Bruce Hopkins has been playing golf for more than four decades, and he’s accomplished more than his fair share of notable achievements on the links. But the 54-year-old Fort Johnson resident’s career highlight must now, arguably, be defined by one dynamic swing.
Hopkins, the vice president of corporate technology for TD Bank, recently recorded one of the rarest shots in golf when he aced the par-4 12th hole at Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course. That hole is listed as 337 yards in length, although Hopkins estimated that it played more likely about 310 yards on that special day.
“I was using an old Callaway driver that I got several years ago,” said Hopkins, who has been playing Amsterdam Municipal since he was 12 years old. “I was playing with my good friend Jim Geiger, and we are always joking about drivers, because I end up with many of Jim’s old drivers. He usually looks at me and tells me what shaft and what kind of driver I should use.”
Hopkins, formerly a scratch golfer, hasn’t played much because of his work schedule that includes plenty of travel.
“I hadn’t played in 10 months, and I wasn’t trying to hit the green,” he said. “When I was younger, I was reasonably long off the tee, but I wasn’t trying to reach the green on that day. I aimed to the left of the fairway, and I got the shot in the slot, near the maple tree. I said, ‘Hey, that’s a pretty good drive.’ So Jim and the other two guys in the group all teed off and we all drove down the fairway together. When we got over the hill, the group on the green was telling us the ball was in the hole. I started laughing.”
At first, Hopkins didn’t believe what happened.
“I said they probably kicked it in the hole, and I thought it was fairly humorous, but Rick Cetnar was on the green along with Mike Pepe and Joe DeMars. If Mike hadn’t said it was in the hole, I would have been suspicious. Also, there were three ladies on the 13th tee clapping, so I figured it was really a hole-in-one,” Hopkins said.
It was the first hole-in-one for the Amsterdam native, who is no stranger to impressive golfing feats.
“I was a scratch golfer at one time,” he said. “My handicap now is about an 8. It was a 7 last year, but I only played about seven rounds because I hurt my ankle and couldn’t play for the rest of the year. I would say that when I decide to play more golf over the next two or three weeks, my handicap will probably drop to about a 5. It’s easy to have a low handicap when you play the same course all the time.”
Despite his outstanding accomplishment, Hopkins finished with a ho-hum — for him — 80 that day, but he’s had many much better scores, including a career-best 68 at Amsterdam Municipal. He also posted a 67 at Rolling Hills at Antlers one year when he was a member there from 2000 to 2004.
“I know both courses very well,” he said.
“At one point in time, I was the Amsterdam City champion at Amsterdam Municipal and the club champion at Antlers, but it was a long time ago. I don’t think that Danny Russo or Bob Cantine played in those events when I played. Danny and I know each other very well. He’s the best golfer I’ve ever seen come out of this area. Bob was my golf coach when I played for Amsterdam High School.”
Hopkins still maintains that the hole-in-one isn’t his most notable golf moment.
“I would still say having the club championship is my best highlight,” he said. “The thing about the hole-in-one is that it’s fairly lucky. I hit the ball in a good spot, and a got a good bounce and a good roll. Rick told me the morning after that he was upset because he was putting as the ball came on the green. He ended up missing his putt as my ball went in. I was very lucky.”
To put things in perspective, the odds for the average golfer to make a hole-in-one are 12,000 to 1, according to The National Hole-in-One Registry. But the odds of an albatross, or double eagle, on a par-4 are between 1 million to 1 and 6 million to 1. Pretty steep odds.
“It’s a great feeling, and I’m glad I finally got my hole-in-one,” Hopkins said. “When I was really young, I put the ball on the lip of the hole once, and I hit the pin another time but never got one. I guess this one is kind of special because you have to be long enough to even get the ball on the green. Jim and I were joking around wondering if there has ever been a hole-in-one on a par-4 at Amsterdam Muni. I haven’t heard of one, but I know we have a lot of people who can hit the ball a long way around here so there probably has been one.”
