Sometimes, it seems the local stop on the Symetra Tour has nine lives. Every time the former Futures Tour event appears to be dead, tournament director Jim Miller finds a way to bring it back.
That’s great news for local golf fans. The official feeder system for the LPGA Tour has launched the careers of such notable local natives as Dottie Pepper of Saratoga Springs and Laura Diaz of Scotia. Pepper, now a CBS golf analyst, won 17 times on the LPGA Tour, with 28 professional victories overall, and was once the Rolex Player of the Year. She was also a stalwart on the U.S. team for the Solheim Cup. Diaz won twice on the LPGA Tour. Both won area Symetra Tour events when it was called the Futures Tour.
For the last three seasons, Fuccillo Kia was the title sponsor, but now CDPHP has signed on for two years as the title sponsor. Miller still hopes Fuccillo will remain as one of the sponsors for this popular event, set for July 26-28 at Capital Hills at Albany. It will now be called the CDPHP Open.
The Capital Region began hosting a Symetra Tour event in 1984, and it remained at its initial site at Town of Colonie Golf Course through 1998. After dropping off the schedule in 1999, the tour returned to Western Turnpike Golf Course in 2000 and 2001, and then at Orchard Creek Golf Course in 2002 and 2003. The tour, which has undergone numerous name changes over the years, moved to its current site at Capital Hills at Albany in 2004.
“On this level, it’s not possible to succeed without a title sponsor,” Miller said. “It was a situation where CDPHP formed a charitable foundation and wanted to have that foundation’s charity to be associated with a golf tournament. It made sense to have it go hand in hand. We hope to have Billy [Fuccillo] back this year in a different role — maybe have his vehicles on the course.”
Miller, a longtime spokesperson for the Albany Police Department and currently the Director of Communications for NYSOPBA, is thrilled to have CDPHP make a two-year commitment.
“We now have some stability with the tournament being locked up for two years,” Miller said. “Hopefully, this will raise significant money for their mission. But I can’t say enough about Billy Fuccillo. He helped save the tournament. They stepped up when [former] Mayor Jennings called him and asked for help.”
The Symetra Tour has become part of the Capital Region’s summer scene.
“Obviously, I’m biased, but I think it’s vitally important for this tournament to stay in this area,” Miller said. “It adds to what we already have here with great sporting events like UAlbany and Siena in Division I basketball and the Saratoga Race Course. This is the only pro golf tour for the women between Rochester and New Jersey, and we’re the capital of the state.
“It’s very important, in my opinion, to have a women’s professional event here, especially in terms of what we’ve seen recently with the Women’s Amateur Championship at August and the women’s movement overall in the last 4-5 years that has shed light on women’s issues and greater equality.”
Miller admitted that constantly searching for sponsors over the last 16 years has been stressful, but he wants to continue for a few more years as the local tournament director.
“My goal here was to have the tournament here at Capital Hills for 16 years, which exceeds the 15 years it was at Town of Colonie,” Miller said. “I have it in my mind to go another couple of years, and maybe get it to 20 before someone else takes over. The organization of an event like this is not easy. I’ve been fortunate to have a great golf course and city behind me, but it’s getting harder and harder to put on such a great event.
“I believe in keeping this event here. It’s part of this area’s history.”
Symetra Tour graduates include LPGA tournament winners Laura Davies, Meaghan Francella, Cristie Kerr, Christina Kim, Mo Martin, Lorena Ochoa, Grace Park, Stacy Prammanasudh, Sherri Steinhauer and Karrie Webb.
On a personal note, the local Symetra Tour event has been one of my favorite events to cover for more than three decades. It’s hard to believe how many future LPGA stars once played here, including seven-time major champion Inbee Park, who I played with during a pro-am at Capital Hills at Albany in 2006.
MY TAKE ON TIGER
I’ll admit that I wasn’t rooting for Tiger Woods during most of the historic Masters last weekend. I was pulling for the surprisingly underrated Brooks Koepka.
But when Woods remained in contention on the back nine, I knew what was coming, and I stayed glued to my seat, just like millions of golf fans watching on television.
I haven’t always liked Tiger’s antics, but as a history buff and golf fanatic, I admired his talents. I knew history was in the making, and Tiger didn’t disappoint.
To see this man, once broken by his own misbehavior and four back surgeries, finish off this amazing comeback was indeed must-view TV. His rare show of emotion, and his celebration with his mother and children, Sam and Charlie, were special to watch.
Look, having this guy back on top is great for golf, and it’s apparent that he’s a much nicer guy this time around. At 43, he’s not what he once was, but he’s pretty close. When he’s in a tournament, crowds are bigger, and sponsors are happier. Even people in the golf business, from course owners to club pros, know a competitive Tiger is helpful for the game.
No matter what era or statistical model you’re talking about, it’s hard to argue that Woods is among the top two or three greatest players ever. He was Player of the Year a record 11 times, won nine Vardon Trophies for lowest stroke average and has amassed more than $1.5 billion in career earnings. He’s got 81 PGA wins and 15 majors. Will he surpass Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors? Who knows, but it will be fun to see him try. He’ll certainly surpass Sam Snead’s PGA Tour-record 82 wins.
And he’s smiling a lot more now. Golf fans and even casual observers are smiling back.
The Northeastern New York PGA’s season-opening tournament, the Pro-Pro Triple Play at Town of Colonie Golf Course, was postponed by rain Monday and has been switched to Friday. The pros now begin their season Monday with their Pro Classic No. 1 at Pinehaven Country Club.
Eagle Crest Golf Club will host the Capital District Elks “Fun” Junior Golf Qualifier for the 64th annual New York State Elks Junior Boys & Girls Championship on July 16. Entry fee is $30 and includes golf, lunch for golfers and parents, trophies and numerous door prizes. The state event will be held Aug. 4-5 at Stone Creek Golf Club in Oswego. Participants don’t have to be members of the Elks. For an entry blank, visit www.eaglecrestgolf.com. For more information, call Paul Ungerland (518-384-0221) or Michael Bloss (518-877-5200).
The Pros vs. Amateurs resume their match-play rivalry when the Challenge Cup resumes between the NENY PGA and the Capital Region Amateur Golf Association May 2 at Albany Country Club. The top 12 players off each organization’s player of the year points list will meet in individual and tandem match play.
University at Albany’s 26th annual Great Dane Athletic Club Golf Classic is set for June 27 at Wolferts Roost Country Club. There will be a 1 p.m. shotgun start. Entry fee for individual golfers is $300 and includes golf, lunch, cocktail hour and dinner. Contact Justin Brown, Associate Director of Annual Giving, Athletics, at 518-437-4774 for more information.
Bill Martin recorded his eighth career hole-in-one on the 145-yard fourth hole with a hybrid at Lake Venice Golf Club in Venice, Florida.
Mike Lyons of the MAC league posted the first ace of the season at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course with an 8-iron on the 13th hole.