A remarkable up-“roar”-ious shot is produced on the national stage; a bizarre ending allows a familiar face to grab a victory in a long-running tournament; a new junior golf organization steps up to the plate; a talented club pro continues to dominate.
These are just a few of the top Capital Area golf stories in 2017. It was quite a season on the links. Here’s one golf scribe’s top-10 list.
The First Tee DRIVE Junior Golf Alliance of New York officially kicks off its programs, including several golf clinics at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course and Mohawk Golf Club, which is named the new organization’s host club for special events.
The local chapter of the popular national First Tee program helps teens from all walks of life by introducing them to values like integrity, respect and perseverance, which are inherent in golf.
#9: SICARD SUCCESS x2
Mary Sicard, a regular competitor in Capital Area women’s events, won her second consecutive New York State Senior Women’s Amateur championship. Sicard, the only local competitor to win a statewide title in 2017, plays out of Queensbury Country Club.
#8: KROLL KEEPS ROLLING
Schenectady’s Nancy Kroll won her sixth Northeastern Women’s Golf Association Championship at Schuyler Meadows Club. The local teacher also won the women’s division of the Schenectady Classic at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
#7: SENIOR SUCCESS
Two Capital Area natives, Dan Russo of Hagaman and Ron Philo Jr. of Scotia, qualified for the U.S. Senior Open. Russo, who competes at Schuyler Meadows Club, also qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur. He now has qualified for 11 USGA Championships. Philo is a former winner of the Professional National Championship and recently was named the Director of Golf and Golf Instruction at Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL.
#6: MUELLER’S GREAT 8
Jim Mueller of Altamont won his unprecedented eighth Schenectady Classic by edging Lance Hope on the second playoff hole at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. Hope, who also lost in a playoff in the 2016 Schenectady Classic, thought he had earned some revenge by winning in regulation, but he signed an incorrect scorecard, forcing another playoff. Mueller birdied the second extra hole.
#5: FITZSIMMONS WINS CRAGA
Colonie police officer Joe Fitzsimmons, a former assistant pro at several local courses, earned his first Capital Area major championship in the Capital Region Amateur Golf Association’s Stroke Play Championship at Schuyler Meadows Club.
#4: DIAZ RETURNS TO LPGA
Scotia-native Laura Diaz, a two-time winner on the LPGA Tour, returned from a year’s layoff to compete and cash in several LPGA events. Diaz broke her leg in 2016 and reduced her playing schedule to devote more time to her family. Diaz is the sister of Ron Philo Jr. and the daughter of longtime local club pro Ron Philo Sr.
#3: BIGLEY IS BACK
Schalmont High School and Siena College graduate Bryan Bigley secures his Web.com Tour card for the 2018 season by finishing T30 at the Web.com Tour Q-School in Chandler, AZ. Bigley, 33, is guaranteed full playing privileges for at least the first eight events of the season.
#2: BERLINER IN 7TH HEAVEN
Scott Berliner, an assistant pro at Hiland Golf Club in Queensbury and an assistant coach for the Skidmore College golf team, won his seventh consecutive Northeastern New York PGA Stroke Play Championship en route to his seventh section Player of the Year award.
#1: SWEET SWEDICK’S CHIP-IN
Voorheesville’s Kennedy Swedick finished seventh in the 10-11 age division of the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship at Augusta National the week of the Masters.
Swedick holed out a chip shot on national television which prompted Golf Channel’s Rich Lerner to quip: “the first Augusta roar of the week.” She was the second consecutive Capital Area contestant to compete at the national Drive, Chip & Putt competition.
Nicole Criscone of Clifton Park was the local rep in 2016.