As a youngster, Chris Hrycenko enjoyed sliding down the snow-covered hills of Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course every winter and riding in his grandfather’s golf cart every summer. The memories are vivid.
Hrycenko, an Amsterdam native who served first as an assistant pro and then as the head pro at Stadium Golf Club last year, will have the opportunity to come back home after signing a contract to become the next head pro at his old stomping grounds. Hrycenko replaces longtime head pro Joe Merendo, who ran the historic Robert Trent Jones layout for decades. Ironically, Hrycenko replaced another veteran club pro, John Souza, at Stadium a year ago. Souza now runs a golf instructional school at Ballston Spa Country Club.
“I’m a lucky guy,” Hrycenko said. “It’s sort of like if you’re a Giants fan and they tell you they have one roster spot left for you. I can’t wait to get started. This is a Trent Jones course that’s one of the best around. I’m going to do all I can to keep the course in the kind of shape worthy of a Trent Jones layout.”
Hrycenko said he respects the job his predecessor did and hopes to continue serving the Amsterdam golfers the same way Merendo did. “Joe is a pro’s pro,” Hrycenko said. “The people loved him, and I hope to have the same love and support. He’s done a great job for many years there. I am so happy to have this opportunity.”
PICKED UP GOLF FAST
Growing up in Amsterdam, Hrycenko played many sports, including basketball and football. Even though his grandfather, William Fennhahn, was a longtime member at Amsterdam Muni and used to let him drive around the golf cart with him, Hrycenko didn’t get serious about playing golf until hooking up with his father.
“My dad would come back from Massachusetts, and we would play golf together. He used to kick my butt, but then a light bulb went off. I wanted to get as good as I could get so I could beat him. Since I was a little kid, if you put a basketball or football in my hands, I learned the game pretty quickly. The same thing happened in golf. I picked up the game very fast.”
Hrycenko recently played Amsterdam Municipal with a group of friends, and his childhood memories rushed back. “It was very nostalgic for me. I remember all the sleigh rides I had as a kid, and I thought it would be great to be around this place again. When this opportunity came up, I jumped at the chance.”
Amsterdam Municipal opened in 1938, and the public facility has been among the best in the greater Capital Area ever since. Its signature hole is the par-4 15th hole, which has a creek that runs across the middle of the fairway about 215 yards from the tee.
The course is known for its hilly terrain, small greens and outstanding golfers. When it opened, PGA Tour legends Gene Sarazen and Byron Nelson were in the first group to tee off.
Merendo, a Viet Nam veteran and a graduate of Fulton-Montgomery Community College, served as the course’s head pro for 32-years and also was an assistant pro there for five more seasons.