Finally, somebody is listening to the needs of the average duffer who wants to play tournament golf.
Most of us can't carry out tee shots more than 250 yards or shoot under par, but we still love the game, and we want to compete.
CRAGA , and the Northeastern New York PGA, are listening.
Beginning this season, the Capital Region Amateur Golf Association will include a net division in six of its tournaments, which are run by the local PGA. Previously, only single-digit handicappers and elite players who could compete without handicaps played in CRAGA events.
"We were kind of looking at our schedule, and we thought there were some opportunities to add a net division for our amateur events," said NENYPGA tournament director Doug Evans, who also helps run the CRAGA events. "We've been running a gross division for the amateur tournaments for about three or four years now, and we just thought it was a good opportunity to reach more of the golfing community and create an amateur tour concept."
CRAGA , which crowns an area amateur champion every year based on a point system, will continue to run several gross-only events that will be run along with NENYPGA Pro Classic events, but the six events that include a handicap division won't be contested alongside the pro tournaments. Eventually, there might also be a point system for the handicap players, but not yet.
The first CRAGA net division tournament is scheduled for April 25. No site has been finalized, but so far, the Country Club of Troy, The Edison Club and Saratoga National have signed on to be three of the host sites.
"Prices for the individual entry fees will vary according to the host course, and those entry fees will cover range fees and carts, if that course mandates them," said Evans. "We will then offer gift certificates as prizes, and those certificates will be redeemable right there at the course you are playing on. This will be a chance for some of the amateur net players to play on some of the best private courses."
CRAGA membership, at $25 per player, will be mandatory for all players, but the organization will also offer a one-time only special guest membership fee of $15 so that players can invite their friends to play with them.
"It will be great for a business associate or an out-of-town relative or friend to play in the tournament with them. They can contact us, and we can pair them together," Evans said.
To be eligible, net division players must have a USGA GHIN handicap.
"We will run these tournaments just like we have all of our other CRAGA tournaments, our junior events and our pro events," Evans said. "They can sign up on-line, and we will have their tee times posted and official scorecards made up. We will also monitor play and provide a scoreboard during play."
Evans said the new net division tournaments were discussed this winter.
"They came out of our business planning sessions and through our board of directors," he said. "We thought this would be a great way of reaching more golfers."
I totally agree and plan on playing in a few of these events myself.
PROS ON THE MOVE
Just like Major League Baseball, the NFL and the NBA, free agency ran rampant among the local club professionals since the last time many of us teed it up last fall.
The sluggish economy continued to take its toll among many veteran head professionals, and I'm very sorry to see them go.
A great example is longtime head professional Brent Smith, whose contract wasn't renewed at Tupper Lake Country Club. The long-hitting Smith remained a loyal
NENYPGA tournament competitor, even though his drive to the Capital Region from Tupper Lake was a long one. I played a few pro-am tournaments with him years ago, and it was a blast. He also helped run the popular Tupper Lake Open for many years. Smith will be replaced by Clarence Bell, who is not affiliated with the PGA.
Former Leatherstocking Golf Club assistant pro Matt Smith has become the head professional at Canajoharie Country Club, which reopened under new ownership late last season.
Bob Kennedy, formerly the assistant pro at Van Patten Golf Club, moves up to take the head pro job and replaces veteran Mike Behan, who is now a sales representative for W&B Golf Cars, Yamaha. Before taking over the Van Patten job a couple of years ago, Behan was the head pro at Olde Kinderhook. Our golf league will miss him at Van Patten.
Kevin Canale, who has been the head pro at Stadium Golf Club, Rolling Hills at Antlers Country Club and most recently Pioneer Hills, has moved over to Brookhaven Golf Club.
Kingswood Links Golf Club finally has a new golf pro. Bradley Johnson, who has transferred from the Colorado PGA Section, has been named the head pro and will also be the assistant golf coach at Skidmore College. Kingswood hasn't had had a PGA-affiliated head pro since Kevin Hughes was its original pro when the course opened. Hughes is now at Saratoga Golf & Polo Club. Meanwhile, Joshua Cupp is the new head coach at Skidmore.
