LEADS A CAPITAL AREA CONTINGENT
By Bob Weiner
Touring pro Jeb Buchanan is feeling those good vibrations heading into this week’s New York State Open at Bethpage State Park’s famed Black Course on Long Island.
The left-handed Loudonville-native is feeling extremely confident in his game, especially since he is the only Capital Area player to ever win this prestigious event – in 2015. He’s coming off a busy weekend, where he carried the bag two rounds for his younger sister, Jenny, in the New York State Women’s Amateur at his home course, Schuyler Meadows Club. In between those rounds, he played in a tournament to warm-up for this week’s big event, which runs Tuesday through Thursday for both pros and amateurs.
“My game is good,” said Buchanan, who will turn 27 during his three-day stint at the extremely challenging Black Course this week. “I’m trying to improve my ball-striking right now, trying to hit it straight.”
To that end, Buchanan, who normally likes to draw the ball, is attempting to hit more fades to keep his ball in play.
“I’ve been working on the fade for a while now. I’ve been making a little change, and I’m beginning to see some results,” he said.
“I feel very confident going into (this week). Golf is such a mental game. When you feel comfortable on a course, you tend to play a lot better. I really like Bethpage Black. And since I’ve won there before, I’ve got some great feelings about it. I know it’s one of the toughest courses for most of the area guys to play on, but I really like the course” he said.
Buchanan has been a member of the single-day Minor League Golf Tour since turning pro in 2012. He won a MLG event back in February by shooting a 65 (-7), and he secured his first-ever pro victory Oct. 12 of 2012 by shooting a 69 (-3). He’s also competed on the PGA Tour Latino America on and off for the last five years.
The 6’3”, 188 lb. Buchanan is a graduate of the University of Connecticut, where he competed in 33 tournaments, averaging 75.45 in 89 rounds and winning a pair of collegiate events. He was a 2008-09 and 2009-10 All-Big East selection. A three-year letter winner at Shaker High School, Buchanan was named All-State as a senior and was the #1-ranked golfer in New York for several months during 2008, according to the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings. He earned three top-20 finishes on the American Junior Golf Association tour and attended the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton, FL in 2006-07.
ALSO AT THE BLACK
Also competing this week will be Eagle Crest Golf Club assistant pro Scott Battiste, Matt Horton of the Country Club of Troy, Normanside Country Club assistant pro Justin Hearley, Hiland Golf Club assistant pro Scott Berliner and Country Club of Pittsfield head pro Eric Mabee. Battiste and Horton earned their spots in the local qualifier at Normanside CC.
“This is by far my favorite event to attend all year,” Battiste said. “This is not only my favorite golf course, but probably my favorite place to be. To say I’m excited is the understatement of the century. I’ve played quite a few tour stops, and some great golf courses around the country, and nothing has been able to replace the Black course at Bethpage as my favorite,” he said.
“It’s a course I feel like I should be able to play well at, as long as I drive it well,” the Niskayuna High School graduate said. “I’ve had some tough luck in the past there, but have showed signs of being able to score well on any hole out there. Avoiding the big number after the inevitable tough break or bad shot is key for me. Most of all, I’m just looking forward to playing an outstanding golf course and having a great time with my brother, who will be on the bag this week, trying to get the ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible,” Battiste said.
Horton, who admits to making a hasty decision to try and turn pro is still waiting to get his amateur status back. He is a two-time winner of the CC of Troy Invitational, his home course.
Hearley, who had his best season as a club pro last year, is also thrilled about playing in the NYS Open this week.
“I’m looking forward to this week,” he said. ‘There’s no other course I’ve ever played, either in New York or any other state, that compares to Bethpage Black. The rough is as penal as it gets, and I learned from 2015 that it’s better to get the ball back in play than to try to hit the hero shot that you can pretty easily play on other golf courses around here.”
Hearley, a graduate of Christian Brothers Academy and SUNY-Delhi, said he will enjoy this week, no matter what happens. “This State Open is going to be special regardless if I make the cut or not, because I’m going to have my dad (Will) on the bag caddying for me. We’ve had some success in the past together in tournaments,” he said.
“My main goal is to improve off of the last time I was down there, and keep my mistakes to a minimum. If I hit the fairways more, I know I have the ability to play well at that course.(I plan to) keep it in the short grass and have some fun playing golf with my dad,” he said.
Berliner, who won his seventh Northeastern New York PGA Stroke Play Championship at Wiltwyck Golf Club this spring, is the section’s six-time Player of the Year. The 41-41-year-old veteran pro from Luzerne won his second straight and fifth overall Donald Ross Classic title last month at The Sagamore Resort and Glens Falls Country Club.
Mabee won last year’s NENYGA Professional Championship at Ballston Spa CC.