Golf is back with a flurry in the Capital Region, but after several starts and stops because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are a lot of changes.
Most area courses are not only open, but they also are providing motorized carts, which was a major sticking point when the state initially allowed golfers back on the links on a walking-only basis. Only one player is allowed per cart, unless players are from the same family or household. There are several new guidelines to prevent spreading the virus, and they include maintaining social distancing at all times, no touching of the flagstick, no shaking hands and no rakes in the bunkers. Drinking water, ball washers and benches to sit on are not available, and most courses initially only allowed payments via credit card.
Some courses are calling any shots hit into bunkers ground under repair. Even the cups on each green are modified so players don’t have to reach all the way in to retrieve their golf balls.
At Schenectady Municipal Golf Course, head pro Matt Daley has faced many of the same challenges as his colleagues, but since Muni is a public course owned by the city, he has to follow even more guidelines to keep his customers safe.
“It’s been a whirlwind, for sure,” Daley said. “The number of hours I’ve put in is significant. I’m here from sun up to sun down every day. You have to do it because you are doing what’s best for the facility. I don’t see my family much.
“You want to make sure everyone is following the rules in terms of sanitation, social distancing, one rider per cart and wearing a mask. You can’t leave any stone unturned. There are people watching you, and you’ve got to make sure everything is done correctly.”
Almost all the local golf facilities were frustrated by early communication from state officials in terms of which courses could open and under what circumstances.
“We had a lot of false starts. It seemed that early on, there wasn’t much clarity,” Daley said. “That was the frustrating part. I serve on the local PGA board, and all of us were in the same mindset. So were our city officials. Every time a new guideline came out, we were wondering if we could have riding carts or not. The language early on didn’t explain it. It got to the point that each of us was waiting to see what the other courses were doing.”
Currently, most golf courses are allowing players to compete in golf leagues. That is not the case at Muni.
“Leagues are postponed indefinitely here. It’s frustrating,” Daley said. “They all want to play and get out there, but being a municipal course, we are held to a different standard. People are taking it very seriously. We have to follow the guidelines that we are given. I want to make sure people feel safe when they here. I fully understand everyone’s frustration, but we can’t break away from the rules that are in place.”
Another major difference with the current state of golf locally is the lack of competitive tournaments. Muni traditionally hosts numerous major events, including the Schenectady Classic, formerly the Gazette Schenectady County Amateur, the Schenectady Senior Classic and the Haggerty Two-Man Classic. All have been postponed indefinitely.
“It’s the same as the leagues,” Daley said. “They are not canceled right now, but we can’t guarantee a date. Everything is on hold. We have to wait and see how it moves along. This is an unprecedented time in our sport. It’s incredible.”
Yet, despite some limitations, Daley said that golf is almost back to normal.
“People are able to play now, and that’s the most important thing,” he said. “You can use the practice range now, and we have sanitation buckets to clean your clubs.
Also, you can still take lessons, and we do them with social distancing in mind. I guess it’s as close to normal as you can be, except for the little things, like not touching the flags and no rakes in the bunkers. It looks a little different sometimes when you have four individual players with four carts, but the pace of play has been unbelievable. For a group of four to play in under four hours is great.”
FINALLY, SOME TOURNAMENTS
Although Muni’s tournaments are on hold, the first major amateur tournament of the season is set for this week, when the annual Troy Invitational tees off at the Country Club of Troy Saturday and Sunday.
The field is currently at 49 players, according to CC of Troy head pro Mike Kucera. That includes competition in the Championship, Senior (age 50 and older) and Junior (age 17 and under) divisions.
Among the top contenders are former champions Lance Hope, EJ Cardish, Dan Russo, Jim Welch, Matt Clarke, Matt Horton, Joe Quillinan (senior division) and
David Hayes, along with defending Capital Region Amateur Golf Association Stroke Play champion Chad Stoffer of Town of Colonie and former Schenectady Classic titlist Mike Wheeler.
This year, the Troy Invitational was reduced from three days to two, and it will run separately from the club’s Member-Guest, scheduled for later in the month.
While the amateur men kick off their tournament season this weekend, the local pros from the Northeastern New York PGA finally get their season started with a pro-pro event Monday at Waubeeka Country Club. The rest of their schedule this month includes an individual pro Stableford event June 15 at Columbia Golf & Country Club, a Pro Classic at Pinehaven CC June 22 and the two-day Donald Ross Classic June 28-29 at The Sagamore Resort and Glens Falls CC. The pros’ Stroke Play Championship, scheduled for last month at Mohawk Golf Club, has been postponed until August, and the annual Pros vs. Amateurs Challenge Cup scheduled for this month has been canceled, as have most of the pro-ams on the NENY PGA schedule.
Local amateur women who compete in the Northeastern Women’s Golf Association events finally get to play a tournament July 10 with the Two-Partner 6-6-6 event July 10. The Gail Sykes Better Ball of Two, a NEWGA major, is set for July 20 at Shaker Ridge CC.
The New York State Golf Association announced this week that the entire 25-event NYSGA Amateur Series has been canceled, as well six championship events. Still on the schedule are the NYS Men’s Amateur at Onondaga Golf & Country Club, the NYS Men’s Mid-Amateur at The Seawane Club, the NYS Women’s Amateur & Mid-Amateur at Teugega CC, the NYS Boys’ Junior Amateur at Seven Oaks Golf Club and the NYS Girls’ Junior Amateur at a site to be determined. The boys’ and girls’ junior tournaments used to be held together, but will be separated to reduce the fields for safety reasons.
Russell Sage College announced that it is adding women’s golf to its athletic offerings. Current men’s head coach Kevin Cain, the assistant pro at Colonie G&CC, will be the coach.
Although he was perhaps better known for his exploits as a premier bowler, especially in the Schenectady League at the now-defunct Rolling Greens, golfing enthusiast Dennis Booth died this week at age 79. Booth was a classy and talented gentleman on both the lanes and the links. He will be missed.
Once again, The Edison Club was honored as a “Top 100 Performer” in 2019 for Folds of Honor fundraising. Head pro Brad Gardner helped raise more than $29,000 for the organization that provides educational scholarships to spouses and children of America’s fallen and disabled service members.
The PGA Tour announced that it is creating a college ranking system that will help feed its professional tours at every level. Called the PGA Tour University Ranking List, the system will reward four-year NCAA Division I golfers with rankings at the end of each college season. Top players will receive exemptions into the Korn Ferry Tour, the PGA Tour Latinoamerica, the Mackenzie Tour, the PGA Tour Canada and the PGA Tour Series, based on their respective finish.
The PGA Tour will resume its pandemic-altered schedule this week with the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, Thursday through Sunday. The LPGA Tour and the PGA Champions Tour resume their schedules in late July.
Joe Agresta aced the 13th hole at Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course last week.
There were two holes-in-one recently at Eagle Crest Golf Club. Matt Hewossenfort used a 6 hybrid for his second career ace on the 165-yard 17th hole.
Also at Eagle Crest, Tony Hynes recorded an ace with an 8-iron on the 120-yard sixth hole.
Please report all holes-in-one and eagles to me at my email address listed below.