The warning sign at this sensational public course makes it abundantly clear that you better have game to play there. It reads simply: “The Black Course is an extremely difficult course which we recommend only for highly skilled golfers.”
That’s one of the reasons why competing in the 41st annual Lennox New York State Open is both a privilege and a monumental challenge for the top pros and amateurs playing Tuesday through Thursday at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, Long Island.
Scott Battiste, head pro at Eagle Crest Golf Club, is in the field. The former NENY PGA Match Play champion teamed up with Normanside Country Club assistant pro Justin Hearley to win a pro-pro event earlier this season.
“Bethpage Black is a special place to go because the pros have played there, they have hosted a couple of U.S. Opens, and you can test your game against some very good players,” Battiste said. “This will be my fourth State Open, but I’ve played Bethpage Black maybe a dozen times.”
What makes the course so challenging?
“No. 1, from tee to green, it’s the length, and the fact that the rough is so thick there,” Battiste said. “If you miss the fairway, you may have to hit a wedge shot just to get back to the fairway.
Also, because the greens are so flat, they are very hard to read. You almost wish there were some more undulations.”
Battiste is looking to make his first cut at the State Open, and is hoping his game is up to the task. “I started off great this year, but then I sort of began to hit the ball a little crooked,” he said.
“Recently, I took some time off, and now I’m starting to practice again to get that feel back. I’m looking forward to playing there.”
Also playing for the Capital Region are eight-time consecutive Northeastern New York PGA Stroke Play champion Scott Berliner of Hiland Park Golf Club, local qualifying medalist Austin
Fox, a graduate of Bethlehlem High headed for the University of Rhode Island in the fall; Twaalfskill pro Jeffrey Schaller, Country Club of Pittsfield head pro Eric Mabee and Woodstock head pro Chris Sanger.
The only local player to ever win the event is touring pro Jeb Buchanan, who captured the crown in 2015. Buchanan, a lefthander, used to play out of Schuyler Meadows Club as an amateur, still practices there occasionally.
The State Open used to be a must-cover for local golf writers. In fact, it was my first golf assignment for The Daily Gazette, as I was subbing for former golf writer Mike Dyer. I made the trip to Grossinger’s, the event’s former longtime home, and stayed at Brown’s Hotel throughout the tournament, which was then sponsored by Michelob. The tournament also made brief visits to Saratoga and to Albany Country Club before settling on its permanent home at Bethpage Black.
A GREAT START
Kyle Adams carded a 70 to win the Open Division in the inaugural Schoharie County Amateur Open recently at Cobleskill Golf & Country Club.
Adams, who plays for The College of Saint Rose golf team, was a member of the Christian Brothers Academy Section II championship squad in 2014. He edged Connor McCarthy by one shot. McCarthy played golf for Cobleskill-Richmondville High School and also played for the SUNY-Cobleskill team. He is now a member of the Shenandoah University golf team.
Andy Rubilotta of the host club won the Men’s Division with a74, followed by fellow host club member Bill Kent with a 75. The club’s vice president, Bob Smith, won the Senior Division with a 79, followed by Don Ende and Joe Olbrych, both with 80. Linda Kolnick won the Women’s Division with an 89.
Lamont Engineers was the title sponsor. The event, which was open to Cobleskill G&CC members and to any player in the Capital Region, drew more than 40 competitors.
Former Wolferts Roost Country Club assistant pro Adam Panagopoulos is the new golf professional at Van Patten Golf Club. The 34-year-old product of the San Diego Golf Academy takes over for Adam Catanzarite, who resigned for personal reasons last week.
Members of the Northeastern Women’s Golf Association compete in one of their majors Wednesday, when Wolferts Roost Country Club hosts The Sykes. The best ball of partners event is named after the late Gail Sykes, one of the most talented players in Capital Region history.
Schenectady Municipal Golf Course hosts a Northeastern New York PGA Junior Golf Tour event on Friday. It’s sponsored by The Daily Gazette as part of the Newspapers in Education program.
Any junior golfer age 12-18 can compete in the Capital District “Fun” Golf Tournament at Eagle Crest Golf Club July 25. Entry fee is $30 and includes golf, lunch, trophies and door prizes.
The overall medalist receives four greens fees to Saratoga Spa Golf Course. The top players advance to the 63rd NYS Elks Junior Golf Tournament at Bath Country Club Aug. 12-13.
Participants need not be affiliated with the Elks. Applications are available at www.eaglecrestgolf.com. For more information, contact Paul Ungerland (518-384-0221) or Michael Bloss (518-877-5200).
From the blue tees, Ted Kuziara recorded a hole-in-one on the 152-yard sixth hole with a 9-iron at Eagle Crest Golf Club.
Ron Browder aced the 13th hole at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
Using a 4 hybrid, Steve Alviene collected his first hole-in-one on the 201-yard 13th hole at Normanside Country Club.
Josh Scranton eagled the 500-yard par-5 15th hole at Hales Mills Country Club.
At Pioneer Hills Golf Course, Jim Callahan eagled the 298-yard par-4 first hole.