Jerry Brescia used to be known for his long-range jump shots as a member of the Union College basketball team.
Now, he has a new claim to fame: major golf champion.
The 46-year-old local chiropractor played steady golf and kept his nerves in check en route to winning his first Gazette County Amateur championship Sunday at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
Brescia, who plays out of Eagle Crest Golf Club, shot a two-over-par 74 in the final round of the rain-shortened event and finished with a two-day total of 145 to beat Lance Hope (73-146) by one shot. Chad Stoffer, another former Union College athlete as a quarterback, was third with a 72-147, followed by defending champion and six-time winner Paul Pratico (76-148).
“I’m playing a lot of golf these days,” said Brescia, a perennial contender in the County Am who once finished second. “Although I still don’t take many days off from work, I’m playing more golf than ever, and I think it shows.”
Brescia, whose 71 in the opening round was the only sub-par round of the tournament, credited former Union basketball coach Bob Montana with helping him to stay calm.
“Having coach on my bag was a big help. Even though he doesn’t know that much about golf, he is a calming influence on me. He relates a lot of basketball situations to golf, and it makes a lot of sense. I really appreciate his help,” Brescia said.
Brescia’s putter was solid, and he completed most of his up-and-down opportunities when he missed the greens. He said his driver was a little off, but it never really got him into any big trouble.
“I tried to make some birdies and avoid too many bogeys,” he said. “I was trying to hit the center of the greens. I wanted to stay aggressive, but I didn’t want to do anything stupid.”
Brescia birdied the first hole and posted eight straight pars to make the turn at one-under-par.
“On the front nine, I played pretty well,” he said. “I thought I made some key up-and-down pars on the third and fourth holes. I was making some nice chips, and I had confidence in my putter.”
He missed a short par putt on the par-5 12th hole, the only short one he thought he should have made, and made another key up-and-down par on the long par-3 15th hole.
About the only sign that Brescia might have been a little nervous trying to nail down his first major golf championship was a shanked wedge shot on the 16th hole, leading to another bogey.
He used his putter from off the green on the par-3 17th hole and converted a nifty two-putt from more than 60 feet. He finished off his round with a solid two-putt par on No. 18.
“It was a good day,” Brescia said. “I knew how I stood in my group, but I didn’t know where I was in terms of the rest of the field. When I finished, I wasn’t sure that I had won.”
Hope, on the other hand, knew exactly what he needed to do in order to beat Brescia. His caddie kept him informed on how the rest of the players were doing, and he told Hope that a birdie was probably necessary on the 18th hole to have any chance of winning.
Hope went after the pin aggressively, and his ball landed on the back fringe. His birdie putt stopped two feet short, and he tapped in for par.
“At least I gave myself a chance,” said Hope. “I knew what I needed on the last hole.
“My game is getting close. I’ve been in contention in this tournament a couple of times now, and I’m getting close.”
Hope chipped in for eagle on the second hole and birdied the ninth hole.
“After that, it was a par fest,” he said. “But I did have some three-putt issues. I three-putted three times on the front.”
Stoffer closed with an even-par 72, while Pratico couldn’t recover from a balky putter.
Jerry Brescia 74-145, Lance Hope 73-146, Chad Stoffer 72-147, Paul Pratico 76-148, Ben Bates 75-149, Tom Salmon 78-151, Tony Cristello 74-151, Jim Mueller 74-152, Alex Olbrych 79-153, Brandon Haase 77-153, Jay Taub 78-156, John Mendrysa 81-156, Ed Chylinski 78-157, Kenny Hall 78-157, Andy Bennett 79-157, Mike Stopera 80-159, Dave DeMarco 82-159, Todd Trepess 81-160, Mark Compton 82-160, Ben Smith 83-161, Matt Panneton 86-162.