I was saddened to hear that Earl “Sonny” Skiff, longtime member of The Edison Club, died earlier this week at the age of 89 in Melbourne, Florida.
Skiff was a past president of The Edison Club and a member of its Hall of Fame. The affable Skiff was a Mont Pleasant High School graduated and attended both Duke University and Siena College. He was both a standout basketball player and golfer whose favorite pro teams were the New York Giants and the New York Mets.
Skiff was an excellent golfer who reached the finals of the old Gazette Schenectady County Amateur several times when it was competed in a match-play format. One year, after earning medalist honors in qualifying, he lost to future pro Dave Philo.
Don Capuano, and his wife, Judy, were members of The Edison Club for 46 years and only recently left the club. They are considered unofficial club historians.
“Sonny was one of the funniest guys I ever met,” said Don Capuano. “One time, he was playing golf with Ron Philo [Dave’s brother], and Sonny was not known for having the best golf attire. Ron told him that he had a pair of shoes back at his driving range that Sonny could borrow, and Sonny just laughed and laughed. He was quite a guy.”
Golf league secretaries, please note that they should email their results to [email protected]. Please include the name of the league, course played on, and the top two gross and top two net scores.
The annual Troy Invitational, one of the Capital Region’s major events for elite amateurs, is set for Friday and Saturday at the Country Club of Troy. Jared Nelson, a former Siena College student now playing for the University of Connecticut, rallied from seven shots back to win last year’s event.
Scott Berliner, assistant pro at Saratoga Spa GC, teamed up with Woodstock GC head pro Chris Sanger to win the Northeastern New York PGA’s Pro-Pro tournament Tuesday at Albany Country Club with a 6-under-par total, two shots ahead of Peter Gerard of Mill Road Acres and partner John Neet of Normanside CC.
Speaking of Berliner, he will play in the U.S. Open 36-hole sectional qualifier Monday along with Rotterdam native Bryan Bigley and Country Club of Troy member Jack Downey at Century Country Club and Old Oaks CC in Purchase. Bigley is making his ninth appearance in the sectionals. The 121st U.S. Open is set for June 17-20 at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, California.
Eagle Crest Golf Club hosts the New York State Open local qualifier Thursday for both pros and amateurs.
Airway Meadows Golf Course will host the Schuylerville-Greenwich Wrestling Club’s first golf tournament, a four-person scramble June 26 at 1:30 p.m. Entry fee is $90 per player and includes golf and cart, plus a hot & cold buffet after golf. Call 518-307-7425 for more information.
The McGregor Links Country Club Invitational is set for Friday and Saturday and will consist of three scratch divisions: Championship (gold tees), Senior (age 50 and older, white markers) and Super Senior (age 65 and older, also white markers). The format will be 36 holes of four-ball. Entry fee is $300 per team. Contact head pro Michael Decker at 518-584-6664 for more information.
Briar Creek Golf Course hosts the Bud Light Tournament Friday. The four-person scramble begins with a 9 a.m. shotgun start. Entry fee is $75 person and includes golf, cart, Continental breakfast at 8 a.m., lunch at the turn (hamburger, hot dog and beer/soda) and a buffet dinner after golf. Call the pro shop (518-355-6145) for reservations.
Schenectady Municipal Golf Course will offer junior golf camps June 28-July 2 and July 5-9 at a cost of $100 per student. Students will learn the full swing, short game, rules of the game, course etiquette, etc. Lunch will be served every day. The camp runs from 9 a.m. until noon each day. Sign up at the pro shop or call 518-382-3155 for more information.
Tim Ciccone aced the 142-yard 13th hole with a 6-iron while competing in the C.W. Players league at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
At Mohawk Golf Club, Howard Edelman hit a driver for his hole-in-one on the 120-yard 15th hole.
Tim Bramer aced the second hole at Rolling Hills at Antlers Country Club.
Sue Mooradian of the Country Club of Troy eagled the 406-yard par-5 first hole (for the women) in an interclub tournament at Mohawk Golf Club this week.
Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected].
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