Down the Fairway: Top 10 moments from an exciting summer in Capital Region golf

Mary Jo Kelly of Wolferts Roost CC won the NYS Women’s Super Senior Championship at Pinehaven CC. (NYSGA photo)

Mary Jo Kelly of Wolferts Roost CC won the NYS Women’s Super Senior Championship at Pinehaven CC. (NYSGA photo)

Despite one of the wettest summers in recent memory, the Capital Region enjoyed a fabulous few months of top-tier golf moments and notable achievements.

Here’s one long-time scribe’s top-10 list.

1. Gloversville native and Amsterdam businessman Lance Orcutt purchases the 27-hole Van Patten Golf Club facility in Clifton Park and plans to make many major changes, including a huge redesign by famed course architect Rees Jones and the possibility of incorporating an 18-hole executive course. Orcutt will install a new drainage and irrigation system and is buying new carts with a GPS system. He’s already hired a new executive chef for the facility’s Vista Restaurant.

2. Dan Russo ,of Hagaman, 63, not only won his second NYS Senior Men’s Amateur Golf Championship, but he also qualified for the prestigious U.S. Senior Amateur and earned a spot in match play. He’s won 19 major championships in the Capital Region, including 9 CRAGA Stroke Play titles, and he’s competed in 13 national USGA Championship events.

3. Paul Pratico, 60, tied Jim Mueller for the most Schenectady Classic victories with his eighth at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. The former pro who also has a NYS Senior Men’s Amateur title on his resume shot a three-day total of even-par 216.

4. Relative unknown Lucas Sirois, originally from Connecticut, won the Schenectady Senior Classic by four shots over Pratico for his first local major tournament victory. He carded a two-day total of 3-under-par 141 and was steady down the stretch, especially with his excellent ball-striking.

5. Heidi Harkins of Ballston Spa CC, a former Siena College women’s basketball standout, successfully battled nerves to earn her first Northeastern Women’s Golf Association championship at Colonie Golf & Country Club.

6. Kennedy Swedick, 14, of Albany Academy for Girls, competed in her first professional tournament and was up to the task in the opening round of the Symetra Tour’s Twin Bridges Championship, shooting a 5-over-par 76 that included an even-par back nine and three birdies on her final four holes at Pinehaven CC. The very first Section II girls’ individual champion went on to have an outstanding summer, competing in the prestigious U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship and the Junior PGA Championship. She’s a former Drive, Chip & Putt national finalist at Augusta National Golf Club.

7. The Capital Region hosted three New York State Golf Association events with the NYS Men’s Amateur at Schuyler Meadows Club, the NYS Women’s Senior & Super Senior Championship at Pinehaven CC and the NYS Men’s Mid-Amateur Championship at Shaker Ridge CC. It was a tremendous showcase for the best players in the state at some of our local course gems. Locals were competitive in all three events.

8. Scott Berliner, 46, the assistant pro at Saratoga Spa Golf Course, saw his amazing run of NENY PGA Stroke Play Championships snapped at 10 in a row by CC of Pittsfield head pro Eric Mabee at the CC of Troy back in May, but Berliner bounces back to win two other majors, the Donald Ross Classic and the NENY PGA Professional Championship, where he was an outstanding 13-under-par for two days at Hiland Park CC.

9. AJ Cavotta, the former Saratoga Springs High School standout who earned NEC All-Conference second team and Northeast Conference Rookie of the Year honors for Southern New Hampshire University this spring, qualified for both the U.S. Open sectional competition and the NYS Open at Bethpage State Park on Long Island. He also won the Saratoga County Amateur.

10. Mary Jo Kelly of Wolferts Roost CC won the NYS Women’s Super Senior Amateur Golf Championship by two strokes in her first event at that age division at Pinehaven CC. Kelly is a former NYS Women’s Amateur titlist, a six-time NEWGA champion, a multiple-time Gazette Women’s Amateur winner and a 30-time club champion at the Roost. She was also one of the top best-ball players in the Capital Region with longtime partner Elaine Sauers.


Scott Warren, the 51-year-old general manager at Pinehaven CC, will be leaving his position at the end of the season to open his own business, an indoor golf studio called SimGOLF located at 1451 State Highway 5S in Amsterdam.

Warren is targeting to open the facility, which will include five simulators and a small food and beverage operation, in early November.

The Guilderland High School grad started his career as an assistant pro at Pinehaven CC. He became the head pro in 1999 and moved up to club manager in 2015. He was also the former assistant varsity girls’ basketball coach at Guilderland for five years and has been The College of Saint Rose golf coach since 2012. He will continue in that position.

