Down the Fairway: Hagaman’s Russo looks to win third straight state senior am title

Two-time defending champion Dan Russo of Hagaman shoots for another title this week at the NYS Senior Men’s Amateur hosted by Springville CC in Erie County. (NYSGA photo)

Two-time defending champion Dan Russo of Hagaman shoots for another title this week at the NYS Senior Men’s Amateur hosted by Springville CC in Erie County. (NYSGA photo)

DOWN THE FAIRWAY Hagaman’s Dan Russo owns one of the best resumes in Capital Region amateur golfing history. Yet he readily admits the 2022 season has been perhaps one of the worst of his long and distinguished career.

Injuries, illness and family concerns combined to limit the 64-year-old Schuyler Meadows Club member to just a few major tournaments. And for the first time since anyone can remember, he failed to bring home any kind of noteworthy trophy.

That could all change this week when Russo, the two-time defending champion, tees it up in the New York State Men’s Senior & Super Senior Amateur Wednesday and Thursday at Springville Country Club in Erie County.

Russo, an Amsterdam native, won his first NYSGA title in the 2019 NYS Men’s Senior Am at the Cavalry Club in Syracuse. The 2020 event was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but he came back to win his second state senior crown a year ago at the Powelton Club in Newburgh.

He’s excelled at the regional and national level with a dozen USGA championship tournament appearances under his belt, including two U.S. Senior Opens and the 2015 U.S. Senior Amateur. Plus, he’s also won a local-record 18 majors, including eight CRAGA Stroke Play titles. A six-time winner of the Amsterdam City Championship, Russo has collected four holes-in-one, an albatross, a Schenectady Classic trophy and a victory in the prestigious 2020 Society of Seniors Dale Morey Championship, just to name a few of his many accomplishments.

But the 2022 campaign has been one to forget by his standards.

“It’s been terrible. I haven’t played a whole bunch, and when I did play, it wasn’t very good,” said Russo, who also has dozens of elite partners championships under his belt, like the Mohawk Member-Guest.

“I’ve had a sore back for a few weeks, and I got COVID about a month ago and it just won’t go away. I’ve been coughing a lot, and I get tired easily,” he said. “No excuses, but all these things add up.”

Russo’s playing and practice schedules have been reduced dramatically. He failed to make an impact in several of his usual events, like the Troy Invitational, and he struggled at the Schenectady Classic, the USGA 4-Ball Qualifier, the U.S. Senior Open qualifier and the State Team Championships at Myrtle Beach.

“About the only thing I played pretty well in was our club championship at Schuyler, but I lost to Austin Teal, who beat me in the final with a 25-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole,” Russo said.

But Russo hopes to finish the season strong this month at the senior states and the NYS Mid-Amateur in a couple of weeks.

“Anything can happen,” Russo said when asked if he can compete this week. “But I’m just not playing very well. I can’t put my finger on it. I’m playing so bad. If it’s not one thing, it’s something else.

“I don’t want to go out like this. When I can’t compete, you won’t see me out here anymore. I don’t play in a tournament if I don’t think I have a chance to win it.”

Other local players entered in the NYS Men’s Senior & Super Senior Amateur include former Schenectady Classic champion Bob Cooper of Glenville, David Fizer of Malta, Jim Gallucci of Glenmont, Kirk Helm of Malta, James Leonard of Schenectady, Jim McKillip of Latham, CJ O’Rourke of Loudonville, multiple Saratoga County Amateur champ Bill Paulsen of Clifton Park and Sal Romano of Mechanicville. Kevin Hart of Schenectady is on a waiting list.

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CHIP SHOTS

Fox Run Golf Club will host the Runway of Hope Long Drive Fundraiser Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The day will include a barbecue, music, a drive, chip and putt contest and a craft fair. The long drive contest, divided into junior, regular, senior and veterans divisions, will be contested on the runway of the Fulton County Airport in Johnstown. All proceeds benefit the NENY PGA’s HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) campaign. For more information, contact Fox Run GC at 518-762-3717.

Local club pros will compete in the NENY PGA Christman’s Windham House Pro-Pro No. 2 Monday. The Assistants Stroke Play Championship will be held Thursday at Taconic Golf Club. Meanwhile, the next major for the local pros will be the NENY PGA Match Play Championship Sept. 20-21 at Wolferts Roost CC.

Laura Couch won the Mohawk Golf Club ladies club championship.

There is a new website for local golfers to check on and monitor their tournament schedules. The area golf calendar is located at Saratogacountyam.com. and has drop-downs for upcoming events and calendar. Local tournament organizers are invited to add their events to the list to help prevent conflicts.

Schenectady Municipal Golf Course is the site for the 14th annual Schenectady City School District Athletic Hall of Fame Golf Tournament Sept 18. The format will be a modified four-person scramble. Entry fee is $420 per foursome and includes golf, cart, buffet and prizes. This event is named after SCSD Hall of Fame member Pete Famiano. Call Bob Pezzano at 518-346-9297 for more information.

The Albany FireWolves’ “The Pack Gives Back” annual golf outing will be held Sept. 26 at Normanside CC. There will be a 9:30 a.m. shotgun start for the four-person scramble. Entry fee is $600 per foursome and includes breakfast, snacks on the course and a dinner/cocktail reception after golf. For more information, call 518-362-4900 or go to www.albanyfirewolves.com.

Colonie Golf & Country Club is holding the 10th annual NewsChannel 13 Capital Region Golf Championships Oct. 1. There are gross and net divisions. Entry fee is $65 per golfer per division. Tee times begin at 8 a.m. For more information, contact Colonie G&CC at 518-765-4100 or visit www.coloniegolfandcountryclub.com.

Van Patten Golf Club’s inaugural Cooley Kill Cash Classic is set for Oct. 7. More than $7,500 in prizes will be up for grabs in this scratch two-player scramble. Entry fee is $125 per player and includes golf, contests and food. Top prize is $1,500 ($750 per player). For more information, call 518-877-5400.

EAGLES

Shea Bromirski eagled the par-5 eighth hole with a driver, 5-iron and lob wedge at Mechanicville Golf Club.

Rick Lackey eagled the par-4 fourth hole at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.

Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected].

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