TOPS MABEE ON FORMER COURSE
Story and photos by Bob Weiner
DELMAR – Scott Battiste’s best season as a club professional reached unexpected new heights this week.
Recently elevated from assistant pro to head pro at Eagle Crest Golf Club, the 29-year-old Battiste established a reputation as a “giant killer” among his peers with a convincing 6 & 5 victory over Country Club of Pittsfield head pro Eric Mabee in the finals of the Northeastern New York PGA Match Play Championship Thursday at Normanside Country Club.
It was Battiste’s first individual pro championship, and it happened to be a major. He earned $2,000. Mabee earned $1,400.
Battiste, who worked at Normanside CC for a couple of seasons earlier in his career, used his course knowledge and hot putter to knock off top-seeded and seven-time NENY PGA Stroke Play champion Scott Berliner of Hiland Golf Club, 2-up, in the quarterfinals Wednesday after disposing of Skidmore College head coach Tom Oppedisano, 3 & 2, in the Round of 16.
Battiste then ousted former section Player of the Year and Match Play titlist Frank Mellet of Colonie G&CC, 2 & 1, in the semifinals before crushing Mabee, a former winner of the section’s Professional Championship.
“I look up to both Scott (Berliner) and Eric (Mabee) as players. I respect both of them very much,” Battiste said. “Being able to beat both of them on the way to the championship makes it a little sweeter.”
BATTISTE: BIRDIE MACHINE
Battiste, a Niskayuna High School graduate, was a birdie machine in the finals. He birdied three of the first four holes to grab a 3-up lead over Mabee. Battiste’s lead grew to 4-up when he stuck a bunker shot to within tap-in range for par on the fifth hole.
Mabee sliced his deficit back to 3-down when he rolled in a 24-foot birdie putt on the seventh hole, but Battiste’s 5-foot birdie putt extended his lead once again.
After both players struggled with bogeys on the par-5 ninth hole, Battiste found his game once again on the back nine. His 10-foot birdie on the par-5 10th hole pushed his advantage to 5-up, and his 27-foot, downhill birdie putt on the par-3 12th hole stretched his lead to 6-up.
Battiste, who recorded six birdies in the finals, locked up the match with a conceded par on the par-3 13th hole after Mabee failed to get up-and-down from a bunker.
“It certainly helps that I worked here for a little while,” said Battiste, who earlier this season was the local qualifying medalist for the New York State Open at Bethpage State Park. “The greens were rolling great. You just had to pick a line and hit it. Today I made a lot of putts.”
Battiste was thrilled with the way he played all week, but especially in the match play finals.
“I’m pretty happy right now,” he said with a smile from ear to ear. “I love it (match play). I’ve had success in it and had the exact same thing happen to me that happened to Eric with the other guy making all kinds of putts against me. Anything can happen in match play. That’s kind of the beauty of it. I like idea of not having to worry about making a big number. I’m playing really good right now.”
Battiste said he’s had a little success playing mini tours during the winter in Florida and hopes to play in more such events. He will compete in the Nevada Open in November.
Meanwhile, Mabee, considered one of the most talented players in the section, couldn’t keep his hot play going after ousting former Match Play winner Ian Breen, a longtime Colonie G&CC assistant now at Saranac Lake, 5 & 3.
“Scott played good. He beat Berliner yesterday afternoon, so he had to be playing well,” Mabee said. “He did the same thing to me today that I did earlier in the tournament. He’s got a little home-course knowledge, too, and it helps. I didn’t put my driver in as good a position in the afternoon, which you need to d. When you’re putting from 30-feet every time, it’s hard, especially when your opponent is making a lot of birdies,” Mabee said.