Down the Fairway: NYSGA’s assistant executive director Hickey brings enthusiasm to his job

NYSGA assistant executive director Andrew Hickey announces the players as they hit their tee shots during the 98th NYS Men’s Amateur this week at Schuyler Meadows Club.

NYSGA assistant executive director Andrew Hickey announces the players as they hit their tee shots during the 98th NYS Men’s Amateur this week at Schuyler Meadows Club.

Anyone who loves to play amateur golf on an elite tournament level should thank the New York State Golf Association for helping to keep the sport alive and thriving. Much of the credit for the NYSGA’s incredible recent success stories belongs to the passion, enthusiasm and multiple talents of assistant executive director Andrew Hickey.

The NYSGA just completed overseeing the 98th annual NYS Men’s Amateur Golf Championship at Schuyler Meadows Club this week — the first of three major championships in the Capital Region this season. The NYS Senior Women’s Amateur Championship is set for Pinehaven CC Aug. 23-24, while the NYS Men’s Mid-Amateur Championship will be held Sept. 24-26 at Shaker Ridge CC. Hickey is usually one constant the competitors can count on.

The tall 37-year-old graduate of Fayetteville-Manlius High School and Binghamton University is easy to spot with his NYSGA cap and shirt. His commanding voice and hearty laugh are also very familiar. Hickey is perpetually in motion, whether it’s helping to prepare the course, coordinating his staff or making tough decisions — like managing a 2 1/2-hour storm delay during Thursday’s 36-hole finale. The final round came precariously close ending without a champion being crowned, as it was after 8 p.m. with complete darkness looming when James Allen of Scarsdale Golf Club two-putted for the title-clinching par on the 18th hole.

“We literally had to finish at the buzzer,” Hickey said. “We had no more time for even one more hole. We would have definitely had to come back the next day if there was a playoff. The defending champion and runner-up Ben Reichert, is a friend, and I was certainly glad to see that he was in contention. But it was tough to see him make a bogey on the final hole.

“But it was nice to see that James Allen won after we gave him a special exemption into the tournament. He played incredible golf, and I’m so proud of what he accomplished. He’s a great young man and someone who we are very happy to have as one of our champions.”

Hickey wears many hats for the NYSGA, including being the right-hand man for longtime executive director Bill Moore, who is quite a player in his own right. While Moore aptly handles much of the computer work and administration duties, Hickey often deals with more of the on-site responsibilities at the many tournaments run by the NYSGA.

“The most challenging part of my job currently is simply the amount of travel we have,” Hickey noted, “When I first started out, we had maybe six state championships, 10 amateur series events and a couple of USGA qualifiers to run. Now, we have in the mid-20s in the amount of amateur series events, seven or eight NYS championships, eight U.S.G.A. qualifiers and three regional association championships. We do an extreme amount of traveling, and that’s the part that is difficult as a father of three girls, ages 5, 3 and 7 months. Fortunately, my wife, Mary, is an exceptional woman, and we have a great support structure. If I were king I would reduce the amount of travel that we have to maybe just our biggest events.”

Except for the PGA of America, which is national in scope and is represented by the Northeastern New York PGA locally, the NYSGA is the largest and most important regional organization in our sport. The U.S.G.A., of course, has major influence on a national scale, but it’s the NYSGA that runs the U.S.G.A. events close to home.

The NYSGA was founded on August 9, 1923, at Yahnundasis Golf Club in New Hartford. It’s an association of member clubs and represented by over 130 committee members that exist with the purpose of promoting and conserving the traditions of golf throughout New York State. The NYSGA provides club services such as the GHIN Handicap System, course rating & measuring, rules education and the NYSGA scholarship program.

For many of the events coordinated by the NYSGA, maybe a handful of staff members and volunteers are needed to run the tournaments, but for this week’s NYS Men’s Amateur, an army was needed.

“For this event, it was all hands on deck,” Hickey said. “It seems like the amount of people we have working for us changes so quickly, but I would say now that we have about six full-time staff members and three interns, plus another seasonal worker. We have eight or nine members of the NYSGA on site, and another 15 volunteers who act as rules officials. The host club provides us with 10-20 volunteers who spot for us and do other things like helping with scoring or other duties inside the clubhouse.

“Our infrastructure is quite extensive. It takes a cohesive team to put on a successful event, and it’s a challenge to manage. I would say one of my strengths is also a weakness. I’m so driven to ensure the success of our events, that I’ll do whatever it takes. We spend hundreds of hours preparing for and running a tournament — especially for the recent Men’s Amateur Championship. Besides managing the crazy staff workload I’ve got a pretty strong relationship with our stakeholders, our club members, our volunteers and especially our players. Our association provides a service. Members of the clubs we hold tournaments at give up their course, and we try to maintain it during our championships.”

