Eventually, Scott Berliner must relinquish his crown as the best local club professional in the Northeastern New York PGA. The 45-year-old assistant pro at Saratoga Spa Golf Course has won an almost unbelievable nine consecutive NENY PGA Stroke Play Championship titles.
But a rejuvenated and finally healthy Justin Hearley believes it’s about time for a change at the top, and he feels ready to become the new king of the hill.
Mohawk Golf Club hosts this year’s rescheduled NENY PGA Stroke Play Championship, the section’s most important tournament, Monday and Tuesday. Hearley should be among Berliner’s strongest contenders.
Hearley, a 30-year-old graduate of Christian Brothers Academy and SUNY Delhi, missed an opportunity to test Berliner head-to-head on Thursday when he had to withdraw from the finals of the NENY PGA Assistants Match Play Championship because his wife, Maria Rose, was admitted to the hospital early that morning and gave birth to 6.6-pound Caiden Louis that afternoon.
“There will always be more golf moments,” Hearley said about having to pull out of Thursday’s event. “There will never be a moment like having your first child. I have nieces and I love being their uncle and part of their lives, but I can’t wait to have a child of our own. I’ll play hundreds more tournaments, but I won’t ever get this memory back.”
Although Hearley missed his chance to take on Berliner last week, he’ll get another chance in the section’s premier event this week. It won’t be easy to dethrone Berliner, who earlier this season won his eighth Donald Ross Classic at Glens Falls Country Club to go along with four NENY PGA Match Play titles and four Professional Championships for a total of 25 major championships in this section.
Berliner also has won the Tour Championship/Omega Cup twice. He’s been the local club pros’ Omega Player of the Year nine times and once again leads the point standings.
Hearley is second in the point standings with one victory, three runner-up finishes and one third-place showing. He has finished in the top 10 seven times.
NO PAIN IN WRIST
The 5-foot-8, 150-pound Hearley said he’s finally completely healthy.
“Honestly, this is the first time in three years that I’ve been pain-free in my wrist,” he said. “My chiropractor, Patrick Newman of Clifton Park, fixed my wrist issues that two MRIs couldn’t solve. My wrist wasn’t in the right position. He popped the wrist back in place, and all the pain I’ve had golfing, and also bowling, disappeared. That’s been the telltale sign of why I’m playing so well right now. I can trust my swing and not baby every shot. I can just let it rip.”
Hearley said he’s also learned some things about how to handle pressure in big moments.
“I’ve been keeping the ball in play more. I wouldn’t say I’m making more putts, but I’m making them when they count,” he said. “When I’m playing in one of the last few groups, I might be leaderboard-peaking, but now I know what I’ve got to do. I’m making shots under pressure.”
It’s also important for Hearley to keep his game together for 36 holes in a major event.
“I haven’t pulled off two good rounds back-to-back in stroke play,” he said. “I’ve finished in the top three or four in the Donald Ross, but I haven’t played well enough in one of them to win it. I generally have one good round and one mediocre round. I have to put two good rounds together.
“Look, Scott Berliner is the best player in our section and the most consistent. You can’t chase him from behind, because he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. I’ve got to eliminate the big numbers and don’t dwell on any bogeys I might get.”
Other notable local pros in the top 10 of the NENY PGA Player of the Year point list are Battenkill CC head pro Dal Daily, who won the section’s Senior Match Play title on Thursday at Orchard Creek Golf Club; Jeremy Kerr of Mohawk Golf Club; John Neet of The Edison Club; Chris Sanger of Woodstock Golf Club; Ian Breen of Whiteface Club & Resort; Scott Battiste of Eagle Crest Golf Club; Kyle Kressler of Cedar View; and Skidmore College golf coach Tom Oppedisano.
As part of a huge major tournament week, the Northeastern Women’s Golf Association Championship will be contested Wednesday and Thursday at Pinehaven Country Club. Two-time winner Susan Kahler of Ballston Spa Country Club is the defending champion.
Kennedy Swedick of Albany Academy shot back-to-back 78s to win the 13-year-old division of the new Hurricane Junior Golf Tour Notah Begay qualifier at Turning Stone Resort in Verona. If she wins the next regional event on that tour at the end of this month, she will advance to the nationally televised national finals in November on The Golf Channel.
By the way, Swedick also won the overall girls’ title and the girls’ 13-15 age division in the NENY PGA Junior Championship at The Edison Club recently. Nicole Criscone of Clifton Park won the girls’ 16-18 age division and Maria Glavin won the girls’ 8-12 age division. Niskayuna’s Paul Goetz III won the boys’ overall title and boys’ 16-18 age division. Matthew McClenon took the boys’ 13-15 age division, and Avi Meyers won the boys’ 8-12 age division.
Shooting a 3-under-par 67, Edward Kinley of Wolferts Roost Country Club won the championship flight of last weekend’s third annual Schoharie County Open, sponsored by Lamont Engineering at Cobleskill Golf & Country Club. Jason Symons of the host club was the runner-up. Bruce Bartlett and Dale Wotherspoon, both of the host club, finished 1-2 in the first flight, while club members John Dahl and Tom Collins also finished 1-2 in the silver flight. In the women’s flight, Debora Langevin of the host club was the winner, followed by Michelle Krasodomski of Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
Also at Cobleskill G&CC, Symons and Nick Roney Symons shot a better-ball gross of 124 to win the 91st annual Dr. John H. Wadsworth Member-Guest by 16 shots. Jason Lower and Rich Wrigley won the overall low net title in a playoff.
The Normanside Invitational Two-Man Tournament is set for Sept. 12-13 at Normanside Country Club. Entry fee is $300 per team and includes golf, carts and prizes both days. There will be an open division and a senior division (age 55 and older). The first round will be a two-player scramble, while the second round will be a best-ball format. Call 518-439-4505, ext. 40, for more information.
Scotia native Laura Diaz, a two-time winner on the LPGA Tour, shot a 7-under-par 64 in the opening round of the senior division in the South Carolina Women’s Open this week at Coblestone CC near Columbia, S.C. Meanwhile, her son Cooper finished third in his junior county championship in North Carolina. The 14-year-old was competing against youngsters as old 17. He recently caddied for Brittany Laing on the LPGA Tour as well as for his mother earlier this season.
The 27th annual University at Albany Great Dane Athletic Club Classic will be held Oct. 1 at Wolferts Roost Country Club at noon. There will be a cocktail hour at 5 p.m. and dinner at 5:30. For more information, contact
Frank Natale and AnnMarie Dufresne each collected holes-in-one on the eighth hole at Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course.
Normanside Country Club owner Dave Hostig aced the 138-yard third hole with a pitching wedge at his own course. It was his second career ace.
Also at Normanside CC, David Schillinger holed out with a 3-iron on the 174-yard 13th hole, while Kenneth Broberg used a pitching wedge on the 120-yard third hole for his ace.
Matt Beck hit the shot of his life with an albatross (double eagle) on the par-5 third hole at Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course.
Rotterdam’s Tom Hefferon, 73, collected his second eagle in what he calls the best season of his long career on the 502-yard par-5 ninth hole with a driver, 3-iron and 5-foot putt at Eagle Crest Golf Club.
Don Dennis eagled the 368-yard par-4 second hole at Orchard Creek in the Big Bamboo league. He holed out his wedge shot from 89 yards.
Reach Bob Weiner at