Despite an injured ankle, which has hindered his play all season, Scott Berliner is starting to feel like his old self again, and that’s bad news for the rest of the members of the Northeastern New York PGA.
The 39-year-old McGregor Links Country Club assistant pro, who is the reigning NENYPGA Player of the Year, fired a two-under-par 69 to finish with a two-day total of 140 to capture the section’s Professional Championship by three shots Wednesday at Ballston Spa Country Club.
Also earning a trip to next summer’s Professional National Championship at the Philadelphia Cricket Club were Capital Hill at Albany head pro Steve Vatter (73-143) and David Strawn (71-143) of Cranwell Resort & Golf Club.
Berliner earned $2,100 to go along with his berth in the national event. Strawn and Vatter took home $1,625 apiece, while Josh Hillman (73-145) of Taconic Golf Club earned $1,022.50 and will be the first alternate after winning a playoff with Tom Sullivan of Wyantenuck CC (71-145) and Kevin Pokorski (74-145) of Ausable Club.
Town of Colonie of Colonie assistant pro Matt Bogdanowicz (69-145) also tied for fourth, but declined to participate in the playoff after shooting the best round of the tournament.
“It was a struggle over the last two days,” said Berliner, a Luzerne native who has dominated the NENYPGA since earning his Class A card several years ago. “My ankle is still not 100 percent, and it’s bothered me a lot since I missed the cut by two shots at the State Open last week.
“The problem is it’s on my left foot. If it was my right foot, it probably wouldn’t be bothering me that much. For it to heal properly, I would need to stay off of it for six to eight weeks, but I can’t do that. I can’t afford it.”
Berliner said the ankle bothers him more when he’s giving lessons.
“I’m on my feet all day giving a clinic at Hiland, and all of that standing around really bothers me,” he said. “It’s [the ankle] very sore and stiff in the morning. But I’m excited to make it back to [nationals] this year. It was the most disappointing thing for me last year when I failed to make this year’s tournament at Myrtle Beach.”
“My goal this week was to finish in the top three, and when I had back-to-back three-putts on the second and third holes, I knew I had to grind it out.,” said Berliner. “I figured I should try to stay around par and see what happens.”
Berliner offset two bogeys with an eagle on the eighth hole and two birdies, including a fortuitous one on the 16th hole, when his putt was rolling too quickly but hit the back of the cup and fell in.
“I was lucky on No. 16. That was a key hole for me,” he said.
Meanwhile, the 45-year-old Vatter will be making his third trip to the PNC in the last five years.
“It was a struggle for me,” he said. “The 14th hole was a key for me. I hit a sand wedge over the green, but then I chipped it in. That got me going. Right up to that point, I was looking at the leaderboard, but I didn’t look at it again.”
Qualifiers — Scott Berliner (McGregor Links CC) 69-140, $2,100; David Strawn (Cranwell Resort) 71-143, $1,625; Steve Vatter (Capital Hills at Albany) 73-143, $1,625.
First alternate — Josh Hillman (Taconic GC) 73-145, $1,022.50.
Other scores — Tom Sullivan (Wyantenuck CC) 71-145, $1,022.50; Kevin Pokorski (Ausable Club) 74-145, $1,022.50; Matt Bogdanowicz (Town of Colonie) 69-145, $1,022.50; Peter Gerard (Mill Road Acres) 76-146, $580; Bob Mucha (Greenock CC) 72-147, $420; John Neet (Golf Galaxy) 74-147, $420; Tom Oppedisano (McGregor Links CC) 77-147, $420; Rocky Catalano (Ausable Club) 71-149, $90; Todd Manderson (Ballston Spa CC) 78-149, $90; Anders Mattson (Saratoga National GC) 75-149, $90; Steve Mazzariello (Stockbridge GC) 75-149, $90; Kevin Cain (Colonie G&CC) 74-150; Maite Cupp (McGregor Links CC) 75-150; Brian Lowe (Windham CC) 76-150; Milton Torres (CC of Pittsfield 73-150; Ian Breen (Colonie G&CC) 77-151; Mark Jorgensen (The Edison Club) 76-151; Tom Siddon (Massena CC) 73-151; Kevin Hughes (Saratoga G&P) 76-153; Paul Jaycox (Cobleskill G&CC) 79-153; Keith Sprenger (Pioneer Hills GC) 74-154; Steve Plata (Saratoga National GC) 79-155; John Souza (Stadium GC) 76-157; Brad Stewart (PGA Member) 78-157; Rich Scott (Fox Run GC) 79-159; Marc Levesque (Columbia G&CC) 82-160; Glenn Davis (Albany CC) 83-161; Peter Egazarian (Wahconah CC) 78-161; Kevin VanOrt (Shaker Ridge CC) 81-161; Erik Smith (Normanside CC) 88171; Ran Mazula (Wolferts Roost CC) 88-188.