Normanside Country Club assistant pro Justin Hearley had to work overtime to earn his first local pro victory.
Using brand new clubs, Hearley chipped to within one foot and rolled in the tap-in par putt on the first playoff hole to beat Capital Hills at Albany head pro Steve Vatter in the Northeastern New York PGA’s Pro Classic No. 6 Monday at Cobleskill Golf & Country Club.
Both Hearley and Vatter finished regulation play with one-under-par 69s. Hearley earned $500, while Vatter came away with $450. Colonie Golf & Country Club assistant pro Kevin Cain was third with a 70, followed by Stadium Golf Club head pro John Souza with a 71.
During the playoff, the par-4 uphill 18th hole, Hearley hit a 5-wood off the tee and a wedge to the elevated green. His shot landed about 10 feet past the cup, but it spun all the way back off the green. Vatter, hitting a driver, also had a short pitch shot, but his approach shot landed just beyond the green in the rough, leaving him a tough downhill pitch.
Vatter’s pitch shot rolled past the cup and off the green. He two-putted for bogey. Hearley hit a bump-and-run chip with his 52-degree wedge and his ball landed just about a foot from the cup, leaving him an easy tap-in for the win.
“I just got new Callaway clubs last Monday, and they worked great,” said Hearley, whose previous best finishes in NENYPGA events were a pair of second-place ties. “I wanted to have a little control on the last chip shot, so I decided to use the bump-and-run instead of flying the ball right at the hole. I knew Steve had a really tough chip shot from where he was.”
Hearley, a 24-year-old graduate of SUNY-Delhi, hit 16 of 18 greens and rolled in four birdies. He shot a 32 on the back nine. This is his sixth year at Normanside CC, including the last three as the assistant pro.
The 45-year-old Vatter, a former NENYPGA Stroke Play champion, started off with a double bogey, but saved his round with five birdies.
“Actually, I hit my best shot of the day with my approach shot on the first hole, but it landed in the back fringe, and it was almost impossible to keep the ball on the green,” he said. “I was fortunate to bounce back. I birdied the seventh, eighth and ninth holes, and also got birdies on the 11th and 18th holes.”
Cain, whose even-par round included five birdies and five bogeys, said he was just happy to be playing after missing 18 months with a torn muscle and a hernia.
“I lost 18 months of playing time, including my chance to play in the Professional Club Championship. It’s just great to be back playing again. I really enjoy golf now,” he said.
Pro Division — x-Justin Hearley (Normanside CC) 69, $500; Steve Vatter (Capital Hills at Albany) 69, $450; Kevin Cain (Colonie G&CC) 70, $400; John Souza (Stadium GC) 71, $350; Marc Levesque (Columbia G&CC) 73, $320; Peter Maassmann (Blackhead Mountain) 73, $320; Milton Torres (CC of Pittsfield) 74, $190; Ian Breen (Colonie GC&CC) 75, $53.33; Maite Cupp (McGregor Links CC) 75, $53.33; Peter Gerard (Mill Road Acres) 75, $53.33; Peter Hampson (Burden Lake CC) 76, Don DeNyse III (Capital Hills at Albany) 76, Brian Lowe (Windham CC) 77, Glenn Davis (Albany CC) 78, Matt Schulte (Oneonta CC) 78, Jim Scouller (PGA Life Member) 79; Paul Jaycox (Cobleskill G&CC) 79, Keith Sprenger (Pioneer Hills) 80, Kevin Van Ort (Shaker Ridge CC) 80, Steve Plata (Saratoga National) 80, Ryan Durnberg (Saratoga National) 81, Dennis Estes (Albany CC) 84, Noel Gebauer (Town of Colonie) 91, Erik Smith (Normanside CC) 91.
Amateur division — Wyatt Gorham (Fort Edward) 81, $105 gift certificate; Chris Jenkins (Loudonvile) 91.