Whether he’s giving lessons at The Edison Club or strumming his guitar for the Big Sky Country band, versatile head pro Brad Gardner enjoys making people smile.
For the last three years, those smiles also meant tons of cash for the Folds of Honor, a national organization that helps raise scholarships for the children of fallen soldiers. Thanks to his annual golf marathon, or golf-a-thon, Gardner, 33, has raised just under $110,000. His goal for this year’s golf-a-thon — set for Sept. 8 at The Edison Club — is to raise at least $50,000, the same amount he rounded up from donations a year ago.
Starting early in the morning, Gardner simply tees it up and plays as many holes as he possibly can. Money is raised through sponsorships per hole or through a flat rate.
“I don’t care how they do it, as long as they give us the money,” Gardner said with a laugh. “Flat donations or hole donations are fine with me.”
In Gardner’s first marathon for charity, he played an eye-popping 177 holes. That number increased to 204 his second season and to an incredible 342 last year. For those of us who get tired playing just 18 holes — even with a cart — it’s hard to believe someone can play that much golf in several weeks, let alone one day.
Gardner was asked how he can play that much golf in such a short amount of time.
“I think it starts with having a good golf swing and swinging the club with the right muscles so my body doesn’t collapse,” he explained. “Last year, Craig McLean [The Edison Club general manager] got involved and we had a little game at the club. We called it the tortoise, meaning Craig, vs. the hare, meaning me. But he had some tricks up his sleeve. He strapped up more lights than there are at the Albany Airport to his cart, and he started out at 12:01 a.m. I didn’t start until dawn, but I got it done.”
Gardner said he plays a sort of speed golf, but every hole is legit.
“I put the tee in the ground, don’t take any practice swings, and start playing,” he said. “The ball must go in the hole. I don’t find every ball off the tee because the rough at Edison is pretty deep, so I cheat a little, but I always finish every hole.”
Gardner said he keeps score just so he knows how many holes he’s played.
“Score wasn’t that important to me,” he said. “The highest score I think I’ve had for any of the marathon days was 18-over-par,” he noted. “It speaks to the fact that most of us golfers over-think every shot normally. You can’t do that playing in the marathon.”
The native of Chittenango and graduate of the professional golf management program at Florida Gulf Coast University has been at The Edison Club since 2010. He started out as an assistant pro and moved up to head pro when McLean stepped up from head pro to general manager.
I asked Gardner why he got involved with the Folds of Honor program.
“I think it was empathy,” he explained. “I always admired the men and women that serve our country. It takes a lot of bravery to go over and fight that fight. I felt I had to do something to show my gratitude. The PGA does a lot of work with the Folds of Honor program.”
Gardner believes that many golf courses around the area could also help the Folds of Honor program in a similar fashion.
“You get a lot out of it,” he said. “I got a chance to talk with a Gold Star Mom [mother and wife of a fallen soldier] last year and she told me about what she’s gone through and what her kids have gone through. It’s pretty incredible. I wish we could get more PGA professionals to do a golf-a-thon. I realize a whole tournament is difficult, but a golf-a-thon is so simple. It’s a win-win situation.”
His work as a golf professional leaves him very little time for a hobby, but he also plays guitar in the Big Sky Country band. He caught the musical bug from his father, who was also in a band.
“It’s quite a bit different than my day job,” he said. “Taking 5-Hour energy drinks gets me through. It’s certainly a challenge, especially since we have less staffing now at The Edison Club and there are more hours there. But I enjoy it, and I make it work. I’m lucky to have support from Craig McLean and from the club members. Many of them come to hear me play.”
Gardner said his two most memorable golf moments were watching Tiger Woods win the 1997 Masters and losing a six-shot lead on the back nine of his club championship when he was just 17 years old. He has one hole-in-one in his career — on the seventh hole at The Edison Club with a 7-iron. His career-low round is a 6-under-par 64 during his Players Ability Test at Crestwood Golf Club near Syracuse.
“That’s the only round I ever played where I had no clue what I was shooting,” he recalled. “I just knew I was going to pass the test.”
If anyone wants to donate to Gardner’s golf-a-thon, they can send money directly to The Edison Club or they can find out more information at Foldsofhonor.org. Look for a link on golf marathons, and The Edison Club is listed.
The NENY PGA Professional Championship, one of the section’s major events, was moved to this Monday and Tuesday at Hiland Park Country Club in Queensbury because of extremely wet conditions last week.
Marianne Springer of The Edison Club, 70, qualified for the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur September 10-15 at The Lakewood Club in Point Clear, Alabama.
Aaron Simone, a former Schenectady Classic champion, won the Pinehaven Country Club men’s club championship last week with a four-day total of 298. Brian Pesavento was second with a 308. Jim Leonard carded a 319 to win the First Flight. Nan Lanahan won the women’s club championship with a two-day total of 170. Diane Fowler was the net champion with a 149 after winning a playoff over Ann Capobianco.
Matt Buckley of RPI has been named to the Golf Coaches Association of America Northeast All-Freshmen team. Buckley tied for fourth at the Liberty League Championship and was named the Liberty League’s Rookie of the Year. He averaged 75.5 strokes per round.
The NEWGA Senior Championships will be held Tuesday and Wednesday at The Country Club of Troy.
A benefit golf outing for the City Mission of Schenectady will be held Sept. 25 at Mohawk River Country Club & Chateau. Greens fees are $50, and a minimum tax deductible donation of $40 to the City Mission of Schenectady is requested. For more information, contact [email protected]
Rotary Clubs from throughout the Capital Region are sponsoring the 23rd annual “Gift of Life International Golf Tournament” on Sept. 20 at Pinehaven Country Club. Proceeds help provide funding to bring children from across the globe to Albany Medical Center for necessary pediatric heart surgery which cannot be performed in their home nations. To register to play or to support the event through sponsorships, go to www.gifttolife7190.org or call Richard Suker at 518-858-8839.
There was quite an interesting twist to Sherm Bowman’s recent hole-in-one at Hales Mills Country Club. Right before Bowman collected his first career ace, his playing partner, Dave Seward, also collected a hole-in-one on the same 145-yard hole over water. That’s two aces in two swings. According to the PGA, less than two percent of golfers score a hole-in-one in any given year. The odds of two players from the same foursome recording an ace on the same hole is 17 million to one. The odds of back-to-back swings resulting in aces is approximately 64 million to one.
Shaker Ridge Country Club has had a busy season with honor shots. Here’s a list catching up for the last two months.
In July, Steve Meleco used a 9-iron to ace the 122-yard fourth hole, Jerry Corcoran hit a hybrid on the 140-yard 16th hole, Sara Spychalski holed out with a 7-iron on the fourth hole playing at 96-yards and Pat Dwyer hit a 3 hybrid for an ace in the 175-yard 12th hole.
In August, Rich Barlette Sr. hit a pitching wedge on the 111-yard fourth hole, Robert Norton also hit a pitching wedge on the same hole for his hole-in-one, and John Seligman aced the fourth hole as well.
Bob Farstad of the Scotia Seniors league collected his first hole-in-one with a 7-iron on the 120-yard 14th hole at Mill Road Acres.
John Lee eagled the ninth hole while playing in the Handicappers league at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected]
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