Down the Fairway: Russo wins second straight New York State Senior Amateur title

Dan Russo of Schuyler Meadows won his second consecutive NYS Senior Amateur this week at The Powelton Club in Newburgh. He also will be one of the favorites in this week’s State Amateur at Gus home course. (NYSGA photo)

Dan Russo of Schuyler Meadows won his second consecutive NYS Senior Amateur this week at The Powelton Club in Newburgh. He also will be one of the favorites in this week’s State Amateur at Gus home course. (NYSGA photo)

Dan Russo is undoubtedly one of the greatest amateur golfers ever to come out of this area. He proved it once again this week by winning his second consecutive New York State Senior Amateur Championship, and he will try to buck the odds by becoming the first Capital Region representative to win the regular NYS Men’s Amateur Championship since Jay Gunning in 1986 when he competes on his home course this week at Schuyler Meadows Club.

Russo, a 63-year-old resident of Hagaman, held a six-stroke lead heading into the final round Thursday at The Powelton Club in Newburgh. He had to hold on for dear life, however, shooting a 77 to win by just one shot with a three-day total of 3-over-par 213. He never felt comfortable in the final round, but it had nothing to do with nerves. After all, he’s a proven winner over more than four decades.

“I can’t quite figure out what happened,” said Russo, who also won the NYS Senior Amateur back in 2019 at the Cavalry Club in Syracuse when it was shortened by rain after two rounds. There wasn’t a senior state tournament last year because of the pandemic.

“It was the strangest thing,” Russo explained. “I didn’t get nervous one time, but I couldn’t hit a golf shot. I don’t know. It was kind of funny. I kind of lost my focus, and I lost my concentration. I forgot how far ahead I was, and I was out of sorts the whole final round.”

Russo said he was in a sort of a twilight zone on Thursday.

“Normally, if I’m in the last group, I’m always keeping the other guys’ scores, and I didn’t even do that this time,” he said. “But I will say that winning is hard at any level. This is only the third time I’ve played in this thing [a state tournament]. Hopefully, this is a little vindication for the last time I played in this when the final round was rained out, but I just try to play as hard as I can no matter what.”

No local amateur can match Russo’s career record that includes 19 majors (nine Capital Region Amateur Golf Association Stroke Play Championships, two Tri-County Golf Association Stroke Play titles, five TCGA Match Play crowns, two Troy Invitational trophies and one Times Union Amateur Championship) to go along with his two NYS championships and 12 appearances in national USGA Championships.

His longevity is perhaps one of his most impressive qualities, but although he was a multi-sport standout as a youngster, he’s not a physical fitness buff.

“I try to stretch and use a foam roller to get all the knots out. Sometimes I walk, but those are the only things I do,” he said. “I don’t work out at the gym or anything like that.”

Although Russo will be playing at his home course this week in the biggest tournament of the year, he doesn’t consider himself the favorite. After all, many of the competitors will be less than half his age.

“If I’m playing well, and the other guy is also playing good, then I might have a little edge being on my home course, but if you are not striking the ball properly and hitting it where you are supposed to, the home course doesn’t mean anything,” Russo said. “I’m used to seeing a lot of guys who can hit it way past me now. That’s OK, but at the end of the day, as I used to tell my son when he was little, it doesn’t make a difference what you’re doing, it’s what you get. I don’t care how you made your score. You still have to put the ball in the hole.”

Russo earned an exemption into this week’s NYS Men’s Amateur, which will be held Tuesday through Thursday, with 36 holes being played the final day. All competitors must walk.

Other locals in the field include John Downey (CC of Troy), Chad Stoffer (Town of Colonie GC), Mike Dwyer (The Edison Club), Michael Stopera (The Edison Club), Luis Walsh (Ballston Spa CC), Matt Welch (CC of Troy), Chris Falvey (Schuyler Meadows), Jim Mueller (Orchard Creek), Jim Welch (Olde Kinderhook), Aidan Fitzgerald (NYSGA eClub-Capital District), Paul Pratico (Schenectady Municipal), AJ Cavotta (NYSGA eClub-Capital District), Travis Koch (Saratoga National), Kevin O’Leary (Schuyler Meadows), Ryan Foster (Schuyler Meadows), David Hayes (Schuyler Meadows), Tom McGinn (Wykagyl CC), Ben Rublee (CC of Troy) and Nick Lyons (Schuyler Meadows).
Rounding out the huge contingent of area players are Sean Puleo (Schuyler Meadows), Paul Goetz (The Edison Club), Travis Deuel (Park Hiland CC), Joe Fitzsimmons (Shaker Ridge CC), Christopher Rust (Shaker Ridge CC), Steve Quillinan (CC of Troy), Connor Adams (The Edison Club), Jim Gifford (NYSGA eClub-Capital District), Tim Flanigan (NYSGA eClub-Capital District), Matt Clarke (Cazenovia CC) and Ryan Davis (Albany CC).

