Down the Fairway: Connolly heads local Senior Am hopefuls
Chuck Connolly is one of the most successful senior golfers in Capital Region history, and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down much, despite the fact that he soon will be 68 years old.
The member of Kingswood Links in Hudson Falls, who has three New York State Senior Amateur crowns and two Super Senior titles to his credit, should once again be a top contender when the State Am is held at Wolferts Roost Country Club Wednesday through Friday.
Connolly is once again eligible to win both the Senior Amateur and the Super Senior Amateur title. The 132-player field will play 54 holes without a cut.
Connolly, who has won more than 200 Eastern New York Golf Association weekly titles to go along with 26 club championships, has won the last two Super Senior titles and last won the regular
Senior Amateur in 2010.
“I’m playing pretty well right now,” he said. “I played the Roost Invitational just this past weekend, and although we finished fourth as a team, I played well, so I’m feeling OK about the course. I know the course reasonably well, because I’ve played it four or five times fairly recently.”
Connolly said the key to playing the Roost well for him is to keep his driver straight.
“You never know,” he said. “It all depends on how my driver goes. It’s a narrow course, and it’s not about length there. But I like to hit my driver at the Roost because then I can hit wedges into the greens, which are very difficult.”
Connolly enjoys using an oversize driver as well as the long putter.
“I’m using a Titleist driver, and it’s very good club. It’s hard for me to change, because once you use Titleist clubs, they are so much heavier than some of the other brands like TaylorMade that the other clubs feel like toothpicks. Titleist clubs are definitely the heaviest clubheads, and mine is 47 inches long,” he said. “But I control the driver pretty well most of the time. Right now, I’m hooking it a little, but I’m still swinging it pretty well.
“I’ve been using a longer driver since about 1980, when I used a 46-inch driver. I’ve also been using a long putter for about 20 years now. I tried it one day and made a bunch of birdies with it, so I never switched.”
Connolly, like many players who are using either the long putter or the belly putter, is waiting to see how the USGA rules on the longer putters, which are attached to different parts of the body. Many professionals are now using either the long putter or the belly putter very successfully, and Connolly feels the USGA should leave the matter well enough alone.
“The long putter has been in existence for about 70 years, and the belly putter is something that a lot of the younger guys have grown up with. Taking it away from them would be tough, and I think there would be a lot of litigation if that happened,” he said.
“Statistically, the long putter and the belly putters are not the leading putters. The regular-size putters are still the leaders. I’m a pragmatist. To me, it’s all about getting the ball into the hole, so as long as you do that, I don’t see a huge difference in the kind of putter you use.
“I could still putt with a short putter, but it would take me a while to get used to it, and I would have to practice a lot more.”
The former track & field coach at Queensbury High School stays extremely fit.
“I still play every day, and I can still hit the ball a long way. I’ll probably be able to use my driver on most of the holes at the Roost, and I should be able to hit a wedge on every hole, except maybe the 11th and 12th holes,” he said. “It should be interesting.”
Since 1940, local players have won the State Senior Amateur in 1978 (Gloversville’s Anthony Maragno), 2000 (Connolly), 2004 (former Albany resident Mike Daniels), 2008 (Connolly) and 2010 (Connolly). Ralph Maru of Van Patten (2003), John Dennett of Lake George (2006) and Connolly (2010 and 2011) have won Super Senior Crowns.
Joining Connolly and Maru among the 50-player local contingent this week will be Steve Bass (Pinehaven CC), Gary Bernardini (Schuyler Meadows), Kevin Broderick (Orchard Creek), Ken Brown (Orchard Creek), Jerry Carinici (eClub Capital District), Jim Cocca (Shaker Ridge CC), two-time Gazette County Amateur champion Bob Cooper (Orchard Creek), Drew Fiumaro (eClub Capital District), Francis Gavin (Columbia Golf & Country Club), and five-time Gazette Senior Amateur titlist Neil Golub (Mohawk Golf Club).
Also in the field are Kevin Hart (Pinehaven CC), Paul Hart (Pinehaven CC), Robert Hatch (Glens Falls CC), Pete Hosner Sr. (Rolling Hills at Antlers CC), Steve Hutchins (Saratoga Spa), Kevin Justice (Pinehaven CC), Luke Keefner (Van Patten), Ray Kelly (Wolferts Roost CC), Bill Kent (Town of Colonie), Gary Kline (Orchard Creek),
David Lafleche (Van Patten), William Lebeau (Van Schaick Island), Paul Lundberg (Shaker Ridge CC), Don Maki (Shaker Ridge CC), Jim Mannix (Hiland Golf Club), Paul Matties (Columbia G&CC), Joe McCoy (Wolferts Roost CC), Mike Mina (Shaker Ridge CC), Stan Moore (Pinehaven CC), Chris Nachtrieb (Shaker Ridge CC) and John Noonan (McGregor Links CC).
