Both youth and experience rose to the top of the field during Monday’s New York State Amateur local qualifier at Pinehaven Country Club.
Victor Fox, who just graduated from Bethlehem High School and will play at Maryland in the fall, is the best young player in the Capital Region.
Kevin Cassidy, the 51-year-old director of the State Parks and Recreation Department, has 35 years of experience playing competitive golf.
Both Fox and Cassidy fired one-over-par 72s to lead the local qualifying contingent for the 91st New York State Amateur Golf Championship, to be played July 23-25 at Schuyler Meadows Club.
Ryan Gabel of Casperkill Golf Club was medalist with an even-par 71. He registered two birdies and two bogeys. Eighteen players made the cut at 76 or better.
Fox, who recently won the rain-shortened Albany County Amateur, is a two-time Section II state qualifying medalist. He is also a New York Junior PGA champion, twice qualified for the U.S. Junior Championship and competed in the Junior PGA Championship three times. Fox also made it to the U.S. Open sectional qualifier this year, where he played with the pros.
“I had quite an up-and-down type of day today,” said Fox. “I had plenty of birdies, but I also had a bunch of bogeys.”
Fox, who plays out of Normanside Country Club, used a pair of hot streaks to roll in five birdies. He birdied the eighth and ninth holes on the front, and then collected birdies on the 14th, 15th and 16th holes on the back.
But he also had some bogey streaks, as well. He bogeyed the third, fourth and fifth holes on the front and gave up shots on the 10th, 12th and 13th holes on the back.
“I think I kind of lost some of my focus on the back side,” he said. “My game plan was to hit the fairways and greens. My driver is my most accurate club, usually, and I have a lot of confidence in it. Today, I missed some fairways that I usually don’t miss.”
No local player has won the State Amateur since Jay Gunning in 1986, so Fox was asked about the pressure of finally giving the Capital Region a state champion.
“I would love to play well in the State Amateur,” he said. “But as of now, I have never even played Schuyler Meadows. I hear it’s a great course, though.
“I wasn’t that nervous trying to qualify for this tournament compared to how nervous I felt trying to qualify at the U.S. Open sectionals,” he said. “I was playing with a pair of long-hitting pros in that tournament, and one of them was hitting the ball 40 yards past me.”
For Cassidy, who is a member of Albany National, a non-real estate golf club, qualifying for the State Amateur is a rare treat. In his position with the parks department, he doesn’t play as many championship events. In fact, this will be only his third State Amateur.
“I qualified when it was at Oak Hill, and that was something special,” he said. “But I usually don’t try to qualify, especially when it’s out of the area. I’m looking forward to it being at Schuyler, though. I try to compete as often as I can. I enjoy playing against the younger guys.”
Cassidy birdied the sixth and eighth holes to help offset bogeys on the 11th, 16th and 18th.
“A couple of up-and-downs really helped keep my round going,” Cassidy said. “I made par-savers on the first and third holes, and I also made a great two-putt for par from 50 feet on the second hole.”
Robby Bigley, a member of the home course, had a chance to share local honors until a double-bogey on the 18th hole made him settle for a 73.
The three-time Gazette County Amateur champion rolled in four birdies.
“I had some trouble off the tee on a few holes, including the 18th hole,” said Bigley. “But all I was trying to do was make the cut, and I did.”
Chad Stoffer, who now plays out of Town of Colonie Golf Course rather than at Schenectady Municipal, posted a 76.
“I don’t try to qualify very often, unless it’s in the area. I usually play the State Mid-Amateur instead,” said the former Tri-County Match Play champion.
Shaker Ridge Country Club member Mike Wheeler connected for two birdies, including one on the final hole, to match Stoffer’s 76. Also shooting 76 was Aaron Simone of the host club. Simone is a three-time Gazette Newspapers in Education Capital Region Junior champion.
Also qualifying were Jeff Schaller of Twaalfskill Golf Club (73), Nick Masterpole of Tuscorara Golf Club (73), Greg Bennett of Shaker Ridge Country Club (74), Taylor Bellemare of Hoosick Falls Country Club (74), Chris Comi of The Edison Club (74), Chris Grady of Woodstock Golf Club (74), Josh Holling of eClub Southern Tier (74), CJ Rourke of Wolferts Roost Country Club (76), Thomas Kenneally of The Edison Club (76), Peter Broderick of Normanside Country Club (76) and Joe Petrin of Lake Shore Yacht Club (76).
Dan Russo, a multiple CRAGA Player of the Year, pulled out of the qualifier because of a knee injury. Jim Welch earned an exemption into the State Amateur because he won the 2011 New York State Mid-Amateur.
Qualifiers — Ryan Gabel (Casperkill GC) 71, Victor Fox (Normanside CC) 72, Kevin Cassidy (Albany National) 72, Jeffrey Schaller (Twaalfskill GC) 73, Robby Bigley (Pinehaven CC) 73, Nick Masterpole (Tuscorara GC) 73, Greg Bennett (Shaker Ridge CC) 74, Taylor Bellemare (Hoosick Falls CC) 74, Chris Comi (The Edison Club) 74, Chris Grady (Woodstock GC) 74, Josh Holling (eClub Southern Tier) 74, CJ Rourke (Wolferts Roost CC) 76, Mike Wheeler (Shaker Ridge CC) 76, Aaron Simone (Pinehaven CC) 76, Thomas Kenneally (The Edison Club) 76, Peter Broderick (Normanside CC), Joe Petrin (Lake Shore Yacht) 76, Chad Stoffer (Town of Colonie) 76.
Other top scores — Steve Bass (Pinehaven CC) 77, Michael Raymond (Wolferts Roost CC) 78, Rich Christman (Van Schaick Island CC 78, Ben Brady (Seven Oaks GC) 78, Corey Purcell (Pinehaven CC) 78, Dan O’Donnell (Winding Brook CC) 78, Tod Czeiel (Shaker Ridge CC) 78, Doug DeCarlo (Hidden Valley GC) 78, Justin Deitz (The Edison Club) 78, Dave DeGenero (Burden Lake CC) 78, Jimmy Sullivan (CC of Troy) 79, Edward Hart (Rolling Hills) 79, David Arakelian (CC of Troy) 79, Kevin Broderick (Orchard Creek GC) 79, Spencer Sautin (Schuyler Meadows) 80, Matt Clarke (CC of Troy) 80.