, he again holed out for eagle on the 17th hole at Saratoga State Park Golf Course, this time from 125 yards. Quite a week.

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

Categories: Sports

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