One of Scott Berliner’s few regrets is that he never kept a scrapbook to track all of his spectacular playing achievements in a stellar golf career. By now, it would be pretty thick.
Berliner, a 45-year old Luzerne native who is currently an assistant pro at Saratoga Spa Golf Course, added to his amazing legacy with his unprecedented fifth consecutive win and eighth victory overall in the Donald Ross Classic this week. Considered a major event for the club pros on the Northeastern New York PGA tournament circuit, the Donald Ross Classic was reduced from a two-day event to just one when the opening round at The Sagamore Resort was rained out last Sunday. That made the final round at Glens Falls Country Club on Monday a winner-take-all sprint.
Berliner, admittedly, wasn’t sharp, but he was plenty good enough to win, shooting a 3-under-par 68 to edge Eagle Crest head pro Scott Battiste, a Niskayuna native, and Battenkill Country Club head pro Dal Daily by three shots. John Durcan, a retired PGA member, won the Legends Division for pros 60 years of age and older with a 74.
Berliner has dominated the NENY PGA for the better part of two decades, and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Monday, he used a solid front nine that included birdies on the fourth, fifth, seventh and ninth holes to hold off the field. He closed his round with a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-3 18th hole.
“The first time I played here was when I was just 12 years old in a junior event,” said Berliner about competing at Glens Falls CC. “I think that stepping onto the property is like being a member. I know where to hit it and where not to hit it. Frankly, that’s a huge advantage on a Donald Ross design. I didn’t hit it phenomenal, but my comfort factor here overruled the fact that I wasn’t playing that great.”
Like all of the local club pros, Berliner’s game isn’t in top shape because of the COVID-19 pandemic that stalled the start of the golf season and limited the amount of tournaments the pros could play this spring. So far, five tournaments were canceled outright and a few others have been postponed, including the NENY PGA Stroke Play Championship, originally scheduled for May at Mohawk Golf Club. Now that championship will be held Aug. 17-18.
“My game isn’t where I want it to be,” Berliner said. “I’m rusty. During the pandemic, I took six weeks off and that’s the longest I’ve taken off from the game since I was a kid. I try to hit balls every day if I can, but it’s not the same as playing golf.”
Berliner, who earned $2,000 for winning the Donald Ross Classic, was saddened by the fact that the tournament was shortened to one day. Unlike some local players, he loves playing The Sagamore Resort.
“I played The Sagamore a lot when I was a kid, and I like it. The Sagamore is a very strategic, tree-lined, mountain Donald Ross course, and that’s a pretty good combination,” he said. “You need a game plan going into it, and you need to be disciplined. It’s a tee shot-first golf course, and it’s a hard golf course. Of course, I’d rather play here [Glens Falls CC] because it fits my shot shape, but having the first major of the year be just a one-day tournament isn’t what you want. I’m always up for the majors, and you want more rounds, because the better players will show the more rounds of golf you have. You don’t want a one-day major, but Mother Nature is in control. We are just fortunate that we’re able to play.”
Although Berliner wasn’t eligible to compete in NENY PGA major events until he earned his Class A certification midway through his 20-year career, he has obliterated the local section record book. To go along with those eight Donald Ross titles, he also has nine consecutive NENY PGA Stroke Play Championships, four section Professional Championships and four NENY PGA Match Play titles. That adds up to 25 major championships. Although he doesn’t consider it to be a “major,” he also has won the season-ending Tour Championship/OMEGA Cup twice since it was implemented in 2014.
It’s almost unfair that Berliner has continued his status as an assistant pro. He’s won eight Assistants Championships, as well as six Vardon Stroke Average Awards.
Not surprisingly, Berliner has won nine straight NENY PGA Player of the Year Awards. He also finished third in the prestigious National Car Rental Assistants Championship at the Wanamaker Course at the PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Eventually, one of the younger club pros will unseat Berliner, but the veteran is not sitting around waiting for it to happen. Based on what I saw happen this week, he’ll be right in the thick of things to win another section championship and perhaps a 10th top player laurel.
Meanwhile, it was nice to see Battiste and Daily play well this week. Battiste is a former NENY PGA Match Play champion.
“I played pretty well,” Battiste said. ”I had two bogeys and two birdies, but a par-save on the drivable par-4 kept my round going and was kind of a turning point for me. I was 1-under-par at the time, and a bogey there could have put my game in a different direction.”
“I haven’t played a lot,” Battiste added. “I’m giving a lot of lessons. Just getting out and playing was good for me.”
Daily, the former head pro at both Windham CC and Cobleskill G&CC, remains competitive as he nears 60. He’s a five-time NENY PGA Player of the Year (2000-2002 and 2004-2005) and four-time NENY PGA Stroke Play champion.
While stopping over to play a quick nine holes earlier this week at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course, head pro Matt Daley told me that he will have some exciting news shortly about an upcoming tournament at his course.
In this pandemic era with very little good news, it’s nice to hear something positive on the tournament front.
Van Patten Golf Club has announced a jam-packed schedule of events for juniors and adults. Van Patten GC will have a PGA Junior League team for boys and girls age 6-13. Cost for the season is $200. Also offered will be a fundamentals-introduction to golf program ($60 for two-day clinics on July 16-17 or Aug. 6-7), a Parent-Child League July 11-Aug. 22 on Saturdays and several other programs. Call 518-877-5400 for more information.
For the adults, Van Patten has announced a Two-Player Best-Ball tournament July 11, the Ralph Maru Classic 36-hole Ringer on July 25-26, the Three-Tee Challenge Aug. 8, the 27-hole Iron Man on Aug. 22 and the 36-hole Club Championship Aug. 29-30. Contact the club for more information.
Stadium Golf Club has announced that cart petitions are now installed on riding cards to separate the driver and passenger and help practice social distancing. If players still choose to ride alone, there will be a $3 extra fee per nine holes.
Recent Siena College graduate Marisa Fiorina, rising Siena junior Abigail Chai-Onn and rising freshman Isabella Diaz, from Ballston Spa, were named All-American Scholars by the Women’s Golf Coaches Association.
The Catskill Classic is the next big tournament for Capital Region male amateurs. It will be held July 17-18 at Catskill Golf Club. Entry fee is $280 per team. Call the club at 518-943-0302 for more information. The field will be flighted.
University at Albany senior Helga Einarsdottir and sophomore Madison Walker were named All-American Scholars by the Women’s Golf Coaches Association.
Harris Hunger aced the 120-yard third hole with a 7-iron at Eagle Crest Golf Club.
During a NENY PGA Junior Summer Series event at Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course, Altamont native Kennedy Swedick aced the fourth hole while winning her girls’ division. The multi-talented Albany Academy for Girls rising freshman won the inaugural Section II Girls’ Golf Sectionals and NYS Qualifier at Fairways of Halfmoon last October. Swedick is also a former local representative at the national Drive, Chip & Putt competition at Augusta National Golf Club.
At the Country Club of Troy, Jim Kelly collected his third hole-in-one of the season with a 2 hybrid on the 205-yard 12th hole Thursday. He aced the 15th hole twice already this season, with an 8-iron in May and a 7-iron in June. Last season, he posted his first-ever ace with a 5-iron on the 173-yard seventh hole at Worthington Country Club in Bonita Springs, Florida.
PJ Riley eagled the par-5 fourth hole at Mechanicville Golf Club after reaching the green with a 3 hybrid.
Jerry Cinquanti eagled the 10th hole, and Ed Arthurs eagled the 15th hole at Rolling Hills Country Club at Antlers.
Chuck Rossi eagled the par-4 17th hole at Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course.
Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected] or @BobWeiner58 on Twitter.