Down the Fairway: Berliner faces plenty of challengers in club pro major events
Unlike last season, when he ran away with the Northeastern New York PGA Player of the Year award in his first year of eligibility, Scott Berliner is in for a battle this time around.
But the Normanside Country Club assistant pro is still in command, and a pair of top finishes in the final two majors of the season will help him clinch the section’s top achievement award once again.
Berliner dominated the local club pro tour a year ago by winning all of the major events, including the NENYPGA Stroke Play and the NENYPGA Match Play. After a great start in 2012, he’s slowed down a touch, but he’s still No. 1 on the point list again with 1,587.25 points.
Frank Mellet, the 2010 Player of the Year from Colonie Golf & Country Club, is second with 1,118.88 points, followed by Josh Hillman of Berkshire Hills Country Club (1,037.88), Colonie G&CC assistant pro Ian Breen (977.50) and Greenock Country Club head pro Bob Mucha. Hillman made a strong move late in the season with victories in the Professional National Championship at The Edison Club and the section’s Class A Championship at Stockbridge Golf Club.
The NENYPGA Stroke Play Championship is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday at Mohawk Golf Club, while the NENYPGA Match Play will be contested Sept. 18-19 at Albany Country Club. First place in both of the section’s final majors is 500 points, which means several players are still in the hunt.
“It should be interesting,” said Berliner of the player of the year chase. “Josh has been playing good lately, and Frank is always pretty steady. We’ve still got the stroke play and the match play left, so I’ve been working a lot on my game over the last month.”
Berliner said he hasn’t been as consistent over the last half of the season, but he’s hoping to tune up his game for the last two majors.
“Golf is not the kind of sport where you can be on top of your game all the time. It’s hard to be steady every day,” he said. “There are distractions and bad swings. For me, the warmer the summer, the less I tend to practice.
“But I’ve been playing pretty well. I’ve been inconsistent, but overall, it’s been a phenomenal last two years, even with the last couple of weeks not being that great. I’ve had my peaks and my valleys. The key is getting the peaks and valleys closer together.”
Berliner said he can’t quite put a finger on why he’s not playing at his best, but it’s nothing major.
“I’m working on my timing, trying to get ready for [PGA Tour]
Q school, and I’ve lost some weight,” he said. “Even three or four pounds can make a difference. I enjoy practicing, but not when it gets too hot.
“I’ve been putting well, and my short game is pretty good, but I’ve had a couple of missed shots here and there, and I’ve let them get to me. Normally, I’m fairly consistent, but one swing sometimes can change your mental attitude.”
Berliner is thrilled that this year’s Stroke Play Championship is being held at Mohawk Golf Club, one of his favorite layouts.
“I love Mohawk. It’s always in good shape, and I’ve had some good success there. It fits my eye. I’m very excited about the next couple of weeks,” he said.
Meanwhile, Breen, a former NENYPGA Match Play champ, is still in striking distance with some strong finishes in the last two majors.
“Obviously, Scott is a great player, and Frank is having another great season. Josh Hillman is also playing very well right now after slumping for a couple of years,” Breen said.
“I’ve been fairly consistent, but nothing spectacular. But there is no doubt that I’m looking to finish strong in both the stroke play and the match play. Hopefully, you are playing your best during those two tournaments, which are the section’s most important events of the year.”
Breen said his balky putter has prevented him from playing his best.
“Actually, I’m hitting the ball OK, but it all comes down to putting. I haven’t made a lot of putts. If you are making putts, you can spray it a little and still score. But if you’re hitting it well and not making any putts, it can really frustrate you.”
Like Berliner, Breen is looking forward to playing Mohawk.
“It’s one of my favorite courses. Most of the guys like playing there,” he said.
Most of us are not pros with average swing speeds well over 100 miles per hour.
That being said, there has been a lot of publicity lately about what are the best golf balls to play for the average player with slower swing speeds.
I’ve been doing plenty of research, and I decided to do my own test.
So I went out and purchased many of the golf ball brands that claim to help the average player hit longer shots and score better.
Don’t get me wrong, I still appreciate the Titleist Pro V1 for its overall performance. Even with my slower clubhead speed, I can still it hit pretty far, and it reacts extremely well around the greens. They are not cheap, however, and a player of my limited abilities probably should spend his money more carefully.
But like most people in my 50s (I’m 54), I’m starting to slow down, and I can use some help, especially off the tee.
Some of the balls I’ve tried over the last two weeks are the TaylorMade RocketBallz, the Srixon Q-Star, the Bridgestone e6, the Callaway Hex Diablo, the Srixon Z-Star, the Titliest Velocity and the TaylorMade Penta.
You can also throw in the Maxfli Noodle Long and Soft, because I’ve used that ball quite a bit over the last year or so when I wasn’t hitting Pro V1s.
Most of the balls were excellent off the tee, although the Q-Star had a plastic feel to it and didn’t go quite as far as the rest. It did better around the greens.
For me, the TaylorMade RocketBallz had the best overall distance off the tee and on approach shots, although it was extremely hard to control with the putter.
As far as length off the tee alone, the Velocity really went deep, but unlike the other balls, it didn’t seem to reduce my slices or hooks. But if you really want pure extra distance, that ball does the job.
I also liked the Bridgestone e6 better than I thought I would, because I had tried other Bridgestone balls that didn’t go very far for me. There is also a Bridgestone e7 that supposedly goes even longer, but I was running out of money!!
