Tom Salmon is enjoying his second chance to be a rookie again on the links.
The Niskayuna High School and Siena College graduate just turned 50 this season, and now he’s eligible for many of the senior tournaments available in the Capital Region. Since he continues to play numerous open tournaments against younger players, don’t be surprised to see him among the leaders when he squares off against his older peers.
Such was the case this week, when Salmon held off several strong challengers to win the Schenectady Classic Senior Championship at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. He shot an even-par 72 in the opening round to trail leader Mike Drake by two shots, but he grabbed the lead with a 1-under-par 35 on the front side during Friday’s final round and then held off the usual group of standouts to win by one shot.
Salmon finished with a 3-over-par 75 in the final round for a two-day total of 147. Kevin Broderick (73-75-148) tied with former champion Tony Cristello (74-74-148) and earned runner-up honors based on a matching of cards. Four-time champion Paul Pratico (72-77-149) was another shot back. Glenn Stopera (78-72-150), Dan Ireland (79-71-150) and Drake (70-80-150) rounded out the leaders.
There were several turning points on the back nine for the easygoing Salmon. The par-5 14th was perhaps the biggest challenge.
“I was in good position where I didn’t have to push anything, so I was going to play it as a three-shot hole,” said Salmon, who played it safe by using a 4-iron off the tee. But his tee shot found the right rough, and he was blocked by several trees. His first attempt at chipping back into the fairway bounced off a tree branch and came right back at him. He chipped again back into the fairway, reached the green on his next shot and three-putted for a double bogey 7.
“I made the cardinal sin of not getting it back into the fairway when I was in trouble, but there were some low branches there, and it wasn’t that easy of a shot,” Salmon explained. “Actually, I caught a break when that first chip shot bounced back at me, because it could have gone anywhere, including back into the woods. All I was thinking was to two-putt for a bogey on that hole, especially when Paul [Pratico] lost his second shot. I thought I might even make up a shot on Paul on that hole, but I didn’t.”
Salmon caught another good break on the par-5 16th hole. His tee shot landed in the hazard on the left, but Pratico found Salmon’s ball in the high weeds just beyond the water. Instead of having to take a penalty, Salmon was able to punch out and had a chance to make birdie or par. But his lob wedge approach shot got caught up in the wind and came up short of the green. He failed to get up-and-down for par, but Pratico missed his birdie putt and only picked up one shot on Salmon.
Salmon then finished with two solid pars. He was reasonably sure where he stood in the tournament, but asked to make sure of his status as he approached the final green.
“Overall my nerves weren’t bad,” Salmon said. “I didn’t start feeling it until the 14th hole, because I was putting pressure on myself to make that bogey. I’m proud of myself. I’m not in this situation often, and I just wanted to execute my shots and finish the tournament.”
Although Salmon is a senior rookie, he’s no newcomer to tournament pressure. He won the Schenectady Classic, formerly the Gazette Schenectady County Men’s Amateur, in 2002 and has been a title contender for the past two decades. He’s also a member of one of the area’s most competitive clubs.
“I think my experience in tournaments, and the fact that I’ve won before, helped, but quite honestly, I rejoined Shaker Ridge Country Club this year, and Shaker has always had a particularly strong group of players,” Salmon said.
“They have a huge group of guys under 40 and in their early 30s. I’m in a loop with these guys, and we are always playing competitive golf. I’ve been playing and having to execute shots under some kind of pressure all summer long. Plus, being a member, I have access to their very nice driving range, and I’ve been able to practice more. You can trust things in your game a lot more when you’ve practiced all the shots.”
The chase for the title in the Schenectady Classic men’s division tightened up considerably today with three players within one shot of the lead going into the final round Sunday at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
Former pro Joe Fitzsimmons, a Capital Region Amateur Golf Association Stroke Play champion who is now a Colonie policeman, fired a 2-under-par 70 to grab a one-shot lead over Dan Russo of Hagaman and two-time runner-up Lance Hope. Fitzsimmons has a 4-under-par total of 212.
Russo, who plays out of Schuyler Meadows, won this year’s CRAGA Stroke Play event at age 62 and led the first two rounds here after shooting 71 and 67, respectively. But he struggled with a 75 on Saturday and has a 213 total. Hope, a former Troy Invitational winner, is also at 213.
