Down the Fairway: Amateurs take Challenge Cup

AJ Cavotta, a Saratoga Springs High School and Southern New Hampshire University standout, lines up a putt during the annual Challenge Cup at The Country Club of Troy. Cavotta helped the amateurs beat the pros. (Photo provided)

AJ Cavotta, a Saratoga Springs High School and Southern New Hampshire University standout, lines up a putt during the annual Challenge Cup at The Country Club of Troy. Cavotta helped the amateurs beat the pros. (Photo provided)

BRUNSWICK —- A transformer exploded, cutting the power supply during the annual Challenge Cup between the top local pros and many of the best area amateurs last week at The Country Club of Troy.

But despite some minor inconveniences with the scoring display, the Capital Region Amateur Golf Association took back the Cup with some electric performances from their talented youngsters to hold off a late charge by the pros.

The CRAGA team, led by the Siena College tandem of Nolan Crowley and Nick Lyons, won 31.5-22.5 over the Northeastern New York PGA, which won last year. Each team fielded 12 players, who competed in both tandem and individual match play. One point each was awarded for winning the front side, the back side and total in each team and individual match. There were nine points available in each of the six foursomes.

Crowley, a former Saratoga High School standout who plays out of Saratoga Golf & Polo Club, and Lyons, a former Albany Academy star who competes out of Schuyler Meadows, won all nine of their points to sweep pros Marc Levesque of Wyantenuck CC and Anthony Therrien of Brookhaven Golf Course.

Tom McGinn of Wolferts Roost CC and former Saratoga County Men’s Amateur champ AJ Cavotta, another former Saratoga Springs star now competing for Southern New Hampshire University, also excelled, winning eight of their nine points against Skidmore College coach Tom Oppedisano and Mohawk Golf Club pro Jeremy Kerr. Young guns Ryan Davis of Albany CC and Mike Stopera of The Edison Club had the third-best showing with 7.5 points in their match with Fox Run Golf Club owner/head pro Rich Scott with Cedarview Golf Club owner/head pro Kyle Kessler.

Longtime amateur captain Dan Russo of Schuyler Meadows Club was excited that a new batch of amateurs played a huge role in the win.

“That’s awesome,” he said of the youngsters’ strong efforts. “I was thrilled to hear how all the young guys did. It’s always good to get new people involved, especially the kids. It’s always fun to play against the pros as we amateurs don’t get much of a chance to play against them. They are our peers for sure.”

“It was really cool that two of us players from the Siena team got nine points,” said Crowley, a former Section II Player of the Year. “We actually won the match on the 16th hole. Then we played a match against each other on the 17th and 18th holes.”

Crowley said that both he and Lyons rolled in five birdies during their match.

“The greens are very tricky there,” he said. “That’s the first time I ever played there. It was hard to get going at first. It was a really cool course, and I was able to check it off on my list of courses that I’ve played.

“That’s the first time I played in a legitimate format against the pros, but I’ve played against several of the pros in the area before. There was some pressure at first, but once we got the lead in our match, we were able to relax a little. We had no idea how the amateurs were doing out there, although I did see AJ on the course and he said he was winning his match. I love playing team formats, and it was great playing in this event.”

Although the amateurs built up a huge lead on the front nine, the pros stormed back. They were led by Burden Lake CC’s Justin Hearley with CC of Pittsfield’s Eric Mabee, who won 7.5 points against the Schenectady Municipal tandem of Paul Pratico and Lance Hope. Hearley shot a bogey-free 4-under-par 67.

Also excelling for the pros were 11-time NENY PGA Player of the Year and reigning Stroke Play titlist Scott Berliner with Scott Battiste. The two pros from Eagle Crest Golf Club picked up 6.5 points, despite the fact that Berliner struggled with his swing on the front nine before surging on the back.

“It’s always fun playing against [Berliner] because he’s definitely the best player in the area,” Russo said. “For the first 10-11 holes, Scott played awful for him, but that’s really only him shooting par. He’s head and shoulders better than anybody around here.”

Also excelling for the pros were multiple section major winner Chris Sanger of Woodstock Golf Club and Jesse Muller of Windham CC, who piled up six points against Clint Lange of Capital Hills at Albany and Jason Urschel of Shaker Ridge CC.

I enjoyed the spectacular efforts on both sides. CC of Troy was in outstanding shape. We thank longtime CC of Troy head pro Mike Kucera, NENY PGA Executive Director Tracie Warner, Director of Operations Christian Torres and their staff for helping to put on another competitive event.


The Capital Region also put in a strong effort at the annual New York State Men’s Amateur and Senior Men’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship last weekend at Leatherstocking Golf Club.

Former CC of Troy standout Matt Clarke, now at Cazenovia CC, teamed with CC of Buffalo’s Bob Rosen to win the senior division by two shots with a 9-under-par 135. Clarke had three eagles over the two days. Former Eagle Crest Golf Club owner Bill Paulsen Jr. and Jim Mueller of Orchard Creek tied for third with a 6-under-par 138. Dan Ireland and Chris David of The CC of Troy tied for fifth at 5-under-par 139.

