Down the Fairway: Season finally about to begin for many Section II golfers

Saratoga Springs senior Will Braxton will be one of the top players in the Suburban Council, which opens an abbreviated season Monday. (Photo provided)

Saratoga Springs senior Will Braxton will be one of the top players in the Suburban Council, which opens an abbreviated season Monday. (Photo provided)

Categories: Sports

Section II golf will look different this fall, but at least local high school players will be competing on the links instead of anxiously waiting for their season to begin next spring.

Golf is one of the few scholastic sports cleared for competition this season because of COVID-19 safety restrictions. There won’t be any postseason playoffs or state tournaments, but at least there will be official competition in a league setting.

The Suburban Council, the section’s premier large-school league, has recently formalized its schedule and new rules for an abbreviated season that tees off Monday.

Niskayuna boys’ golf coach Ben Smith and Shenendehowa coach Chris Douglas helped me out with a few updates.

The Suburban Council has decided to schedule 11 league matches, rather than the usual 16, according to Smith, who noted that most schools are following a “club model” of transportation for their teams. That means parents will drop off the players to the golf course. Smith noted that many schools have adopted afternoon and weekend times on their schedule, which may conflict with a busy schedule at all area courses. Niskayuna’s matches will be played at Mohawk Golf Club at 3 p.m., for example.

Smith said that SC girls’ teams will be following or leading the boys’ teams, depending on the amount of players involved and travel logistics.

Girls’ teams, which began official competition in Section II just last season, will have a more flexible competitive formula, depending on how many girls are on the team. The maximum number of competitors for any girls’ team for scoring purposes will be four. Teams with larger rosters can schedule exhibition matches that don’t count for league scoring but will help the players get in much needed practice to hone their skills.

The SC boys will follow a “gentleman’s agreement” where the amount of players who show up for the match on each side will be eligible to count in the scoring. Some schools won’t be bringing their entire roster to each match, because of transportation or other issues. But Smith said that some of these rules may change after the next league meeting.

Since there will be no sectional tournament this year, coaches won’t be forced to bring a certain amount of players to each match. They can base their match roster on ease of scheduling for the players and their parents.

As usual, Saratoga Springs will be one of the favorites to win the boys’ league championship. Senior Will Braxton will step into the No. 1 role left by graduated senior AJ Cavotta. The always powerful Blue Streaks also feature seniors Clarkie Carroll and Luke Barringer, along with freshman Kellan Dean.

Shenendehowa will be paced by Player of the Year candidate Aidan Campbell and Ryan Komp, while Niskayuna counters with senior Patrick Daley and junior Matthew McClenon.

Jack Lucey is the top player for Bethlehem, while senior Kevin Hulett leads Colonie.

Columbia’s featured player is junior Travis Taylor. Lane Jenkins paces the Shaker team, and Ashtyn DiCaprio, a freshman, is the player to watch at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake.

CBA senior Conlon Van Epps and eighth-grader CJ Strong will be worth watching, as will Averill Park sophomore David Mooradian.

For the SC girls, watch out for eighth-grader Sienna Wheeler at Colonie, junior Hannah Byun at Shaker, junior Maya Geurstenbluth at Niskayuna, and Emma Duval at Ballston Spa.

The Colonial Council also voted to keep golf for the fall season, meaning Albany Academy for Girls should dominate the league with the 1-2 punch of 2019 Section II champion Kennedy Swedick and Nicole Criscone.

RIP DOUG EVANS

The Northeastern New York PGA lost one of its key staff members Friday when longtime tournament director and assistant executive director Doug Evans passed away after administering a Player Abilities Test at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.

He apparently suffered a heart attack and was brought to Ellis Hospital. Efforts to revive him at the course and at the hospital were unsuccessful.

Doug was spectacular in all facets of his job, including as an administrator and rules expert. He was also a great friend to everyone in the golf family.

I can’t believe that apparently I chatted with him just before he died. I finished playing nine holes, and he drove up to me in his cart right by the clubhouse. We extended pleasantries, and talked about perhaps seeing each other at next week’s Match Play Championship. I told him to take care of himself.

Minutes later, I saw him again in the parking lot, and he reminded me that the NENY PGA’s Fall Meeting, originally set for October, was moved back to November. He wanted to make sure I knew that. Then, he walked back toward his vehicle and I went to mine. He was found less than an hour later.

Rest in peace, good friend.

NENY PGA MATCH PLAY

The final official major on the schedule for the local club pros of the Northeastern New York PGA is the Match Play Championship Tuesday and Wednesday at Colonie Golf & Country Club. The field includes the top 10 players on the point list, as well as another group which earned spots in last week’s special qualifying tournament at Normanside Country Club.

The Match Play contenders include Scott Battiste of Eagle Crest Golf Club, Scott Berliner of Saratoga Spa Golf Course, Ian Breen of Whiteface Club & Resort, Robert Cain of Saratoga National Golf Club, Dal Daily of Battenkill Country Club, Glenn Davis of Albany Country Club, Justin Hearley of Normanside Country Club, Jeremy Kerr of Mohawk Golf Club, Kyle Kressler of Cedar View Golf Course, Eric Mabee of the Country Club of Pittsfield, Frank Mellet of Colonie G&CC, John Neet of The Edison Club and Steve Plata of Saratoga National Golf Club.

Berliner (three), Cain (one), Mellet (three), Breen (one), Kerr (one) and Daily (once) are former champions in the field.

CHIP SHOTS

Speaking of Berliner, the nine-time NENY PGA Player of the Year who owns 27 section major championships, including the last 10 NENY PGA Stroke Play crowns, continued his dominance by winning the National Car Rental Assistants Championship in a playoff over Chris Ferraro of Ascot Park Golf Course Monday at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. Both players shot 3-under-par 141 in regulation and Berliner won in a playoff. Both will represent the section at the National Assistants Championship at the PGA Golf Club in November.

The Bill Moll Triple Play Championship, named after the late local standout who won three Schenectady Classics crowns, five Schenectady Senior Classics, the Eagle Crest Shootout and numerous Eagle Crest club championships, is set for Sept. 28 at Eagle Crest Golf Club. 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 to Eagle Crest Golf Club, 1004 Route 146A, Clifton Park NY 12065.

Colonie Golf & Country Club hosts the eighth annual Capital Region Championship Saturday 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 Monday. Call 518-765-4103 for more information.

Briar Creek Golf Course hosts its annual October-Fest Tournament Oct. 2. The four-person scramble will have a 10 a.m. shotgun start following a Continental breakfast at 9 a.m. Entry fee is $70 and includes golf, cart, lunch and dinner. Call 518-355-6145 for more information.

The 22nd annual Schenectady Municipal Men’s League Tournament of Champions is set for Oct. 2-4. This event is open only to the winner or winners of each men’s league at Schenectady Municipal. The single-elimination format will be 9-hole matches with handicap. Entry fee is $30 per champion, and includes golf and range balls. Riding carts are extra, if required. Entry forms must be turned into the pro shop by Sept. 29 at 6 p.m.

HOLES-IN-ONE

Frank Bleakley aced the 13th hole with an 8-iron at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.

At Western Turnpike Golf Club, Mark Abbate hit a 5-iron for his first hole-in-one on the 165-yard seventh hole.

Ted Dandrow aced the 140-yard eighth hole with a 22 degree hybrid at Stadium Golf Club. Also at Stadium, Mike Lawson aced the 141-yard fifth hole with a 7-iron.

EAGLES

Clyde Driggers eagled the par-4 16th hole by driving the green and sinking the putt at Mechanicville Golf Club.

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

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