Another highlight of Saturday’s round was put together by defending champion Ben Bates, who shot a 32 on the back nine en route to a 71 and a 219 total.
Thirteen players made the cut at 225 or better for Sunday’s final round.
Pat Mayne of Western Turnpike posted her second straight 2-over-par 74 to capture the Schenectady Women’s Classic today at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
Mayne, a two-time NEWGA champion as well as a former Daily Gazette Women’s Best Ball winner with partner Karen Feldman, fired a 148 two-day total to beat Kelly McKenna (85-166) by 18 shots. McKenna led the 15-player field with a 146 net.
“I like to play competitive golf,” said Mayne. “So many tournaments were canceled this year, and it was hard to find enough tournaments to play. I like this course. My best round ever was a 68 here.”
Mayne collected four birdies but had some difficulties putting, including a 4-putt on the 12th hole. She said she wished the tournament had more players in the field but that she concentrated on playing the course and not her opponents.
Next up for the retired Mayne is the Florida Senior Championship at Orlando Tree Golf Course near Orlando. She is moving to Florida in October to spend the late fall and winter there. “It makes a difference playing year-round,” she said.
Saratoga County Am
The Saratoga County Am, which is set for next Friday and Saturday at Eagle Crest Golf Club and The Edison Club, respectively, features a strong field. The 36-hole event won’t have a cut and will be contested in two divisions, open and senior.
Four-time champion Jim Gifford, a Siena College product and former U.S. Four-Ball contestant, is one of the favorites. He won this event in 2006, 2010, 2013 and 2016. He’s also coming off a victory with partner Jim Welch in the recent Shaker Ridge Invitational.
Dave Pallas is the defending champion, and Dan Walsh won the event in 2018.
Other standouts to keep an eye on in the open division are former Section II boys’ champion A.J. Cavotta of Saratoga Springs and Travis Koch, recent winner of the Van Patten Iron Man Tournament.
Bill Paulsen Jr., owner/general manager of Eagle Crest Golf Club, is both the defending champion and a 10-time winner of the senior division. He’ll be challenged by two-time winner Sal Romano (2015 and 2017), David Smith and Tim Bean.
Entry fee is $85, and it includes golf and a cart for both rounds. Call either Eagle Crest or The Edison Club for more information.
The Bill Moll Triple Play Championship, named after the late local standout who won three Schenectady Classic crowns, five Schenectady Senior Classics, the Eagle Crest Shootout and numerous Eagle Crest club championships, is set for Sept. 28 at Eagle Crest. The 27-hole event will feature nine holes of two-man scramble, nine holes of two-man alternate sot and nine holes of two-man best-ball. Entry fee is $240 per team. Teams in this gross-only event can have two amateurs or one amateur and one pro. Entry deadline is Sept. 21. Mail checks payable to Eagle Crest Golf Club, 1004 Route 146A, Clifton Park, NY 12065
The Northeastern New York PGA’s National Car Rental Assistants Championship is set for Monday at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. The local pros also will be competing Wednesday in their NENY PGA Match Play Qualifier at Normanside Country Club.
Colonie Golf & Country Club hosts the eighth annual Capital Region Championship Sept. 26 with tee times beginning at 7:30 a.m. There will be gross and net individual and two-person team divisions for men and women. Entry fee is $60 per player. Carts are $20 extra. Entry deadline is Sept. 21. Call 518-765-4103 for more information.
Wolferts Roost Country Club is the host for the 29th annual Cap Com Federal Credit Union Police Officer Memorial Golf Outing Sept. 23. Entry fee is $195 per golfer and includes golf, range balls, lunch and dinner. For more information, contact Leonard Ricchiuti of the Albany Police Athletic League at 518-435-0392.
Mary Ellen Haase aced the 115-yard second hole at her home Mohawk Golf Club with a 5-wood on Sept. 3.
Dave Lichtenwainer not only recorded his first eagle on the par-5 second hole, but he also recorded his low nine-hole round with an even-par 36 at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
Dave Moore eagled the second hole while competing in the Whitney Red Golf League at Mohawk River Country Club & Chateau.