Former Mohawk Golf Club assistant pro Ryan McCarty will be an assistant pro at Leatherstocking Golf Club.
Ryan Mazula and Daniel Winters will be the new assistant pros at Wolferts Roost Country Club. They replace David Lis and Brinson Byrd, who have both transferred out of the NEYPGA.
Although he is not affiliated with the PGA, Brad Hess has been hired as the head pro at Oneonta Country Club.
Lucas Cohen, formerly of the South Florida PGA, will be the owner and head pro at New York Golf Park in Claverack.
Terrance Manziano, formerly of the Metropolitan PGA, will be a teaching instructor at Northway Golf Center.
GREAT NEW WEB SITE
The move from Pioneer Hills to Brookhaven Golf Club isn't the only major change for Canale, who grew up playing Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course. The popular local pro also will be running a new Web site, called 9or18.com.
The free site is up and running but is nowhere near complete yet. Canale plans on having all of the local courses listed on his site, along with a full-service golf directory. Endorsed by the NENYPGA, the new Web site will be golf's version of Facebook, according to Canale.
"We will have a community calendar, spots for schedules and results, and it will serve as another part of social media," he said. "Once we get everything set up, we will be offering unlimited virtual lessons for just $14.95 a year, and we will also have coupons on-line for discounts on greens fees. Eventually, players will be able to make their tee times right on the site. I'm very happy with the way things are going already," he said.
THE FIRST TEE IS HERE
The First Tee, one of the largest instructional organizations in the country for children, will be coming to the Capital Region this year.
Youngsters in Schenectady, Albany, Troy, Guilderland, Saratoga Springs and Voorheesville will be able to learn the game right in their own physical education classes.
"It's an exciting new opportunity for area young people to learn the game with their friends in a school environment," said Frank Ciarlo, who is president of CapitalAreaGolf.com. and the Junior Golf Alliance of New York, which partners with the New York State Golf Foundation to bring The First Tee to the region
The First Tee is a nonprofit organization begun in 1997. It has reached more than
5 million young people with its educational programs and currently has more than 10,000 volunteers, 600 active Life Skills Experience coaches and more than 4,800 trained physical educators.
One of the most interesting facets of The First Tee is that along with golf instruction it teaches nine core values "" honesty, integrity, respect, responsibility, courtesy, sportsmanship, confidence, judgment and perseverance.
What's not to like about those values?
Plus, The First Tee introduces what it calls "Nine Healthy Habits" as part of its program. Those habits are energy, play, safety, vision, mind, family, friends, school and community.
The First Tee kicked off its arrival to the Capital Region with a Masters Viewing Party last Friday night at Wolferts Roost Country Club.
* Pine Brook, Fulton County's only private course, will not open this season because of financial struggles, according to published reports. The nine-hole Gloversville layout has been the host for the Fulton County Open and the Pine Brook Memorial Tournament. Membership has dropped from more than 200 to about 90 in recent years.
* The local Futures Tour stop, which will now be called the Empire Classic, has switched its spot on the calendar from the first week of September to Aug. 3-5 at Capital Hills at Albany.
* Former LPGA Tour standout and current golf commentator Dottie Pepper of Saratoga Springs has written a new children's book called "Bogey Tees Off." Twenty-percent of the proceeds will go to local golf. Pepper, who is an advisor on the Northeastern New York PGA's board of directors, still helps out this section with local golf and will once again be back to conduct clinics at the Pro-Junior day at Pinehaven Country Club. She will also have a book signing in May.
* Former Ballston Spa Country Club and Cobleskill Golf & Country Club head pro Jim Hefti passed away this winter from a heart attack. Hefti, a top-notch instructor and former English teacher, was a longtime supporter of junior golf and won numerous awards in that category from the Northeastern New York PGA. He will be missed.
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Bob Weiner at 395-3147 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his take on local golf anytime by checking out his blog, "On the Ball," at www.dailygazette.com/weblogs/weiner.