Jim Mueller of Orchard Creek, the eight-time Schenectady Classic champion and five-time winner of the Schenectady Senior Classic, finished third in last week’s NYS Senior Amateur. Bob Cooper of Schenectady Municipal, a two-time Schenectady Classic winner, tied for second in the Super Senior Division.

Effective Monday, all members of the public and golf staff must wear masks or facial coverings when entering any building at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.

NEWGA’s Gail Sykes Better Ball of Two Championship will be held Monday at Albany Country Club.

Local NENY PGA club pros compete in their Pro Classic No. 5 Tuesday at Orchard Creek Golf Course. The NENY PGA assistant pros and seniors play their Match Play Championship Wednesday and Thursday at Town of Colonie Golf Course.

The Doug Evans Memorial Family Cup, named in honor of the longtime former tournament director of the NENY PGA who died last year, will be held Aug. 21 at Town of Colonie Golf Course. The nine-hole team scramble costs $199 per team and includes golf, contests, prizes and a box lunch. Tee times will be available from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Proceeds will benefit the NENY PGA Reach Foundation, which creates and offers scholarships to junior golfers attending college and also awards grants for the section’s junior tour entry fees. Contributions and volunteering to help during the event are also requested. There is more information on the section’s website.

Fox Run Golf Club will host the inaugural Runway for Hope, a charity fundraiser to benefit PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere), September 11 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Activities include a long drive golf competition at the Fulton County airport tarmac, a drive, chip and putt competition, a barbecue, music and raffles. Contact Fox Run Golf Club (518-762-3717) for more information.

Schenectady Municipal Golf Course will host the 13th annual Schenectady City School District Hall of Fame Golf Tournament Sept. 12. The format will be a modified four-person scramble. Entry fee is $400 per foursome and includes golf, cart, buffet and prizes. This event was named in honor of SCSD Athletic Hall of Fame member Peter Famiano for 10 years. Call Bob Pezzano at 518-346-9297 for more information.

Town of Colonie Golf Course will host the Northeastern New York PGA’s Drive, Chip and Putt sub-regional Aug. 22. The top three players from each age division of the local qualifiers advance to this round.

The 34th annual Shaker Ridge Invitational is set for Aug. 27-29 at Shaker Ridge Country Club. The tournament consists of four scratch divisions of two-man teams with a maximum field of 60 teams. Teams will be flighted after the first 36 holes. Applications close Aug. 19. Entry fee is $470 per team. Jim Gifford and Jim Welch are defending champions in the Championship Division. Tony Hejna and Matt Clarke teamed up to win the Senior Division a year ago, and Gary Grimaldi combined with Chris Nachtrieb to win the Super Senior Division. For more information, contact the pro shop at 518-869-5101.

The 30th annual John C. Daly-James W. Michaels ALS Memorial Open, to benefit the ALS Regional Center, returns after a year off because of the COVID pandemic. The popular tournament, with a new scramble format, will be played Sept. 22, with a rain date of Sept. 29, at Van Patten Golf Club. There will be only one squad this year at 10:30 a.m. Cost per foursome is $760. In the previous 29 seasons, this tournament has raised $2.3 million for the ALS Regional Center. There will be several special live-auction items available, including a New Year’s weekend in Chicago and tickets to the Bears vs. New York Giants game, as well as an exclusive New Year’s Eve party at a high-end hotel.

Amsterdam native Dave Thibodeau recorded his first hole-in-one with an 8-iron on the 120-yard second hole at the Dorset Field Club in Dorset, Vermont.

At Van Patten Golf Club, Chuck Devoe used a 9-iron for his ace on the 105-yard 15th hole.

Tim Howland holed out with a 9-iron for an ace on the 165-yard third hole at Airway Meadows Golf Club.

At Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course, Kevin Sarsfield used a 3-wood for a hole-in-one on the 213-yard eighth hole.

Ying Kuwahara, playing with her husband, Ichiro, scored a double eagle on the par-5 10th hole at Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course.

Also at Amsterdam Municipal, Mary Derose eagled the par-5 15th hole.

Harry Buffardi eagled the 11th hole while playing in the Gold Key Realty league at Stadium Golf Club.

At Schenectady Municipal Golf Course, Jim Harrington eagled the par-5 second hole, Ted Brann eagled the par-5 ninth hole and Bob Mantello eagled the par-5 12th hole.

Keegan Zoller eagled the 489-yard par-5 18th hole at Hiland Park CC.

Harold Cote eagled the eighth hole with a 7-wood at Fox Run Golf Club.

Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected].

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