Despite a sub-par season by his own lofty standards, Jim Welch of Olde Kinderhook is about to wrap up his second Capital Region Amateur Golf Association point championship.
With only one major points event left for the area amateurs — the New York State Mid-Amateur Golf Championship at Onondaga Country Club Friday through Sunday — Welch (381.62) has roughly a 113-point lead over third-place Jim Gifford (267.98) of Mohawk Golf Club.
Runner-up Victor Fox of Normanside Country Club, who narrowly lost this year’s State Amateur at Schuyler Meadows, is ineligible for the State Mid-Amateur because only players ages 25 and older can participate. Besides, he’s playing college golf at Maryland these days.
Gifford is the defending point champion. He overtook Steve Quillinan of Colonie Golf & Country Club with a top-five finish at last year’s State Mid-Amateur, but he would have to win the Mid-Amateur this year, and Welch would have to miss the cut to have any chance to keep his title this year. The State Mid-Amateur is worth 120 points to the winner.
It’s been a strange year for the 46-year-old Welch, who didn’t win any major individual medal-play event, but finished in the top 10 in nearly every tournament in which he teed it up.
“I really didn’t play that consistent to where I put good rounds together. I had no really low rounds this year,” said the Skidmore College graduate.
“I just seemed to stay in the points race with enough pretty good finishes. I was playing badly for two months. Overall, when I look back at the season, it is what it is. I’m happy with the points, but I didn’t know how many I really had. I had a lot of seconds and thirds in the bigger tournaments.”
Welch did his best playing in partners tournaments. He teamed up with longtime partner Dave Pallas of Saratoga Spa to win both the Stadium Classic and the Haggerty Two-Man at Schenectady Municipal. He also teamed up with Chad Stoffer of Town of Colonie to finish second in the recent Wolferts Roost Invitational, when they blew a three-shot lead to Dan Russo and Dave Hayes.
But he also qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur to earn 66 points, and he finished in the top three in both the Troy Invitational and CRAGA Stroke Play Championship to earn 180 more points.
In all, he picked up points in 14 tournaments, although CRAGA rules only allow you to earn points in your top eight events.
“You always want to win at least one big event a year, and there aren’t that many of them on the schedule,” said Welch. “Unfortunately, this year I couldn’t win any, but overall, I did pretty well with what I had. I just never felt on top of my game.”
Welch has a career resume that stacks up with the best in the area. The owner of a hospital linen supply company has won three Troy Invitationals, two Tri-County Match Play Championships, one CRAGA Stroke Play title, an Edison Invitational crown, two Eagle Crest Shootouts and a New York State Mid-Amateur Championship.
“Last year, I won the CRAGA Stroke Play, and the year before that, I won the State Mid-Amateur,” Welch said. “You don’t always play your best in the big events. It’s strange how the year goes. I did play well in this year’s U.S. Amateur qualifier, and I also did pretty well in the Tri-County, the Troy Invy and this year’s CRAGA Stroke Play. That got me enough points, I guess.”
Welch is known as one of the area’s best grinders. His swing isn’t as picture-perfect as some players, but he knows how to get the ball into the cup, and he usually exhibits an excellent short game.
“It’s been a funny year,” he said. “By winning the Stadium Classic and the Haggerty Two-Man, I won two tournaments that I never won before. It’s not that easy to win the big tournaments. I would say that the three biggest in the area for me are the Troy Invitational, the
CRAGA Stroke Play and the Tri-County Match Play. You always want to do well in the State Am, and I was very disappointed with the way I played in this year’s championship, especially since it was right here in the area. But that happens.
“The truth is that I’ve been playing badly for the last couple of months. Half of it is mental. Sometimes, you’re thinking about work when you are out on the course, and that’s the time you should be thinking about golf.
“But if I do end up winning the points title, I guess it would be a pretty good year, after all.”