“I will miss everything about Pinehaven CC,” said Warren. “I’ve been at Pinehaven CC basically since 1996, and in many ways I’ve grown up and spent most of my adult life there. I’ve had some amazing experiences. During my time there we hosted multiple state championships, and we had a very neat opportunity to host a pro event with this year’s Twin Bridges Championship. We also celebrated our 50th anniversary at the club. I’ve been fortunate that there are so many members there that have treated me so well and have been so generous to me and my family. I appreciate it very much and I will miss them.

“I look forward to making new friends in the golf business and meeting new people. I’m also excited to offer my friends and members from Pinehaven CC to come and see me and my new business venture. I’ll be able to offer them a unique experience.”

During Warren’s time as head pro, he owned the pro shop concession, managed the golf operations, ran tournaments and did instructional programs. When he became general manager, his duties shifted to coordinating and recruiting outings and new memberships, dealing with the budget, overseeing the club and swimming pool operations and keeping the club’s website up to date.


Local high school boys in Section II begin golf sectionals Tuesday with the Class BCD tournament at Fairways of Halfmoon and Wednesday with the Class A tournament, also at Fairways of Halfmoon. The state qualifiers continue at Fairways of Halfmoon Oct. 16-17.

Local girls will contest their sectional tournament in all divisions Oct. 12 at McGregor Links Country Club.


Justin Hearley, assistant pro at Normanside CC, teamed up with fellow Christian Brothers Academy graduate Don DeNyse to shoot 11-under-par for 27 holes to capture the Bill Moll Memorial Triple Play Tournament Monday at Eagle Crest Golf Club. Each nine holes used a different team format.

Hales Mills CC is hosting the Spackler’s Impossible Pin Tournament Sunday at 10 a.m. Entry fee is $55 for non-members and $45 for members. Total team handicap for the four-person scramble must be at least 40. Entry fee includes hot dogs at the turn and chili and hamburgers after golf. Call the pro shop at 518-733-4622 for more information.

Eagle Crest GC will be hosting its 31st annual Scramblemania Friday at noon. Cost is $95 per player and includes golf, cart, beer, soda, pie and chili all day during play, appetizers, dinner and dessert after the tournament. There will be team gross and net prizes, as well as a skins game. Team handicap will be based on 10 percent of the total team handicap. All players must have established verifiable handicaps to be eligible for net prizes.

Briar Creek Golf Course is hosting its October-Fest Friday. Cost for the four-person scramble is $75 and includes golf, cart, lunch and a buffet dinner after the tournament. Beer and soda will also be included. There will be a Continental breakfast at 9 a.m., followed by a 10 a.m. shotgun start. Call 518-355-6145 to reserve your spot.

University at Albany sophomore Amber Thornton broke the women’s golf team records for 18-hole score (66) and 54-hole total (210) en route to winning the individual title in the Princeton Invitational this week. The Great Danes finished fifth as a team.

Schenectady Municipal Golf Course’s Bob Haggerty Two-Man Championship is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday with an entry fee of $150 per person. The entry fee includes a cart, lunch the first day and dinner the second day. Call Schenectady Municipal at 518-381-3155 for more information.

Airway Meadows Golf Club’s 23rd annual Oktoberfest Tournament is set for Sunday. Entry fee for the four-person scramble will be $120 for non-members. There will be a minimum of 72 players and a maximum of 144, with competition divided into three or four flights, depending on the number of entries. Entry fee includes golf, cart, lunch on the turn, beer, wine and soda from noon on and a steak & chicken dinner after. Call 518-792-4144 for more information.

Berliner (see top 10 season moments above) won the NENY PGA Assistants Match Play Championship by edging Andrew Daily of Albany CC 6 & 4 in the finals at Wyantenuck CC. Dal Daily completed a sweep of the NENY PGA senior majors by defeating Tom Oppedisano of Skidmore College 3 & 2 in the Senior Match Play final. Local club pros compete in their last major event with their Tour Championship Tuesday and Wednesday at the Country Club of Pittsfield. The Rolex Player of the Year will be decided there.


Matt Sypniewski used a pitching wedge for his ace on the 141-yard fifth hole at Stadium Golf Club.

At the Country Club of Troy, Dennis Gagnon recorded his first hole-in-one on the 129-yard second hole with a 5-hybrid.

Rit Lackey used a 6-iron for his ace on the 13th hole, and Mike Brown recorded a hole-in-one on the 17th hole at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.

UAlbany’s Thornton is on a hot streak lately. She also recorded her second career hole-in-one on the 10th hole at Wolferts Roost Country Club during a practice round.

Evan Spoth of Shenendehowa High School collected his first career ace on the 13th hole at The Edison Club with a 5-iron during a Suburban Council match with Shaker.

Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected]

Categories: Sports

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