RUSSO CHASED BY PULEO, CLARKE AT SMC
By Bob Weiner
LOUDONVILLE – “Gone with the Wind” was a magnificent historical movie released in 1940 about the Civil War era starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh.
It’s also a good description of how most of the scores ended up at Schuyler Meadows Club during the opening round of the Capital Region Amateur Golf Association’s (CRAGA) Stroke Play Championship Friday.
Only seven players broke 80, as gusting winds affected ball flights and sped up already quick greens to between 12 and 13 on the Stimpmeter.
It helped to know the course like your own backyard, and that’s one of the reasons why four-time defending champion Dan Russo led the way with a 75 (+3) to grab a one-shot lead over Albany Academy product Sean Puleo and former New York State Mid-Amateur titlist Matt Clarke heading into Saturday’s final round.
“It was extremely windy out there today,” said Russo, 59, who has eight CRAGA Stroke Play titles overall but hasn’t played much recently. “The greens were quick, but that’s OK. The course was in tremendous shape,” he said.
“But some of the pins, considering the windy conditions, were ridiculous. The pins were definitely very tough today.”
7 WITHIN 4
Russo kept out of trouble most of the day and birdied the second and 10th holes.
Russo’s complaints about the wind and the challenging pins were echoed in every foursome. “It was a tough day,” Puleo said. “It was definitely extremely windy out there, and some of the pins were tricky.”
Puleo, a student at Washington & Lee University and a two-time sectional champion at Albany Academy, was in position to grab the early lead when he eagled the par-5 13th hole and then chipped in for birdie on the 14th hole. But he struggled late in his round by going 3-over-par in his last four holes.
Clarke, 58, a multiple Troy Invitational champion, was in the last group of the day, and he was thrilled with his round. “The wind was definitely tough out there, and the greens were extremely quick,” he said. “It was a battle. I’ve been playing well lately, but I haven’t played in any tournaments. It’s fun to play for something with a little pressure on the line.”
Former pro Joe Fitzsimmons of Town of Colonie GC carded a 77. He was even-par through the first 10 holes, thanks to birdies on the first, fifth and 10th holes, but he struggled on the back nine. “I made six or seven bogeys on the back,” he said.
Also breaking 80 were eight-time Schenectady Classic champion Jim Mueller of Orchard Creek (78), Dave Hayes of the host club (79) and Broadalbin’s Alex Bond of Fox Run (79).
75 (+3): Dan Russo (Schuyler Meadows)
76 (+4): Sean Puleo (Schuyler Meadows), Matt Clarke (Loudonville)
77 (+5): Joe Fitzsimmons (Latham)
78 (+6): Jim Mueller (Altamont)
79 (+7): Dave Hayes (Schuyler Meadows), Alex Bond (Broadalbin)
80 (+8): Tanner Donovan (Schuyler Meadows)
81 (+9): Tim Flanigan (Mechanicville), Chris Thompson (Saratoga Springs)
82 (+10): Steve Owens (Cohoes), John Malicki (Loudonville), Jake Messina (Loudonville), Jess Messina (Loudonville), David Mooradian (Troy)
83 (+11): Greg Bennett (Wynantskill), Steve Quillinan Jr. (Burden Lake), Michael Altobello (Claverack), Kevin Cassidy (Albany)
84 (+12): Joe Quillinan (Glenmont)
85 (+13): Hunter Donovan (Schuyler Meadows)
87 (+15): Brandon Haase (Mohawk Golf Club), Mike Wheeler (Colonie), Jim Welch (Valatie)
88 (+16): Tim Bean (Saratoga Springs), Chris Lyons (Loudonville)
92 (+20): Michael Alley (Loudonville)
94 (+22): Jay Puleo (Loudonville), Andrew Petroff (Ballston Lake)
98 (+26): Patrick Hayes (Schuyler Meadows)
99 (+27): Tyler Roach (Latham)
WD: Nick Brooks (Slingerlands)
DNS: Jerry Brescia (Niskayuna)
MORE PHOTOS FROM DAY 1