The Edison Club was bleeding with red numbers in the opening round of the 67th annual Northeastern New York PGA Stroke Play Championship Monday.
Normanside Country Club assistant pro Scott Berliner, who has dominated the section’s major events all season and is coming off a victory in last week’s NENYPGA Match Play Championship, fired a seven-under-par 65 to lead seven players under par. Two other club professionals matched par as the soft greens at The Edison Club were practically defenseless.
“You could be extremely aggressive with your putts,” said Greenock Country Club head pro Bob Mucha, who shot a 67. “The greens were so much slower than usual that you could take a lot of the break out and basically aim at the cup. It also helped that the putts didn’t slide past the hole that much, so you didn’t have to worry about a long par putt coming back.”
Berliner, 36, who also has victories in two other two-day majors, the FAM Funds Classic at Cobleskill Golf & Country Club and the Professional National Championship at Hiland Golf Club, scored well, despite having a few problems off the tee.
“I really struggled off the tee, but I was fortunate when I missed my drives, because I was still able to get the ball on the greens,” he said.
Berliner pull-hooked his opening tee shot and missed the green on the first hole, but he chipped in for birdie.
He birdied the fourth hole, connected on a 25-foot birdie on the seventh hole and then went on a birdie spree by sinking putts on the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th holes. The birdie on the 13th hole was from 30 feet. He didn’t have a bogey all day.
“One of the keys was that I got up and down for par on the 18th hole by making a 15-footer,” he said.
“The rough is so thick out there that it’s best to keep the ball in the fairway, if possible. My drives were a bit erractic, but my irons were decent. I also rolled the putter pretty well. The key was playing half the break that you normally do.
“There are so many guys who shot under par that it should be a lot of fun [today],” Berliner added.
Mucha, a relatively short but consistent driver who has been runner-up in the sectional championship several times, knocked in several long birdie putts to keep his round going.
“I had a 25-footer on the second hole, a 20-footer on the fifth hole and a 30-footer on the 10th hole,” said Mucha, who also birdied the fourth, 12th and 18th holes.
“My only missed green was on the 16th hole, when my 8-iron shot missed the green, and I failed to get up and down for my only bogey of the day.
“I played solid today. The course was perfect for scoring. If you can make putts on this course, you can score.”
Tom Siddon, head pro at Massena Country Club, carded a 68 despite starting and finishing with a bogey.
“I didn’t have the speed of the greens down yet on the first hole, and I had a three-putt bogey on the first hole,” he said.
But Siddon connected for birdies on the second, fourth, sixth, 11th, 12th and 13th holes. He also eagled the par-5 17th hole by reaching the green in two with a 3-wood and nailing a six-foot putt.
He finished his round with a three-putt bogey on the 18th hole and also bogeyed the third and seventh holes.
“I nearly made five birdies in a row at one point,” Siddon said. “I lipped out for birdie on the 14th hole, and I came up one inch short of a birdie on the 15th hole. Every part of my game was pretty solid all day.”
Todd Manderson of Ballston Spa Country Club shot a 69, while Ian Breen of Colonie Golf & Country Club and Peter Gerard of Mill Road Acres posted 70s. Breen is a former section Match Play champ, while Gerard last won the Stroke Play title in 1996.
Also shooting under par was former Stroke Play winner Anders Mattson of Saratoga National (71). Kevin Cain of Colonie Golf & Country Club and Kevin Hughes of Saratoga Golf & Polo Club each recorded a 72.
Tee times for the final round will be from 9 to 10:20 a.m. today.
Scott Berliner (Normanside CC) 65, Bob Mucha (Greenock CC) 67, Tom Siddon (Massena CC) 68, Todd Manderson (Ballston Spa CC) 69, Ian Breen (Colonie G&CC) 70, Peter Gerard (Mill Road Acres) 70, Anders Mattson (Saratoga National GC) 71, Kevin Cain (Colonie G&CC) 72, Kevin Hughes (Saratoga G&P) 72, Glenn Davis (Albany CC) 73, David Lis (Wolferts Roost CC) 73, Frank Mellet (Colonie G&CC) 73, Tom Oppedisano (McGregor Links CC) 73, Brian Damon (Schenectady Municipal GC) 73, Brinson Byrd (Wolferts Roost CC) 74, Rick Pohle (Taconic GC) 74, Paul Jaycox (Cobleskill G&CC) 75, Nathan Kain (The Edison Club) 77, Craig McLean (The Edison Club) 77, David Strawn (Cranwell Resort) 77, Matt Smith (Leatherstocking GC) 78, John Mahon (Red Hook GC) 78, Noel Gebauer (Town of Colonie GC) 79, Steve Plata (Saratoga National GC) 80, Kent Tarkleson (Tark’s Indoor GC) 83.