Down the Fairway: NYSGA aims to be deliberate in helping run major local tournaments

NYSGA assistant executive director Andrew Hickey says his organization is getting closer to having a permanent presence in the Capital Region. (Bob Weiner)
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NYSGA assistant executive director Andrew Hickey says his organization is getting closer to having a permanent presence in the Capital Region. (Bob Weiner)

DOWN THE FAIRWAY – As the New York State Golf Association celebrates its 100th anniversary this season, plans are in the works for a more permanent presence in the Capital Region.

Most local golfers have heard about the NYSGA, which conducts 17 state championships as well as running United States Golf Association local qualifiers and providing numerous other services, including a popular Amateur Series, handicapping, course rating and measuring, scholarships and education about the game and its rules.

The NYSGA is represented by 150 committee members, including area standouts Jim Gifford of Mohawk Golf and Brent Herlilhy of Glens Falls CC.
The NYSGA already oversees and helps to coordinate several “allied” local golf organizations in Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo and the Metropolitan greater NYC region. Next up is the Capital Region, which for many years was overseen by the Tri-County Golf Association and currently the Capital Region Amateur Golf Association. Both of these organizations did an admirable job, especially considering their modest amount of volunteer staffing. But the NYSGA is on a different level completely with many full-time, well-trained staffers.

“Right now, we are actively speaking with tournament administrators in the Capital Region about running major tournaments for them,” said NYSGA assistant executive director Andrew Hickey. “For us, starting a golf association in the Albany area will be a little different than in some of the other regions, because there are already several successful tournaments run in that region. What we’re trying to do with these groups is to provide services and modernize how they operate. We can provide things like live scoring at their tournaments, as well as manage their entries online. We also have quite a bit of expertise from our rules officials. Our staff is quite adept at running all types of tournaments.”

Anyone who has ever competed in a NYSGA state tournament or qualifier understands how smoothly and professionally their events are run. The NYSGA staff, including executive director Bill Moore, Hickey, director of marketing and partnerships Dan Thompson, assistant director of rules and competitions Jack Travers, special events and volunteer operations manager Deb Spilman, course rating manager Mark Ackley and new regional associations manager Michael Dirkes, is extraordinary.

Although Hickey has a plethora of ideas on how the NYSGA can help the Capital Region, he said any new action will be slow and deliberate.

“Our goal for this year and beyond is to support the Capital Region’s major tournaments and bring that region under our umbrella,” Hickey explained. “We plan on running one major tournament in 2024, and that will be a major championship for both men and women. That’s our priority. We are working with a club now that will be hosting that event, and we will be announcing details in the middle of April.”

But Hickey emphasized that the NYSGA is trying to provide services and support to the Capital Region. It’s not a power grab by any means.

“We don’t want to step in and be like a bull in a china shop. We want to be in a supporting role and do what we do exceptionally well. We don’t want to go in there with guns blazing and not be a success. We’ll be deliberate in our approach. We want players to know that any tournament we are involved in will be of high quality and run in a first-class way.”

Hickey also pointed out that the NYSGA wants to avoid conflicts with any other tournaments.

“We know that there are some players in the Capital Region that are traveling to places like Western Massachusetts, to compete in tournaments over there. So we will be trying to be careful when we schedule any of our tournaments. We don’t want conflicts, so we won’t be scheduling any of our events on top of any popular two-man tournaments, for example.”

Along with Dirkes, the regional association coordinator, the NYSGA is hiring a tournament director for the Albany area. “We found a need to have one of our staff members oversee every region we have, so we are hiring two regional tournament directors, one in Buffalo and one in Albany. That will cut down on traveling by our entire staff, and it will give us a person on the ground in every region. Players in every region will see a familiar face when they go to tournaments.”

Of the 17 state championships the NYSGA conducts, two with the most prestige are the NYS Men’s Amateur Championship, to be played at Wykagyl CC for the first time Aug. 7-9, and the NYS Women’s Amateur, to be played at Corning CC June 26-27.

The extremely popular one-day tournaments called The Amateur Series, is a season-long group of individual handicapped stroke play tournaments (gross and net) administered at top private and public member clubs throughout upstate New York. They are open to every NYSGA member with divisions for men, men’s senior (age 55 and older), men’s super senior (age 65 and older) and women (all ages). Players are flighted based on the number of players in each division and each player’s handicap index. There is a chance for all participants to earn points for a spot in the year-end championship, as well as pro shop prizes for individual tournaments.

The Capital Region will be hosting 9 events in The Amateur Series this year.

“We chuckle about The Amateur Series, because in reality, they are not too crazy, yet they are extremely popular,” Hickey noted. “All we do is provide access to some nice private courses at reasonable rates and allow golfers to play their own ball against other players of similar abilities. But The Amateur Series has remained extremely popular. They usually sell out in the first hour or two when registration opens. That’s why we have split registrations, so that fewer players will get shut out.”

I’ve been covering NYSGA events in the Capital Region for 35 years, and I can say without question that the organization is first-class, extremely professional, and completely dedicated to providing quality services to its membership. The sooner the Capital Region receives a stronger NYSGA presence, the better it will be for all serious amateur golfers on the local scene.

CHIP SHOTS

Speaking of NYSGA and its dedicated and talented officials, it’s sad to see that former NYSGA president Warren Winslow and John Cooney are stepping off the state committee after many years of service. Hopefully both will continue to work as officials during state events.

The NYSGA is hosting two different types of rules of golf seminars this spring, including a pair at Mohawk Golf Club on March 31 (full-day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and April 1 (9 a.m. to 12 p.m.).

Schenectady Municipal Golf Course has announced its major tournament schedule for this season. The Schenectady Classic is set for June 16-18, while the Schenectady Women’s Classic will be held June 16-17. The Schenectady Senior Classic will be held Aug. 3-4, and the Bob Haggerty Two-Man Championship is slated for Sept. 30-Oct. 1.

The second annual Charity Skins Game Tournament, to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Schenectady, will be held June 20 at Mohawk Golf Club. Last year’s event raised $250,000. This year’s field will be Billy Andrade, Chris DiMarco, Rocco Mediate and Tim Herron. Blaine McCallister returns as the host.

Siena College graduate student Brody Yates recently earned the MAAC Men’s Golfer of the Week award for shooting a 54-hole score of 69-72-76 – 217 at the Sea Palms Invitational in St. Simmons Island, Georgia. He tied for 48th place out of 118 golfers.

The CapCom Senior Men’s Golf League is looking for players. The league, for players age 60 and older, competes at Briar Creek Golf Course Thursday mornings at 9:30 a.m. The league begins April 28. For more information, contact Dan Johnson at 518-869-3801 or contact him at [email protected]

Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected]

Categories: -Sports, Sports

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