Pinehaven Country Club standout Mary Ellen Burt wants to keep her golf game as simple as possible.
One of several top challengers who is gunning for her first Northeastern Women’s Golf Association Championship, Burt kept her ball in play all day and carded a one-over-par 76 to grab the first-round lead Monday at McGregor Links Country Club.
Burt, the Union College head women’s basketball coach who teamed with Mary Jo Kelly to win the Capital District Women’s Open last week, holds a two-shot lead over two-time New York State Women’s Super Senior champ Gail Brophy of Saratoga National Golf Club, who posted a 78. Burt is also four strokes ahead of three-time NEWGA titlist Pat Mayne of Western Turnpike.
“All I’ll be thinking about [today] will be fairways and greens. I won’t have any score in mind,” said Burt, a former Gazette Women’s Best Ball winner. “There are so many good players in this tournament that anybody can shoot a good score. I just want to continue to have fun.”
Burt has been working on her game with Pinehaven head pro Scott Warren, who is also a basketball coach in the offseason.
“I’ve been working a lot with Scott, and we mostly talk about the mental side of things and how to teach the game,” Burt said. “We talk about both basketball and golf. We each love both sports, and we go about teaching them in different ways.”
Burt’s steady round included birdies on the seventh and 17th holes. She made three bogeys, but kept away from the big numbers.
“One of my best saves of the day was a bogey on the fifth hole,” she said. “I hit my first drive out of bounds. Then, I had to tee it up again. I was lucky to make the one-putt. It was a very good bogey for me.”
Burt said she would love to add a NEWGA title to her resume, but she doesn’t want to get ahead of herself.
“A lot of good players have won this tournament,” she said.
Despite a long and distinguished playing career, Brophy also has never won a NEWGA Championship.
“I was runner-up several times and once lost in a playoff on the 19th hole,” she said. “I would love to get one.”
Brophy birdied the first, eighth and 12th holes. Her birdie putt on the par-5 first hole was a 20-footer. Only a pair of three-putts slowed her down.
“I played very well today, very steady,” she said. “There are quite a few players who have a chance to win.”
Mayne, the defending champion, rolled in four birdies, but suffered a triple-bogey 8 on the seventh hole.
“Everything kind of went wrong on that hole,” she said. “I had a downhill lie on my second shot, and I hit the ball into a sand trip. After I blasted out, I ended up on the wrong side of the hole. It was a disaster.”
Mayne birdied the first, ninth, 12th and 17th holes. She nearly made an eagle on the 12th hole, just missing her five-foot putt.
“It should be very interesting to see what happens in the final round,” Mayne said.
There was some controversy in the opening round because some players, especially in the championship flight, played “winter rules,” meaning they could lift, clean and place their ball in their own fairway. Others didn’t know the tournament was using winter rules because it wasn’t on the rule sheet.
Anne Jorgensen (81) holds a four-shot lead in the first flight over Heather Morrison (85), while Anne Poulin tops the second flight with a 93.
Melody Diamond’s 95 paces the tightly bunched third flight.
Today’s final round begins with a 10 a.m. shotgun start.
Championship flight — Mary Ellen Burt 76, Gail Brophy 78, Pat Mayne 80, Betsy Drambour 81, Jackie Quinn 82, Leslie Arakelian 83, Karen Feldman 83, Ella Kellogg 85.
First flight — Anne Jorgensen 81, Heather Morrison 85, Sue Chambers 86, Jen DiIorio 88, Judith Rudolf 90, Penny Schiek 91, Sue Johnson 9, Robin Peters 98.
Second flight — Anne Poulin 93, Max Tucker 96, Theresa McDonnell 90, Elaine Neiss 90, Melinda Bucknam 90, Mary Assey 97, Maryellen Trumbull 102, Amy Fey 108.
Third flight — Melody Diamond 95, Donna Heskett 96, Kristen Youmans 97, Leona Delong 98, Lynn Cummings 102, Susa Wronowski 103, Patti Adamoski 106, Betty Cushing 108, Selena Balick 110.