Capping off what has been a whirlwind year of incredible golfing experiences, Frank Parisi proudly marched with members of the PGA Tour last Monday as the standard bearer for this weekend’s RBC Heritage Classic at Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head Island, S.C.
“It was pretty fine,” the 2016 Schalmont High School graduate said. “It was for the opening ceremony. We all marched in to the 18th green. Sam Saunders [Arnold Palmer’s grandson] launched a cannon ball into the harbor honoring Arnold Palmer, and the defending champion also hit a shot with a wooden driver into the harbor. It was a pretty cool experience.”
This week’s ceremonial duties were only a small part of Parisi’s thrilling year of adventures. Instead of starting his college career directly after high school, Parisi enrolled into the prestigious International Junior Golf Academy and competed for a full season on the International Junior Golf Tour. While a member of the IJGT, he not only shot a 79 in a tournament at TPC Sawgrass, the home of the Players Championship, but he also won the 2017 IJGA Race to Scotland and received an all-expense paid week of golf in Scotland.
While in Scotland, Parisi played at St. Andrews Links, the Old Course, considered the home of golf. “Playing at St. Andrews was great,” Parisi said. “I shot a 76 there. It was super nice. We got lucky. We were there in Scotland for seven days, and we played six different courses. The day we played St. Andrews was the least windy day of the trip. There was practically no wind, and the course was playing pretty easy. They tell you to hit every ball to the left, and you’ll be OK, but with no trees or hazards, every hole was pretty easy.”
Parisi said that all golfers must check in to the starter’s shed and declare their handicap before playing the Old Course. Depending on your handicap, you are assigned a tee to play. “I played from the back tees, and the card said it played about 6,700 yards” he said. “Some of the holes were the tees where the pros play. There was an extra tee box maybe 20 or 30 yards behind.”
Although Parisi and his IJGA pals could have used caddies, Parisi preferred to carry his own bags around the historic layout. “My Dad was there, but I played the round with three other kids from school,” Parisi said. “We also played Gullane, where Ricky Fowler won the Scottish Open.”
Along with his trip to Scotland, Parisi said one of his most enjoyable experiences this year was simply going to school every day. “The IJGA is all golf,” he explained. “The kids in high school took classes every day, but because I already graduated, I didn’t take any classes. A typical day for me was waking up at 6:30 a.m., going to the course at 7:30 or 8, and finishing up my round of golf about 11 a.m. Then, we’d go to the cafeteria for lunch. All of us have the option of playing more golf or practicing. Usually, me and a couple of the other guys would go out and play nine more holes in the afternoon. We also had performance training and strength training to help our golf games.”
Parisi said the IJGA sharpened his game, especially around the greens. “I think I’m a better player all around,” he said. “The courses down here [in Hilton Head] are a lot different and tougher than the ones in New York. There is a lot more water, more hazards and the courses are longer. Playing down here opens up different aspects of your game. For example, I would be hitting an 8-iron or 9-iron most of the time up in New York, but down here, I’m hitting a 6-iron or a 7-iron.
“I would say my wedge play as improved the most,” he noted. “Anything from 100 yards and in I’m a much better player than I used to be. I love the weather down here, and the venues on the IJGT are simply outstanding. We play so many courses that the pros play on.”
Parisi, who recently signed a National Letter of Intent to play Division I golf for St. Francis Brooklyn next fall, was a member of the Big 10 champion Christian Brothers Academy golf team as a freshman. After transferring to Schalmont, he was a three-time MVP for the Sabres and was the first alternate for the Section II state golf team last spring. The highlight of his career before this season was recording a double eagle, or albatross, during a scholastic match at Eagle Crest Golf Club last fall.
WOMEN JOIN CLASSIC
Schenectady Municipal Golf Course head pro Matt Daley said beginning this summer, there will be a women’s division in the three-day Schenectady Classic, formerly called the Gazette County Amateur.
The Capital Region’s top women players once had their own tournament at Schenectady Municipal. It was originally called the Gazette Women’s Amateur Championship. It eventually morphed into the Gazette Women’s Best Ball Championship before fizzling out about six or seven years ago.
Although the Schenectady Classic will be a three-day event (June 16-18) for players all around the Capital Region, the women’s division will be over two days. Daley is pondering limiting the women’s field to the first 50 players. There will be more information available soon when Daley finalizes the particulars.
The Eastern New York Golf Association, now headed by new director of golf Andrew Pludrzynski, begins its season April 25 at Colonie Golf & Country Club. Pludrzynski takes over for the late Stan Dzek, who died last fall en route to Normanside Country Club for the final ENYGA event of the season.
Pros from the Northeastern New York PGA open their season April 24 with their traditional Triple Play event at Town of Colonie Golf Course. The Triple Play incorporates three different formats into 27 holes of play.
Times Union sportswriter Pete Dougherty, from Clifton Park, enjoyed the opportunity of a lifetime last Monday when he got to play Augusta National the day after the Masters. Dougherty earned his chance at playing in a lottery. He’s been covering the Masters for 14 years.
Many area head professionals have changed courses over the off season. Four-time NENY PGA Player of the Year Dal Daily, formerly at Cobleskill G&CC before moving to Albuquerque, N.M., returns to the Capital Region as the head pro at Windham CC. He worked at Windham CC earlier in his career.
Recent Hall of Famer Brian Lowe, who was the head pro at Windham CC, is now moving to Catskill GC. Former Van Patten GC head pro Bob Kennedy is now the head pro at Van Schaick Island CC.
Brian Hampson, former head pro at Burden Lake CC, is the new head pro at Normanside CC, where New York State Women’s Amateur champion Bailey Cocca is now an assistant. John Souza, the longtime head pro at Stadium Golf Club, has left Stadium and is opening his own golf school at Ballston Spa Country Club.
Tom Miller eagled the par-4 seventh hole at Stadium Golf Club.
Also at Stadium GC, Paul Pawlik holed out from 10 yards with a 56-degree wedge for an eagle on the 16th hole.