VOORHEESVILLE — Ballston Spa Country Club member Heidi Harkins used a lot of self-talk to help her remain composed and focused during the final round of the Northeastern Women’s Golf Association Championship Wednesday.
The 59-year-old former Siena College women’s basketball standout played solid, steady golf with her second straight 7-over-par 80 capture her first major tournament title by three shots over Mary Scatena of Pinehaven CC, who also carded an 80 at Colonie Golf & Country Club. Defending champion Rachel Barlette of Shaker Ridge CC was another shot back with an 86-164.
“That’s my first win in almost any individual tournament. I did win a ringers tournament this year,” said Harkins. “I’m not as seasoned as these guys are. I just tried to stick with it. Mentally, I tried not to get myself out of my game.”
Harkins, the sister of former NEWGA champion Kathy Harkins, said she concentrated on just one key thought for every shot.
“I have a few things I think about on each hole,” she explained. “When I putt, I think about one swing thought, and when I make other shots I think about another. Mentally, I haven’t done that well in tournaments in the past, but having just one swing thought at a time I think helped. I’m just glad it’s over.”
Harkins kept Barlette’s scorecard throughout the round, so she knew where she stood against the defending champion in her own group. That duo remained close throughout the front nine, with Harkins getting into trouble on the 12th hole and Barlette picking up a shot with a par. But for the second straight day, the long-hitting Barlette struggled on the par-5 13th hole with a double bogey, and Harkins picked up a couple of shots with a par.
Harkins didn’t know it at the time, because she had no idea that Scatena, the former Schenectady Women’s Classic titlist, was also in the mix, but she basically clinched the title with a 12-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole. Barlette bogeyed that hole but birdied the 18th hole. Harkins three-putted for bogey, but it didn’t matter.
“I kind of knew where I was, but I wouldn’t allow myself to think about more than just the next shot,” Harkins said. “Fortunately, it worked out. I’m very lucky, and I try to remind myself about that.”
Harkins earned a basketball scholarship at Siena and played for the Saints from 1980 through 1984. When her mother passed away in 2005, she joined Ballston Spa CC, even though she wasn’t much of a golfer at the time.
“I’ve played a lot of golf with Sue [25-time club champion Sue Kahler] and my sister. They are so willing to help me,” Harkins said. “I’m a student of the game. I first started taking lessons from [Western Turnpike pro] Herb Moreland. [Teaching pro] John Souza does some tune-ups for me sometimes. I’m trying to shorten my swing,” she said. “I’m a work in progress.”
Harkins said after playing basketball for Siena under Joe Hogan, she played some softball and picked up golf in her 40s.
“I think [basketball] helped with my hand-eye coordination,” she said. “But golf is an animal when it comes to the mental aspect. It really taught me a lot to pull up my bootstraps and stick with it.”
Former Siena women’s coach Gina Castelli, who recently took up golf herself and often plays at Ballston Spa CC, waited at the 18th hole to surprise Harkins and congratulate her.
Scatena, another late bloomer in the sport, was playing in the threesome ahead of Harkins and didn’t know where she stood in comparison, but she ended up earning runner-up honors.
“I just kind of went back to a Peter Gerard swing thought,” Scatena explained about some lessons she received from the Mill Road Acres teaching pro. “It helped. Actually, I hit the ball pretty well [Tuesday], but I had four three-putts. Today I had just one.”
Scatena said she is just now getting used to playing tournament golf away from her own club.
“It took some persuading to get me into competitive golf, but I’m doing more single stuff now,” she said, “Sometimes I hit the ball well, and sometimes I don’t. I didn’t worry about the others today. I was just trying to better my score from yesterday and tried not to make any mental mistakes,” she said. “I made two of them .There were two holes I wish I had done better, but I’m not a scratch golfer.”
Meanwhile, Barlette’s putter went cold on Wednesday after being her most consistent club on Tuesday.
“My putter let me down today, big time,” Barlette said. “I three-putted so many times. [Tuesday] I putted fabulously. Today, I struggled. I could not get the pace down, and it showed. Overall, I played OK, but I was very frustrated with my putting. It was so hot and cold. Today, it was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
Jennifer DiIorio of Burden Lake Country Club won the second flight with an 83-172, while Sandy Morley of Burden Lake CC won the third flight with a 98-195. Carol Preusser of Copake Country Club shot 99-197 to win the fourth flight.
First flight — Heidi Harkins 80-160, Mary Scatena 80-163, Rachel Barlette 86-164, Nan Lanahan 84-167, Laura Couch 89-170, Sue Kahler 85-170, Nancy Kroll 87-170, Kathy Harkins 86-174, Ella Kellogg 83-175. Low net: Barlette 146.
Second flight — Jennifer DiIorio 83-172, Debra DiMaggio 88-179, Heather Morrison 91-182, Anne Oakley 94-185, Kathy Canestrini 90-189, Cindy Walkanowski 95-191, Kim Skiba 96-196, Peg Squazzo 99-200. Low net: DiMaggio 147.
Third flight — Sandy Morley 98-195, Diane Delamater 101-203, Donna Heskett 191-204, Christina McKnight 101-205, Sandy Weckter 102-205, Mary Kruchinski 106-210, Jane King 108-211. Low net: Delamater 155.
Fourth flight — Carol Preusser 99-197, Bonnie St. Denis 98-200, Mary Assey 103-206, Myra Johnson 110-212, Diane Busa 107-214, Selena Balick 105-215, Christine Brown 109-219, Kelly Gordon 110-219, Debra Gordon 116-236. Low net: St. Denis 148.
Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected].
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