Rounding out the top 10 are former points champion Russo of Rolling Hills at Antlers (254.72), Stoffer (226.70), Mike Wheeler of Shaker Ridge Country Club (213.34), Matt Canavan of Saratoga National (202.24), Hayes of Schuyler Meadows (168.05), Louis Walsh of Ballston Spa Country Club (159.17) and Quillinan (143.13).
- Stadium Golf Club’s Falling Leaves Tournament will be held Oct. 26 at 9 a.m. Entry fee for the two-person scramble will be $100 for non-members and $75 for members and includes golf with cart, range balls, Continental breakfast and a ziti and meatball dinner following play. The top six gross and top six net teams will earn prizes. Top prize for each division, based on a full field of 72 teams, will be $530. Deadline is Oct. 24. Call Stadium at 374-9104 for more information.
- Two of the best remaining events on the amateur schedule include the Schuyler Meadows High School Invitational Sept. 29 and the Senior/Junior Invitational at Albany Country Club Oct. 12-13. The Tri-County Partners Championship will also be played next month at Olde Kinderhook.
- Cobleskill Golf & Country Club is currently accepting inquiries from outside leagues looking for playing venues for the 2014 season. For more information, league officials should contact Bob Smith at 258-7743 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Speaking of Cobleskill G&CC, the club is offering a fall foursome special from Sunday to Friday through Oct. 31. Prior to 2 p.m., foursomes can play golf with a cart for $80. After 2 p.m., it’s $60.
- Amsterdam Municipal assistant pro Chris Mathewson passed his NENYPGA Players Ability Test at Greenock Country Club in Lee, Mass. He was low qualifier with scores of 78-73-151.
- The 41st annual Bryce Hume Memorial Golf Tournament is set for Oct. 6 at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. Entry fee is $50 and includes golf, cart, lunch and prizes for gross and Calloway net. Gazette employees, retirees and guests are eligible, but employees and retirees will be given first consideration. Entry deadline is Oct. 1. Entries will be limited to the first 32 players. Tee times begin around 8 a.m. Drop off or mail entries to Bob Weiner, 2345 Maxon Road Ext., P.O. Box 1090, Schenectady, NY 12301-1090. Be sure to include the $50 payment, and make checks payable to The Daily Gazette Co.
- Demonstrating that Bethpage State Park’s Black Course is still thought of as one of the best public courses in the country, it was announced this week that the famed challenging layout will host both the 2019 PGA Championship and the 2024 Ryder Cup.
- NewsChannel 13 and Colonie Golf & Country Club will sponsor a unique event called the Capital Region Golf Championship Sept. 28.
There will be four tournament divisions: individual gross, individual net, two-man team gross and two-man team net. Championships will be awarded in each division, and the winners will be announced on WNYT and WNYA as the “Capital Region’s Best.” Entry fee is $60 per player. Carts are not required, but are available for rent in the pro shop. Registration deadline is
Sept. 26. For more information, contact Colonie Golf & Country Club.
- Shaker Ridge Country Club course superintendent Jim Seaman is hosting a golf tournament Sept. 30 to support his sister, LeeAnn, as she battles breast cancer. Entry fee for the four-person scramble will be $125 for singles or $500 per foursome. Entry fee includes golf cart, lunch, beverages and golf. There will be a cocktail
reception following play. There will be raffles and prizes. Contributions are also welcome. There will be a 12:30 p.m. shotgun start. Contact Shaker Ridge CC
(869-5101) for more information.
Dan Noonan hit a pitching wedge for a hole-in-one on the 143-yard 16th hole at Amsterdam Municipal.
Tim Ferrara drove the green and knocked in a three-foot putt for an eagle on the 335-yard par-4 opening hole at Briar Creek.
Also at Briar Creek, Doug Griset hit his 5-iron to five feet and rolled in an eagle putt on the par-5 15th hole.
Chris Lanzi eagled the fifth hole at Amsterdam Municipal.
Dave Gibson holed out for an eagle-2 on the par-4 ninth hole at Saratoga Spa State Golf Course.