Runner-up finish still gives Mellet path to Oak Hill
REXFORD Frank Mellet didn’t mind finishing in second place. He had a hidden agenda.
Although the 52-year-old Colonie Golf & Country Club head pro lost a two-hole playoff to first-round co-leader Josh Hillman of Berkshire Hills Country Club, Mellet still accomplished his goal during the final round of the Northeastern New York PGA Professional Championship Tuesday at The Edison Club.
Hillman’s six-foot par putt on the second extra hole sealed the victory and a check for $2,200, but both Hillman and Mellet will be competing in the PGA Professional National Championship next June 23-26 at Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Ore.
Hillman, a multiple section player of the year before struggling over the last two or three seasons, finished with a two-under-par 142. Mellet, who earned $1,900, also finished at 142 after recording a final-round 68.
For Mellet, his 12th appearance in the national PNC also means a chance to return to his old stomping grounds. Mellet worked at the prestigious Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester before moving to the Capital Region, and if he plays well at the PNC, he could play in next year’s PGA Championship, which will be hosted by Oak Hill CC.
“At age 52, how many more times will I get a chance to play in the PNC?” asked Mellet, who was the NENYPGA Player of the Year three seasons back and was inducted into this section’s hall of fame this spring.
“Plus, this is a chance to get back to Oak Hill.”
Mellet, who opened with a two-over-par 74, said his ball-striking in the final round was outstanding.
“I hit every fairway and missed only one green, and that was the second hole. I ended up with my only bogey on that hole,” said Mellet. “I didn’t look at the leaderboard all day. I really got it going there for a while, and I didn’t want to have too much to think about. The course was in outstanding shape, and I didn’t hit any bad shots. The greens were challenging, and were super-quick. You had some big breaking three- or four-footers out there.”
After Mellet and Hillman tied for first, they went back to their 18th hole — actually No. 27 — for the first playoff hole. Mellet made a great up-and-down for par after hitting a 30-yard pitch shot to within a foot. Hillman, who had a missed the green to the left, chipped past the hole about six feet and also made his par putt.
On the second extra hole, No. 1, Mellet hooked his approach shot and chipped up to about 10 feet. But he missed his par putt. Hillman two-putted for par and the victory.
“I think it would be the neatest thing in the world to have a chance to get back to Oak Hill,” said Mellet. “That would be one of the best things I’ve ever done, along with qualifying for the U.S. Senior Open last year. The PNC is always a great event, and for us, it’s a ticket to a major championship.”
Meanwhile, Hillman, who turned 35 on Monday, completed a comeback after his game had dropped off for the last several seasons.
“My goal was to qualify for the nationals, and that’s exactly what I did,” he said. “Both Frank and I shook hands and smiled at each other on the first playoff hole because we knew that the tough stuff was over.
“I’ve been struggling with my game for three years,” he said. “I won the [Stroke Play] championship here back in 2008, and after that, my life changed with my son, who is now 21⁄2 years old. But lately, I’ve worked hard on my game, because I think it’s important.
“I used to have that Tiger Woods feeling when I played in this section,” he said. “I would love to get back to where I was in 2008 and 2009. But golf is not the No. 1 priority now. My family is No. 1. My job is No. 2 and my golf is No. 3.”
Defending player of the year Scott Berliner of Normanside Country Club was the first alternate.
x-Josh Hillman (Berkshire Hills CC) 71-142, $2,200; y-Frank Mellet (Colonie G&CC) 68-142, $1,900; 1A-Scott Berliner (Normanside CC) 70-143, $1,300; 2A-Nathan Kain (The Edison Club) 70-143, $1,300; 3A-Rick Pohle (Taconic GC) 71-143, !,300; Bob Mucha (Greenock CC) 74-145, $800; Tom Siddon (Massena CC) 70-145, $800; Steve Mazzariello (Stockbridge GC) 75-147, $560; Ian Breen (Colonie G&CC) 73-148, $507.50; Steve Vatter (Capital Hills at Albany) 72-148, $507.50; Glenn Davis (Albany CC90 73-149; Tom Sullivan (Wyantenuck CC) 73-149; Peter Gerard (Mill Road Acres) 75-150; Kevin Bennison (Taconic GC) 76-151; Paul Jaycox (Cobleskil G&CC) 78-151; John Souza (Stadium GC) 76-152; Rocky Catalano (AuSable Club) 79-154; Kevin Hughes (Saratoga Golf & Polo) 76-154; Marc Levesque (Columbia G&CC) 79-154; Matt Bogdanowicz (Town of Colonie) 79-155; Mark Jorgensen (The Edison Club) 80-155; Peter Maasmann (Blackhead Mountain) 77-156; Anders Matson (Saratoga National GC) 75-156; David Strawn (Cranwell Resort) 85-157; Jeremy Kerr (Mohawk GC) 79-158; Noel Gebauer (Town of Colonie) 78-159; Tom Oppedisano (McGregor Links CC) 80-159; Jim Wasson (Craig Wood GC) 77-160; Phil Davis (Dick’s Sporting Goods) 84-165; Kent Tarkleson (Tark’s Indoor GC) 83-167; Michael Hillman (Berkshire Hills CC) 81-169; Craig McLean (The Edison Club) 82-DQ.
x-Won two-hole playoff; y-qualified for PNC. Berliner, Kain and Pohle are alternates.