By Scott Berliner’s extremely high standards, the 2021 golf season has been sub par figuratively. But this week, his performance was literally sub par by quite an impressive margin.
The 46-year-old assistant pro at Saratoga Spa Golf Course was magnificent during the NENY PGA’s annual Professional Championship held Tuesday and Wednesday at Hiland Park Country Club. He carded a 5-under-par 67 in the first round, and then really turned it on in the final round with an 8-under-par 64 to win by eight shots. That effort clinched his trip to the National PGA Professional Championship in April.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Berliner, a 10-time NENY PGA Player of the Year who saw his 10-year streak of winning the section’s stroke play championship snapped by CC of Pittsfield head pro Eric Mabee this spring at the Country Club of Troy. “It was just one of those things. I wish I could plan when I’m going to play well. I didn’t do much the last month, because I’ve been dealing with some family stuff. I hit balls maybe twice, and I didn’t play at all. I went into it not really caring whether I played well at all. My attitude was that I was just happy to be playing at all.”
Berliner recorded 14 birdies over the two-day event, including eight in the final round. He’s now won an impressive 56 NENY PGA events, including 10 Stroke Play Championships, nine Donald Ross Classics, including three in a row, and three Match Play triumphs to go along with his six wins in the Professional Championship. He’s won more than $90,300 in his career. This season, although not as dominant as usual, he’s still won seven events, including two majors.
“I’ve been playing Hiland Park CC for about 25 years, and I pretty much know the course better than anybody,” said the Saratoga Springs resident, who is also an assistant coach for the Skidmore College golf team. “I had no expectations though. I just hit the ball fairly well. I was shocked, because I had no idea what I was going to do.”
Berliner said the 64 he carded in the final round was one of his best rounds ever. He shot a 61 twice in tournament play, once in a pro-member at Saratoga Golf & Polo Club and another time in the opening round of the Tupper Lake Open.
Berliner is battling for another Player of the Year title — he’s won 10 — but is in quite a tussle with Normanside CC assistant pro Justin Hearley.
“If I play well, everything will take care of itself,” Berliner said. “I like a little pressure on myself. It re-energizes me. I know Justin wants to beat me. We’ve been friends for a long time, and we worked together for a while at Normanside. He reaches out to me when he has swing problems. But I know he wants to win. Dal Daily played great, and Eric Mabee is always tough. Luckily, he’s very busy at his club and can’t get away that often.”
Berliner has done just about everything he can on a local level, but he says he wants to improve on the regional and national level.
“I’m getting better in many aspects of my game,” he said. “With me, it’s always been a struggle mentally. It’s not about my ability but about hoe I treat myself and how I approach things. With my family situation recently, golf hasn’t been the be-all, end-all. Now, I want to start playing well at the national level. I want to make the cut at the National Professional Championship, earn a berth in the PGA Championship and then make the cut there. That’s my next focus.”
Although he’s had some knee and back issues, Berliner said his health is in pretty good shape. He’s still a major factor on the club pro circuit, and most of his colleagues still realize that when he’s on his game, it’s going to take quite an effort to beat him.
By the way, five-time NENY PGA Player of the Year Dal Daily of Premier Golf Fitness in Clifton Park finished second and also earned a berth into the National PGA Professional Championship. Mabee was the first alternate. Kyle Kressler of Cedarview CC and Scott Battiste of Eagle Crest Golf Club were the other two alternates.
Dan Russo of Hagaman was a last-minute alternate for the U.S. Senior Amateur this week at the Country Club of Detroit in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. After learning he was in the field, he immediately flew out without much preparation. He then made the 64-player cut for match play and won his first two matches. It was quite a performance for the 63-year-old Schuyler Meadows Club member who also won his second NYS Senior Amateur title this season. He’s competed in 12 USGA events and is the Capital Region’s all-time leader in major tournament wins, including nine CRAGA Stroke Play crowns.