In the open division, Lange and Hunter Griffith of the NYSGA eclub-Capital District tied for fifth, while Joe Fitzsimmons of Shaker Ridge CC and Ben Bates of the NYSGA eclub-Capital District carded a tournament-best 9-under-par 63 in the final round.


McGregor Links CC hosts the NYSPHSAA Girls’ Golf Championship June 5-6. Meanwhile, the NYSPHSAA Boys’ Golf Championship will be held over the same two days at Mark Twain Golf Course in Elmira.

Local pros compete in their Pro Classic No. 3 at Malone Golf Club on Tuesday.

Eagle Crest Golf Club hosts the NYS Open local qualifier June 8.

The next major event for the local amateur men is the Troy Invitational June 11-12 at the Country Club of Troy.

The Saratoga County Men’s County Amateur, no longer open only to Saratoga County residents, will be played July 1 at Eagle Crest Golf Club and July 2 at Saratoga Spa State Golf Course. There will be two scratch divisions for the 36-hole event — open and senior. Opening-round tee times begin at 7:30 a.m. Tee times for the second round will be later in the day. Entry fee is $95. Make checks payable to Saratoga County Am and mail them to Salvatore Romano, P.O. Box 136, Clifton Park NY 12065. For more information, contact Romano (518-339-2060) or Dave Smith (518-813-1695).

The second annual 9 & Dine Golf Scramble, to benefit To Love a Child, Inc., will be held July 22 at Fairways of Halfmoon Golf Club. There will be registration at 3:15 p.m., followed by a 4 p.m. shotgun start. Entry fee is $85 and includes nine holes of golf with cart, prizes, an Italian buffet dinner and a cocktail hour. There also will be a themed basket auction and a 50/50 raffle. For more information, contact To Love a Child, P.O. Box 165, Clifton Park, NY 12065 or call 518-859-4424. Proceeds will benefit Food Forests & Clean Water in Zimbabwe and Thyme to Thrive Educational Programs in the Capital Region.

Schenectady Municipal Golf Course is the site for the Schenectady High School Football Golf Tournament July 9 at 9 a.m. Entry fee is $135 and includes golf, cart, Continental breakfast, hot dogs/hamburgers/refreshments at the turn, dinner, a golf towel, T-shirt and golf divot/marker tool. Contact Schenectady High head coach Carmen DePoalo at 518-495-6555 for more information.

David Duval, whose father and grandfather were Schenectady natives, will be the featured player in the inaugural Charity Skins Game Tournament to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Schenectady Aug. 16 at Mohawk Golf Club. Homestead Funding will be the hall of fame sponsor. The former No. 1-ranked player in the world, Duval won the Open Championship and the Players Championship among his 13 PGA Tour wins. Blaine McCallister, who has five PGA Tour victories and has been very familiar to local golf fans as a longtime contestant in the former Ellis Hospital Capital District Skins Game, will be the tournament host.

Also entered in the four-person skins format will be two other familiar names to golf fans. Darren Clarke has won 21 tournaments worldwide, including the 2011 Open Championship. He was a five-time player and the 2016 captain for the European Ryder Cup team. Fred Funk won eight times on the PGA Tour, including the Players Championship, and he’s also won nine times on the Champions Tour. He was a member of the 2003 and 2005 Presidents Cup Team as well as the 2004 Ryder Cup team for the U.S. Contact Joel Slutsky (518-376-9909) for more information.

The 29th annual Great Dane Athletic Club Golf Classic will be held June 9 at noon at Wolferts Roost Country Club. For more information, contact Justin Brown at 518-437-4774 or [email protected].

Airway Meadows hosts the 17th annual Wilton Rotary Golf Classic June 18. Entry fee is $100 and includes golf, a light lunch and dinner. The format will be a four-person scramble at noon. Special events during the tournament include a chipping contest, a putting challenge and a corn hole competition. Contact Don Wildermuth (518-430-8670) for more information.

The 31st annual ALS Memorial Open will be held June 22 at Van Patten Golf Course. The format will be a scramble, starting at 11 a.m. Proceeds will benefit St. Peter’s ALS Regional Center. The event has raised $2.3 million so far.  Entry fee is $760 per foursome and includes golf, cart, range balls, a grab and go lunch, a 19th hole reception and dinner. There will be a 10:30 a.m. shotgun start. There are also numerous sponsorship opportunities. You can register at or contact Scott Daly (518-339-0491) or Steve Michaels (518-772-9489).


At The Edison Club, Keith Dolan hit an 8-iron for an ace on the 150-yard fifth hole, and Kyle Adams used a 6-iron for his hole-in-one on the 171-yard seventh hole. It was his third career ace.

Luke Pezzano recorded a hole-in-one, his first, on the 17th hole at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.

Sue Ryan used her driver to record a hole-in-one on the 83-yard eighth hole at Cobleskill G&CC.

Veteran basketball coach Keith Danzy recorded his first career hole-in-one with a 9-iron on the 132-yard third hole at Eagle Crest Golf Club.

Jack Marro, 71, used his Callaway Epic driver to ace the 141-yard fifth hole at Stadium Golf Club.


Rit Carney posted an eagle-2 on the par-4 11th hole at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course by holing out from 140 yards.

Jack Horne also collected an eagle on Schenectady Municipal’s 12th hole.

Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected].

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