Rounding out the local contingent are Don Orlando (eClub Capital District), Bruce Oswald (Shaker Ridge CC), Bill Paulsen (Eagle Crest GC), Joe Quillinan (Olde Kinderhook), Steve Quillinan Sr. (Burden Lake CC), John Reagan (Western Turnpike), Jim Reid (Shaker Ridge CC), Patrick Seelye (Hiland Golf Club), David Skoney (Wolferts Roost CC), Fred Slater (Olde Kinderhook), Mike Sollecito (Town of Colonie), Peter Spitalny (Colonie G&CC), Joe Stellato (Pinehaven CC), Glenn Stopera (Amsterdam Municipal), Ron Trischetta (Shaker Ridge CC), Earl Winchester (Shaker Ridge CC) and Scott Wood (Columbia G&CC).
VSI A HIDDEN JEWEL
Sometimes, great things come in small packages.
That’s how I felt about playing Van Schaick Island Country Club for the first time this week.
Although it only has nine holes, the Cohoes layout actually has 18 distinctive tees and can play to as long as 6,408 yards or as short as 5,494.
Several creative doglegs create some challenging tee and approach shots, and the greens roll very true.
Fellow local golf scribe John Craig and I had a blast playing, and I recommend the experience to anyone.
VSI opened in 1895 with just two holes, so it’s one of the area’s oldest courses.
Head pro Luke Scala runs the pro shop, and he has plenty of experience. The former head pro at Mohawk River Country Club and Sycamore Greens Country Club is also the head coach for the Sage women’s golf team. His son, Zach, helps out in the pro shop when he can. He plays for Ballston Spa High School and recently won the club championships at both VSI and Ballston Spa Country Club.
VSI, which also has an excellent restaurant is currently promoting new memberships. For more information, call 237-6127.
u Local club professionals will play their last major event of the season when the Northeastern New York PGA Match Play Championship is held Tuesday and Wednesday at Albany Country Club. Scott Berliner of Normanside Country Club, who is both the reigning NENYPGA Player of the Year and current point leader, is the defending champion.
u Lifelong friends Christine Guidarelli (Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons) and Emma Ward (Schenectady High School) are the only girls playing on the boys’ teams in the Big 10 this year.
u Local standout Dan Russo of Rolling Hills at Antlers, shot a 12-over-par 154 (74-80) at the 32nd annual USGA Mid-Amateur Golf Championship last week at Conway Farm Golf Club in Illinois.
u Bryan Gorman defeated Matt Horton on the second hole of sudden death to win the rain-shortened Rensselaer County Amateur Golf Championship last weekend at Frear Park in Troy.
u The team of Jeff Barringer, Corey Barringer, Chris Caruso and Paul Pratico shot a 14-under-par 58 to win the low gross title in the 2012 Peter Famiano Memorial Golf Tournament Monday at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. Mike Doyle, Tony Cristello, Bob Mitchell and Michael Suprunowicz shot a 53 to win the net title. A total of 28 teams competed.
u The Stadium Golf Club Falling Leaves Tournament will be held Oct. 20 with a 9 a.m. shotgun start. The format will be two-person scramble. Entry fee is $90 for non-members and $70 for members. Top prize will be $450 for both the gross and net divisions. The top six teams in each division will be paid, based on a full field of 72 teams. Golf, cart, range balls and a buffet are included in the entry fee. Entry deadline is Oct. 17. Call Stadium at 374-9104 for more information.
u Tim Sheehan shot a 78-74-154 to win the club championship at Mechanicville Golf Club. Gary O’Connor took the first flight with an 87-90-177.
u The 63rd annual Senior Golfer’s Association of Eastern New York Championship will be held Sept. 24 at McGregor Links Country Club. Teams from Ballston Spa CC, Colonie G&CC, Columbia G&CC, The Edison Club, Glens Falls CC, McGregor Links CC, Mohawk Golf Club, Normanside CC, Pinehaven CC, Schuyler Meadows, Shaker Ridge CC, the CC of Troy and Wolferts Roost CC will bring their senior amateurs and their club professionals to compete.
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 SUNY-Cobleskill’s inaugural Fighting Tigers Club Golf Tourn-ament will be held Sept. 28 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.
Tom Cassidy holed out with an 8-iron on the 152-yard 14th hole at Rolling Hills at Antlers Country Club.
At Amsterdam Municipal, Larry Raila hit a 5-wood on the 154-yard eighth hole for his ace during the Men’s Day tournament.
Dave Niezgoda (first hole), Dale Hulbert (third hole) and Jim Geiger (fifth hole) collected eagles at Amsterdam Municipal.
Tyler Popp and Josh Fonda collected eagles at Stadium in scholastic matches last week. They were incorrectly reported as accomplished by other players.