RAIN DELAY SOFTENS GREENS
Photos and story by Bob Weiner
LOUDONVILLE – Former assistant golf professional Joe Fitzsimmons is playing more golf now than when he was in the business. And he’s enjoying it a lot more.
Now a Colonie police officer who got his amateur status back a year ago, the 33-year-old Fitzsimmons played steady golf while others on the leaderboard were struggling down the stretch and pulled out a one-shot victory in the annual Capital Region Amateur Golf Association (CRAGA) Stroke Play Championship Saturday at Schuyler Meadows Club.
Fitzsimmons rallied past a pair of host club members, first-round leader and four-time defending champion Dan Russo, who ended up third, and Albany Academy/Washington & Lee product Sean Puleo, the runner-up. Fitzsimmons posted a 70 (-2) for a two-day total 147 (+3), to edge Puleo (72-148) and Hagaman-native Russo (74-149), who has won this event eight times overall.
The final round was interrupted by a two-hour delay because of heavy rain storm. The rain softened up the greens and made the course more receptive to good shots.
“I was solid all day,” Fitzsimmons said. “The course is in great shape, and the greens were perfect. I hit it good both days, and I hit a couple of putts. The rain took the bite out of the greens. We were on the fourth green when we had to stop play. The greens were holding a lot better when we went back out.”
Fitzsimmons birdied the second hole before the rain delay, and when he came back out, he got on a roll with birdies on the eighth, 10th and 12th holes. Two errant drives on the 13th and 14th holes resulted in bogeys, but he finished up with four solid bogeys down the stretch.
“I asked how the other guys were doing on the 11th hole, because I wanted to know where they stood and where I stood, because I was playing pretty well,” he said. “But I wasn’t going to change my game plan.”
Fitzsimmons, a former assistant pro at Mohawk Golf Club, Wolferts Roost CC and Olde Kinderhook, decided he needed a career change a couple of years ago, and it took two years before he got his amateur status reinstated.
“I play a lot more now than when I was a pro,” he said. “I played in a few State Opens but I didn’t get to play that much. Now, as an amateur, there are a lot of great events to play in.”
PULEO 2ND, RUSSSO 3RD
Puleo, a two-time sectional champion at Albany Academy from Loudonville, started the day a stroke behind Russo, but he quickly grabbed the lead with an eagle on the par-5 second hole, reaching it with a 5-iron to within 16 feet of the cup. He tacked on another birdie on the ninth hole and went four-under-par on his round with a birdie on the 10th hole.
But he faltered on the back nine with consecutive bogeys on the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th holes. He still had a chance to tie Fitzsimmons with a birdie on the 18th hole, but he missed a 13-footer.
“I didn’t know where I stood exactly until the last hole, but when I did find out; I knew I needed to make that last putt. I just made too many bogeys on the back. I three-putted a lot,” he said. “I made four bogeys in a row, and you can’t do that.”
Russo, 59, got off to a very slow start with three bogeys in his first six holes. He regrouped with birdies on the ninth, 13th and 17th holes, but he couldn’t quite recover completely. “I was very close to finding it,” he said. “I bogeyed the first hole from 130-yards, and I wasn’t playing that well at all. But I hung in there.”
147 (+3): Joe Fitzsimmons (Latham) 77-70 ($300 pro shop)
148 (+4): Sean Puleo (Loudonville) 76-72 ($200 pro shop)
149 (+5): Dan Russo (Hagaman) 75-74 ($100 pro shop)
153 (+9): Jim Mueller (Altamont) 78-75
154 (+10): David Hayes (Loudonville) 79-75
155 (+11): Tanner Donovan (Loudonville) 80-75
156 (+12): Matt Clarke (Loudonville) 76-80
157 (+13): Tim Flanigan (Troy) 81-76
158 (+14): Greg Bennett (Wynantskill) 83-75
159 (+15): Chris Thompson (Saratoga Springs) 81-78
160 (+16): Steve Owens (Cohoes) 82-78
161 (+17): Alex Bond (Broadalbin) 79-82, Dave Mooradian (Troy) 82-79, Joe Quillinan (Glenmont) 84-77,
Michael Altobello (Claverack) 83-78
162 (+18): Kevin Cassidy (Albany) 83-79
164 (+20): Jake Messina (Latham) 82-82
165 (+21): Brandon Haase (Delmar) 87-78, Hunter Donovan (Loudonville) 85-80, Mike Wheeler (Colonie) 87-78
166 (+22): John Malicki (Loudonville) 82-84
168 (+24): Tim Bean (Saratoga Springs) 88-80
173 (+29): Chris Lyons (Loudonville) 88-85
177 (+33): Jim Welch (Valatie) 87-90
178 (+34): Michael Alley (Loudonville) 92-86
182 (+38): Andrew Petroff (Ballston Lake) 94-88, Jess Messina (Loudonville) 84-98
185 (+41): Patrick Hayes (Loudonville) 98-87
187 (+43): Tyler Roach (Latham) 99-88
WD: Jay Puleo (Loudonville) 94-WD, Steve Quillinan Jr. (Averill Park) 83-WD
FITZSIMMONS EARNS BADGE OF HONOR