Colonie Golf & Country Club head pro Frank Mellet has competed on the national stage numerous times as one of the premier club professionals in the Capital Region.
But he still gets a kick out of squaring off right here at home against the local amateurs.
That’s why the 53-year-old Mellet will be pumped up to play at his best as captain of the NENYPGA team, which takes on the Capital Region Amateur Golf Association all-stars in today’s 12th annual Gazette Cup at Colonie G&CC.
Spectators are welcome, and there is no charge to see some of the best players in the area play at one of the better private clubs.
The pros, who won in a rout a year ago, lead the individual and team match-play event, 7-4. Three points are up for grabs in each match, and there are three matches going on simultaneously in each foursome — two individual matches and one team match. There are 12 players on each team. Players are chosen off each organization’s player of the year point list.
“I’ve been playing against the local amateurs for the last 24 years,” said Mellet, a former assistant pro at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester. “Even back in the days of the old Bob Smith Cup, I was playing in events like this. A lot of the amateurs are friends of mine, and it’s always special to get an opportunity to play against them.”
Mellet said that elite golfers in the Capital Region are fortunate to have so many playing opportunities like the Gazette Cup.
“When I was playing in the Senior Professional Championship a few weeks ago, I met a club pro there who had to travel eight hours to compete,” Mellet said.
“For me, this is always a special event. There is a lot of pride involved. And this week, it’s even more special, because we’ll be hosting a lot of these same amateurs in the Tri-County Match Play Championship this weekend. You know I want to play well against them.”
Playing well is something that the veteran Mellet has done for a very long time. His national credentials include competing in several Professional Championships, formerly called the Club Pro Championship, and Senior Professional Championships, as well as the Senior U.S. Open. He is currently the seventh alternate to compete in the Senior PGA Championship in Michigan.
“I think I’ve got a great chance to play in that, which is scheduled for Memorial Day weekend,” he said. “There aren’t as many players lining up to play in a tournament in Michigan this time of year. If I get to play in that, it will be very special.”
Mellet is also the all-time leader in NENYPGA majors with a total of nine. He’s captured three Match Play Championships, three Professional Championships, two Donald Ross Classic titles and one Stroke Play Championship. He is a former NENYPGA Player of the Year and Senior Player of the Year.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to train more year-round to stay in shape,” Mellet said. “If you train, you can definitely extend your career. I don’t know how many more years I’ll be able to compete with all the younger guys. I’m definitely in the final third of my career.”
Joining Mellet on the pro team will be three-time defending NENYPGA Player of the Year Scott Berliner (McGregor Links CC), Kevin Hughes (Saratoga Golf & Polo), Skidmore College coach Fred Fruisen, Tom Oppedisano (McGregor Links CC), former Player of the Year Josh Hillman (Taconic Golf Club), Marc Levesque (Columbia G&CC), Tom Sullivan (Wyantenuck CC), Bob Mucha (Greenock CC), Steve Mazzariello (Stockridge GC), Ian Breen (Colonie G&CC) and Steve Vatter (Capital Hills at Albany).
The amateur team is captained by Dan Russo of Schuyler Meadows. Russo, 56, has won every major tournament in the area, and like Mellet, has also competed numerous times on the national stage in events like the U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Amateur.
Defending CRAGA Player of the Year Jim Welch of Olde Kinderhook is also on the team along with Steve Quillinan Jr. (Colonie G&CC), Brandon Haase (Mohawk GC), Mike McCarroll (Saratoga National), Chad Stoffer (Town of Colonie), Kevin Cassidy (Albany National), Justin McCarthy (Wolferts Roost CC), Mike Wheeler (Shaker Ridge CC), Louis Walsh Walsh (Ballston Spa CC), Dave Hayes (Schuyler Meadows) and Dave Pallas (Saratoga Spa State Park).
10:30 — Steve Vatter (Capital Hills)-Ian Breen (Colonie G&CC) vs. Steve Quillinan Jr. (Colonie G&CC)-Brandon Haase (Mohawk GC).
10:40 — Steve Mazzariello (Stockbridge GC)-Bob Mucha (Greenock CC) vs. Mike McCarroll (Saratoga National)-Chad Stoffer (Town of Colonie).
10:50 — Tom Sullivan (Wyantenuck CC)-Marc Levesque (Columbia G&CC) vs. Kevin Cassidy (Albany National)-Justin McCarthy (Wolferts Roost CC).
11:00 — Josh Hillman (Taconic GC)-Scott Berliner (McGregor Links CC) vs. Mike Wheeler (Shaker Ridge CC)-Louis Walsh (Ballston Spa CC).
11:10 — Tom Oppedisano (McGregor Links CC)-Fred Fruisen (Skidmore College) vs. Dan Russo (Schuyler Meadows)-Dave Hayes (Schuyler Meadows).
11:20 — Frank Mellet (Colonie G&CC)-Kevin Hughes (Saratoga Golf & Polo) vs. Jim Welch (Olde Kinderhook)-Dave Pallas (Saratoga Spa).