Scott Berliner, the hottest golfer in the Capital Region, will make his Gazette Cup debut this morning at Mohawk Golf Club, when the pros from the Northeastern New York PGA take on the amateurs from the Capital Region Amateur Golf Association.
There are 12 players on each team, selected off each association’s player of the year list. The format will be individual and partners match play, with three points available — one for winning the front side, one for winning the back and one for winning total — for each match.
There are three matches going on simultaneously in each group — two individual matches and one team match. That’s nine points per group, for a total of 54 points. Since the pros won last year’s event, they only need 27 points to retain the Gazette Cup trophy.
Tee times begin at 10:30 a.m. The public is invited to watch, free of charge.
Berliner, the 37-year-old assistant pro at Normanside Country Club, is coming off the best season of his career. He won the NENYPGA Player of the Year award after sweeping the section’s majors, the NENYPGA Stroke Play Championship at The Edison Club and the NENYPGA Match Play at The Sagamore Resort.
Berliner, a Luzerne native who earned his Class A card last year and participated in all the section events for the first time, also won the Professional National Championship at Hiland Golf Club and the FAM Funds Classic at Cobleskill Golf & Country Club.
Since he is still an assistant pro, he also won the NENYPGA Assistants Association Player of the Year award and then showed off his skills by finishing tied for second in the 35th annual Callaway Golf PGA Assistants Championship in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Berliner didn’t stop there. After winning several mini-tour events and taking the money earnings title on the West Florida Tour, he returned to the Capital Region this spring and won the first two club pro events of the season, at the Country Club of Troy and Saratoga Golf & Polo Club, respectively.
Will the amateurs be intimidated by Berliner and the rest of the pros?
“Intimidation is not part of my game,” said the affable Berliner. “I’m pretty modest, to a fault. This is obviously a tight-knit community, and everybody knows everybody, pretty much. I’ve played with a lot of the amateurs or run invitationals for them. Obviously, the amateurs want to beat the pros, and the pros don’t want to get beat. There’s a little intensity there, but I think that’s good for the game. This kind of competition grows the game, and it should be a lot of fun.
“This is my first time playing in this, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Berliner admitted that upsets happen more in match play than in stroke play.
“One 18-hole match is tough, because everybody goes through highs and lows. If you are at a low during a certain part of the match, you can get beat. That’s why Nick Ohern beat Tiger Woods twice in the last three years in the World Match Play. In an 18-hole match, anything can happen. But I do enjoy match play. I played it a lot in high school.
“It doesn’t matter if you are eight-under-par or eight-over-par. If you win the hole, you win it, and if you lose it, you lose. I wouldn’t want to play match play all the time, but it’s a great change of pace.
“You can be very aggressive in match play. As an example, I usually play Mohawk fairly conservatively off the tee, but I’ll try to hit driver every time I can in this tournament.”
The pro team is loaded with talent and experience. Frank Mellet, head pro at Colonie Golf & Country Club, was the 2010 NENYPGA Player of the Year and recently was inducted into the local club pros’ hall of fame, while long-hitting Anders Mattson of Saratoga National Golf Club is a former NENYPGA Stroke Play champion.
Ian Breen, Mellet’s assistant at Colonie G&CC, is a former NENYPGA Match Play titlist, while host pro Jeremy Kerr is another former player of the year. So is veteran Rick Pohle from Taconic Golf Club.
Rounding out the pro team are Nathan Kain (The Edison Club), Kevin Cain (Colonie G&CC), Kevin Bennison (Taconic Golf Club), Tom Oppedisano (McGregor Links CC), Todd Manderson (Ballston Spa CC) and Bob Mucha (Greenock CC).
The CRAGA squad is captained by Dan Russo of Rolling Hills at Antlers Country Club. He has won CRAGA player of the year honors several times and is still among the region’s top ball-strikers at age 54.
Siena College graduate Justin Deitz of The Edison Club, last year’s player of the year for the amateurs, and Don DeNyse of Capital Hills at Albany, another Siena grad who has two Albany County Amateur crowns and an Eagle Crest Shootout victory on his resume, will be playing together.
Jim Mueller, a six-time Gazette County Amateur champion out of Orchard Creek, will play with veteran Kevin Cassidy of Albany National Golf Club, now called Empire Golf Club.
Russo will play with Dave Hayes of Schuyler Meadows, while Tom Salmon, a former Gazette County Amateur winner now at Mohawk Golf Club, will team up with fellow Mohawk newcomer Mike Wheeler, a veteran of the Gazette Cup amateur squad.
Rounding out the amateur team will be perennial Mohawk Golf Club Member-Guest winner Brandon Haase with Mike McCarroll of The Edison Club, and Justin Farrell of Kingswood Links with David Huestis of McGregor Links Country Club.
Price Chopper’s Neil Golub, a five-time Gazette Senior County Amateur champ, is the honorary captain for the amateur team.
The pros lead the series, 6-3.
In case Mohawk Golf Club officials can’t let carts out on a rain-softened course, players are advised to prepare to carry their bags or bring caddies.
10:30 — P-Frank Mellet-Anders Mattson vs. A-Justin Deitz-Don DeNyse.
10:40 — P-Nathan Kain-Scott Berliner vs. A-Kevin Cassidy-Jim Mueller.
10:50 — P-Ian Breen-Kevin Cain vs. A-David Hayes-Dan Russo.
11:00 — P-Kevin Bennison-Rick Pohle vs. A-Brandon Haase-Mike McCarroll.
11:10 — P-Jeremy Kerr-Tom Oppedisano vs. A-Justin Farrell-David Huestis.
11:20 — P-Todd Manderson-Bob Mucha vs. A-Mike Wheeler-Tom Salmon.