Other members of the NYSGA brain trust include director of marketing and partnerships Dan Thompson, who acts as the communications director and the lead photographer; foundation manager Kara Cushman, manager of competitions Jack Travers, administrative assistant Deb Spilman, manager of course rating Mark Ackley and current interns Dan Mort, Michael Dirkes and Jack Margaros.

Besides the NYSGA staff members, there are also numerous officers involved, including president Joseph Enright, first vice president Henry Fust, second vice president Jamie Miller, treasurer Robert Smith, general counsel Peter Jones and secretary Iris Stanek. Many former officers like former president Dick Dorgan were also contributing their services this week at Schuyler Meadows Club.

Local members of the executive committee include John Cooney of Burden Lake CC, Jim Gifford of Mohawk Golf Club and former president Warren Winslow of Western Turnpike GC.

Besides developing his interns, Hickey said he enjoys the friendships he’s fostered with players and staff over the years. He said the NYSGA is looking to put more emphasis on women’s tournaments in the future, as well as supporting more amateur competitions on a local level, including investing more time in helping to run regional golf associations.

“Growing the game is what we do,” Hickey said.

By the way, along with the NYSGA staff and volunteers, a tip of the hat should be given to the Schuyler Meadows Club staff, including head pro Steve Jensen, assistant pro Mike Shine, general manager Mike Rezey and the many Schuyler Meadows personnel that kept nearly 200 people fed, hydrated and comfortable this week.

Brian Mariano won his third straight Mechanicville Golf Club championship by surviving a three-way playoff with Alex Grayson and Shea Bromirski in the Championship Flight. Jim Sullivan won his third straight Forward Flight title. Jim Kenyon, Gary Sweeney and Rich Duda won net division titles.
At The Edison Club, Bruce Abrahamson won the overall title, Tom Brady captured the Legends Division and Bruce Kosienski won the Senior Division for the men, while Kim Southern took the women’s senior crown during the annual Senior Club Championship.

Aubrey Nethaway won the girls’ 10-14 age division, and CJ Durnick won the boys’ 15-18 age division in the Babe Russo Junior Amsterdam City Championship at Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course. The event was sponsored by Dan Russo.

Van Patten Golf Club hosts its 27-hole Iron Man tournament Saturday with tee times starting at 1 p.m. Entry fee is $90 and includes a small bucket of range balls and cart. Men will play from the white tees, and women will compete from the silver tees. Contact Van Patten GC at 518-877-5400 for more information.

Normanside Country Club assistant pro Justin Hearley carded a 1-under-par 70 to win the Pro Classic Series No. 5 at Orchard Creek last week. He won by three shots over Marc Levesque of Wyantenuck CC, Dal Daily of Battenkill CC and Chris Ferraro of Ascot Park Golf Center. John Durcan, PGA Life Member, shot a 73 to beat Tom Phillion of SUNY Delhi (74) in the Legends Division.

Next up on the NENY PGA schedule is the Senior Stroke Play Championship Wednesday at Fox Run Golf Club and the Professional Championship August 23-24 at Hiland Park CC.

Albany Country Club hosts the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship local qualifier on Wednesday.

The Northeastern Women’s Golf Association holds its next tournament, the Two-Player Scramble, Thursday at Cobleskill Golf & Country Club.

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 Saturday 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), Sept. 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 30th annual John C. Daly-James W. Michaels ALS Memorial Open, to benefit the ALS Regional Center, has been postponed from Sept. 22 to Oct. 20 at Van Patten GC because of an increase in COVID in infection rates in the Capital Region. 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.

Better known as an outstanding left-handed bowler, Sherm Bowman collected his first hole-in-one with a 6-iron on the 145-yard eighth hole at Hales Mills CC.

John Poklemba aced the 13th hole with a 5-wood at The Edison Club.

Joe Olybrech aced the 124-yard 17th hole with a 9-iron at Ballston Spa CC.

At Briar Creek Golf Course, Jennifer Bautochka hit an 8-iron for her hole-in-one on the 92-yard seventh hole.

Pat Millett holed out with a wedge on the 135-yard 11th hole for his third career hole-in-one at Mechanicville Golf Club.

Calvin Helms posted a hole-in-one on the eighth hole at Stadium Golf Club.

Bob Olwert eagled the par-5 third hole at Briar Creek Golf Course.

Jim Sullivan eagled the 17th hole while playing in the Frog Island league, and Dave Caschera recorded an eagle-2 on the par-4 sixth hole with an 8-iron at Mechanicville Golf Club.

Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected].

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