Justin Vonk and Greg Hayes defeated Alex Kelley and Nolan Crowley on the second playoff hole to secure the Shaker Ridge Invitational title. Other division winners were Lance Hope with Chad Stoffer in the First Flight, Chris Comi with Doug Kilmer in the Senior Flight and Gary Grimaldi with Al Stranahan in the Super Senior Flight.
Luke Morgenstein (flight 1), John Simmons (flight 2) and Sally Gray (women’s flight) are the divisional winners for the Cobleskill Golf & Country Club Presidents Cup. Morgenstein and Simmons will square off for the overall Presidents Cup title.
Evan Drew has been named the new head golf coach at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, replacing Jamie Jackson.
Van Patten Golf Club’s 36-hole Club Championship will be held Saturday and Sunday with tee times beginning at 8:30 a.m. There will be gross and net scoring in the men’s and senior (age 50 and older) divisions. There is also an optional skins game. Entry fee is 150 per player, or $50 for members. Cart and a small bucket of range balls are included in the fee. All play will be from the white tees. Call 518-877-5400 for more information or to register.
Normanside CC will host a qualifier for the NYS Men’s Mid-Amateur Championship on Tuesday. The NYS Men’s Mid-Amateur will be held Sept. 24-26 at Shaker Ridge CC.
Two-time NEWGA champion Sue Kahler of Ballston Spa CC shot a two-day total of 154 to win the overall gross title in the NEWGA Seniors Championship this week at the Country Club of Troy. Linda Kolnick of Canajoharie CC shot a 161 to win the Super Senior crown. Jennifer DiIorio of Burden Lake (156) won the first flight, Heidi Harkins of Ballston Spa CC (162) captured the second flight, Anne Van Buren of Pinehaven CC (166) triumphed in the third flight, Kathy Harkins of Ballston Spa CC (175) took the fourth flight, Anne Poulin of Mohawk Golf Club (165) was first in the fifth flight and Kate Oppedisano of Ballston Spa CC (180) won the sixth flight.
Local assistant club pros will compete in the National Car Rental Assistants Championship Tuesday at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
Briar Creek Golf Course will host the St. Jude Tournament on Sunday at 1 p.m. The four-person scramble will cost $100 and includes a cart, lunch at noon and a pig roast. Beer and soda also will be included. $25 of every entry will go directly to St. Jude. Call 518-355-6145 to register.
Brad Gardner, head pro at The Edison Club, will play in his annual Patriot Golf Day marathon for the Folds of Honor on Wednesday. Anyone who donates at least $250 or makes a per hole pledge will be entered into a drawing to win five golf lessons with Brad There will be a luncheon Wednesday to help cheer Brad on. The luncheon will be served between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. The cost of the luncheon is $40, with half the fee going directly to the Folds of Honor. Gardner is hoping to raise at least $50,000 this year. The Folds of Honor helps raise scholarship money for the children of fallen soldiers.
Fox Run Golf Club will host a Long Drive contest Saturday. Entry fee is $25 and proceeds benefit the NENY PGA HOPE chapter (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere). Included in the fee will be live music, raffles and a barbecue. Contact Fox Run (518-762-3717) for more information.
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.
During the Shaker Ridge Invitational, Joe Marro Jr. aced the 143-yard fourth hole with a 51-degree wedge.
At Stadium Golf Club, Allen Brozowski hit a 6-iron for his hole-in-one on the 180-yard 12th hole.
John Evertsen hit an 8-iron for his second career hole-in-one on the 17th hole at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
Amanda Fifield, the head softball coach at Ballston Spa High School, collected her first hole-in-one on the 185-yard seventh hole at Mechanicville Golf Club. She used a 3 hybrid. Club manager Rich Duda said it’s the toughest hole on the course. Fifield said it was only her fourth time playing golf this season. She has played golf on and off for eight years.
Laurie Phelps hit a 4-hybrid and a 6-iron for her eagle-2 on the par-4 sixth hole at Mechanicville Golf Club.
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