The Callaway Hex Diablo also jumped off the clubhead. I’ve used Callaway products before. In fact, the Warbird series was one of my favorites for distance.
I must confess that the TaylorMade Penta experiment wasn’t fair, because I made a mistake and didn’t purchase the right one for slower swing speeds. The Penta I did hit was solid but didn’t go as far as I expected it to. Again, I’ve spent too much money on this project to go back and try the right one.
And the Noodle is always a good ball for those of us who want some extra distance at a modest price.
Give these balls a try. They could help us seniors pick up a few extra yards.
u The Eastern New York Golf Association plays its next event Wednesday at Hiland Golf Club.
u The NEWGA Mixed Invitational also will be held at Hiland Golf Club on Tuesday.
u McGregor Links will host the New York State Mid-Amateur Local Qualifier on Monday.
u Chuck Connolly birdied the first extra hole to beat John Korniak and Jimmy Greene for the Kingswood Links Golf Club championship last weekend. It was Connolly’s 26th career club championship.
u LPGA instructor Meg Kelly and PGA instructor Kellie Stenzel, one of top-rated instructors in the country, will be hosting two clinics for women this week. On Monday, there will be a clinic at Ballston Spa Country Club from 12:30 to 2:30. Cost is $50. On Tueday, the clnic will be at The Edison club from 10 a.m. to noon. Cost is again $50. Call Kelly at 526-4086 for reservations.
u Pinehaven Country Club will host the UAlbany Slam Dunk Golf Classic, to benefit the UAlbany men’s basketball team, on Sept. 10. Entry fee is $199 a player, and includes golf, cart, driving range, lunch, beverages and snacks on the course and a buffet dinner after golf. For more information, contact Jerrad Knotts at 442-3036.
u Stadium Golf Club will host the 12th annual Dick Roberts Memorial Golf Tournament Sept. 8. Presented by the Dutchmen Gridiron Club, proceeds will support the Union College football program. Entry fee is $160, and includes lunch, golf gifts and a 3 p.m. buffet, raffle and live auction. Call Gary Reynolds at 388-6548 for more information.
u The Union College Golf/Basketball Fundraiser will be held at Mohawk Golf Club Sept. 24 at noon. Entry fee is $550 per team, and includes lunch at 11 a.m. and appetizers and awards following golf. The format is either two best balls of four or a scramble. It’s your choice. Contact Mary Ellen Burt at 388-6546 for more information.
u The NorthEastern YWCA will hold it’s second annual golf tournament Sept. 28th at Mohawk Golf Club. Eric Lastowka, long drive champion, will be giving a demonstration for players. The tournament benefits the YWCA’s breast cancer and domestic violence programs. Call 374-3394 or visit email@example.com for more information.
u The Epilepsy Foundation of Northeastern New York’s Jake Straughter Memorial Golf Tournament for Epilepsy will be held Oct. 1 at Wolferts Roost Country Club and Schuyler Meadows Club. This is the first year that there will be two locations because of the sold-out history of the event. Lunch begins at 11 a.m., followed by a noon shotgun start. An awards banquet follows at 6 p.m. Top of the World head pro Tom Smack and long drive champion Sean “The Beast” Fister will be special guests. Entry fee is $1,000 per foursome and includes lunch, dinner and the chance of winning prizes, including an autographed Master’s flag by Arnold Palmer, an overnight stay with golf at the Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown, and a flat-screen TV. Contact Susan Kaczynski at 456-7501 for more information.
u SUNY-Cobleskill’s inaugural Fighting Tigers Club Golf Tournament will be held Sept. 14 at Cobleskill Golf & Country Club. Entry fee for the two-person best-ball tournament is $90 per team member and will be limited to the first 136 players. There will be a 10:30 a.m. shotgun start. Call 255-5127 for more information.
u Airway Meadows will hold its ninth annual Benefit Tournament Sept. 9 with a four-player scramble. Cost is $79 per player and includes a barbecue picnic. There will be prizes for low gross and low net teams. This year’s tournament will benefit 4-year-old Lukas Lemery, who has a large cyst intertwined with his optic nerve. Proceeds will help defray the cost of surgery and long-term post care. Call 792-4144 for more information.
u Tickets are now on sale for the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester. Call 800-PGA-GOLF (742-4653) for more information.
Bill Rabitt holed out with a 9-iron on the 134-yard third hole at Eagle Crest Golf Club.
Peter Maioriello recorded his fifth career hole-in-one by using a 22-degree rescue club on the 154-yard fifth hole at Albany Country Club.
At the Country Club of Troy, Marie Budd of Van Schaick Island Country Club holed out with a 7-wood on the 98-yard 15th hole. It was her second career ace.
Mark Brownell holed out with a 7-iron on the 145-yard fourth hole at Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course.
Don Frey eagled the fourth hole at Stadium Golf Club.
Dave Niezgoda (third hole), Jim Geiger (10th), Wes Waylett (10th) and Kevin Pagano (14th) collected eagles at Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course.
Connor Adams a freshman on the Christian Brothers Academy golf team eagled the par-5 second hole on the white nine at Town of Colonie Golf Course. He holed out his approach shot from 100 yards.
CBA senior Jeff Palmer eagled the seventh hole on the same white course by holing out a 6-iron from a fairway bunker.
Robert Buck eagled the 12th hole at Schenectady Municipal while playing in the Savage league.
At Eagle Crest Golf Club, Tom Christoffel eagled the 13th hole.