Golf and charity fit together like peanut butter and jelly.
And the sweet part of the deal is that it’s a win-win situation for both the players and the charities. Few sports can raise as much money while the competitors are enjoying their favorite pastime.
Such was the case with the 20th annual Ellis Hospital Pro-Am. Although Monday’s event at Mohawk Golf Club is no longer affiliated with the popular Skins Game that used to bring pro golf headliners like Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Fuzzy Zoeller, Craig Stadler, Fred Couples, John Daly and Gary Player to the Capital Region, local club pros from the Northeastern New York PGA, as well as some of the area’s finest amateurs, helped make the event extremely successful.
With Price Chopper’s Neil Golub as the host, this year’s scramble tournament raised $100,000, with the proceeds earmarked for the hospital’s Golub Emergency Services Center.
On their own ball, few players — even the best local pros and elite amateurs — bring the Devereux Emmet-designed jewel to its knees the way Monday’s five-person team scramble event did. A total of 33 pro-am teams competed, with one pro and four amateurs on each squad. Each team played off the best shot from the group, and the longer hitters, especially the pros, helped keep each group competitive.
Mohawk president Bill Socha, fellow amateurs Chat Robinson, Bill Charles and Paul Cardinal, as well as Ballston Spa Country Club assistant pro Jeff D. Nackel, represented the Socha Management team that fired a sizzling 16-under-par 55 to win gross honors.
Atlas Health Care Linen Services, with Olde Kinderhook pro Phil Kaminski teaming with top area amateurs Jim Welch and Dave Pallas, along with Jack Kaminski and Lynn D’Allesandro, was just a stroke back. Welch is a three-time Troy Invitational and former Eagle Crest Shootout champion from Winding Brook Country Club.
The Jay Taub team, headed by amateurs Taub, Chris Fatone, Herbert Reich and Mohawk veteran John Jaski, along with Stadium Golf Club head pro John Souza, was third with a 57.
In the net division, Hiland Golf Club head pro Jim Jeffers carried a team led by Ellis CEO Jim Connolly and including amateurs James Connolly, Matt Miles and Roger Barrowman, to a 48.1, while the Ellis Medicine II team that included Rolling Hills at Antlers Country Club head pro Rick Wolcott and amateurs Daniel Kuelzow, Robert Kuelzow, Steve Wright and Tom Donohue, was the runner-up with a 49.2.
The amateurs used 10 percent of their total handicap toward the team score.
Taub, one of the area’s top senior amateurs, has been working with the various formats of the Ellis event for two decades. He works in the hospital’s cardiac care unit.
“I’ve been with the hospital, and with this tournament, for 20 years,” Taub said. “The hospital does extremely well with this tournament. I think they might make even more now without the Skins Game headliners, because they don’t have to pay all that appearance money. I’ve enjoyed my association with the event, and it’s even more special to me, because I work there as well as help out with the tournament every year.”
The local pros enjoy the friendly format, because they don’t have to worry as much about their own game.
“The amateurs like the long drives that we club pros can sometimes provide. They also like it if we can knock it on the greens for them and let them putt,” said
Souza. “We also help them with their game from time to time, but we don’t want to mess them up with too many pointers.
“For me, it’s humbling, because it’s so much fun for the amateurs to play with me. You get a chance to meet new people and make some contacts. Sometimes, when you try too hard on your own game, things don’t go that well. That’s why it’s so nice for us club pros to relax and just try to make the amateurs have a nicer day. Trying harder doesn’t always make you better.”
“I played with Ellis CEO Jim Connolly, and the entire team had a blast,” said Jeffers, a two-time NENYPGA Stroke Play champ. “Whatever I can do to make everyone have a good time is what I’m going to do. I don’t take this too seriously. We definitely had a lot of laughs today, and I think everybody had a great time. My job is to play as well as I can play to help the team get a decent score, but I’m also trying to help them have a good time.”
Normanside Country Club assistant pro Scott Berliner, the reigning NENYPGA Player of the Year, is a veteran of the pro-am scene, and he said it’s important to have fun, but not to lose focus on the game.
“Obviously, people are spending a lot of money to have some fun and to help a great cause,” Berliner said. “Our job is to play well and help the amateurs out if they need it. Golf is amazing in that so many charities can benefit from it. Everybody seems to love golf, and getting a chance to help people like Neil Golub raise this kind of money is very enjoyable to me. It’s a different kind of golf than when we’re playing our own ball for our own score and money. It’s a lot less serious.”
Top gross teams
Socha Management (Chat Robinson, Bill Socha, Bill Charles, Paul Cardinal with pro Jeff Nackel), 55; Atlas Health Care Linen Services (Jim Welch, Dave Pallas, Lynn D’Alessandro, Jack Kaminski with pro Phil Kaminski), 56; Jay Taub (Herbert Reich, John Jaski, Chris Fatone, Jay Taub with pro John Souza), 57; CDPHP (Fran Vachoin, John Heath, Kirk Panneton, George Vassolas with pro Tom Oppedisano), 58; Dr. Steve Goodman (Gary Kronick, Dick Smith, Bruce Barach, Steve Goodman with pro Tom Falotico), 58; Wally Graham/SI Group (Steven Large, Wallace Graham, Christopher Roberts, Paul Tilley with pro Kirk Armstrong), 59; Ellis Medicine II (Daniel Kuelzow, Robet Kuelzow, Steve Wright, Tom Donohue with pro Rick Wolcott), 59; Jim Connolly (Jim Connolly, James Connolly, Matt Miles, Roger Barrowman with pro Jim Jeffers), 59; U.W. Marx (Ed Fink, Bill Shannon, Steve Sala, John Copeland with pro Adam Panagopoulos), 60; Mullaney (Dick Phillippe, Tom Donovan, Carl Paulsen, Michael Mullaney with pro Brian Hampson), 60; NBT Bank (Greg Kelly, Jim Campone, Bill Faubion, Jeff Meyers with pro Trevor Fiedler), 60; Price Chopper No. 1 (Neil Golub, Howard Marwill, Bill Sweet, Mike Gifford with pro Steve Berliner), 61; Dr. Robert Kennedy (Robert Kennedy Jr., Robert Kennedy, Ed Meskutovecz, Mike McGovern with pro Kevin Pokorski), 61; Thorn, Gershon, Tymann and Bonanni (John Lockwood, Paul Jureller, Matt Riggons, Matt McNamara with pro Todd Manderson), 61; Jerry Cote (Thomas Schmitz, Gerald Cote, Robert Fazio, Bill Leader with pro Jeremy Kerr), 61.
Top net teams
Jim Connolly (James Connolly, Jim Connolly, Matt Miles, Roger Barrowman with pro Jim Jeffers), 59-10.9-48.1; Ellis Medicine II (Daniel Kuelzow, Robert Kuelzow, Steve Wright, Tom Donohue with pro Rick Wolcott), 59-9.8-49.2.