Jun 192017
 

Lance Hope chips during the Schenectady Classic.

WINS CONTROVERSIAL SCHENECTADY CLASSIC
By Bob Weiner

SCHENECTADY – Like a memorable phrase from The Godfather movie, Jim Mueller got an offer he couldn’t refuse.

In a bizarre ending to regulation play, Mueller, watching from the gallery, thought he was the runner-up after Lance Hope nailed a 35-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that would have secured Hope his first title in the annual Schenectady Classic, sponsored by The Daily Gazette.

But Hope, who lost in a playoff to Mike Wheeler a year ago, moments later signed an incorrect scorecard for a higher total than he actually made. That meant that Hope, who actually scored a two-over-par 74, had to accept a 75 that put his three-day total at two-over-par 218, the same one posted by Mueller.

Hope’s actual total at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course was a 217. Had Hope signed for a lower score than he actually had, he would have been disqualified. Mueller thought he was finished for the day, but when word spread of the situation, he had to putt his golf gear back on.

Jim Mueller won the playoff at the Schenectady Classic.

In the resulting playoff, Mueller’s spectacular pitch shot to a foot on the second extra hole resulted in a birdie, producing Mueller’s all-time record eighth championship in the event formerly called the Gazette County Amateur. Mueller, 58 is also the three-time defending champion in the Gazette Senior County Amateur, scheduled for August.

Both Mueller and Hope, of course, were stunned by the rules infraction that marred the end of the tournament. Although Mueller felt terribly for Hope, he wasn’t going to throw the playoff.

“I didn’t expect this at all,” Mueller said while hoofing it back to the clubhouse from the second hole. “This is not the way I thought this tournament was going to end. Don’t get me wrong, I played very well today, except for one hole. It was a horrible break for Lance, but I’ve got to try my best once I’m given the opportunity like this. I’m getting old, and I don’t know how many more chances I’ll get to win a tournament like this.”

Lance Hope signed a scorecard that put him in a playoff for the second year in a row.

‘NOT THE WAY YOU WANT TO WIN’

Mueller shot a 77 in the water-logged opening round of the tournament, and then he got back into contention with a 69 on Saturday, leaving him three shots behind Hope. Mueller was even-par on the front nine Sunday, but he almost threw away his chances with a triple-bogey on the 10th hole. “That killed me, I thought,” he said. “But I fought back and made three birdies after that to finish even par. I played well enough to give myself a chance. When I heard what Lance was doing out on the course, I figured that birdie on the 18th hole won the tournament for him. This is not the way you want to win, of course, but the rules are the rules.”

Hope was an emotional roller-coaster ride in the final few holes. After making the turn in even-par 36, he kept up his solid play until his three-putt bogey on the par-5 12th hole. He missed the green on the 15th hole and gave up another bogey, but he seemed in excellent position to hold on for the win when he hit his approach shot on the par-3 17th hole to within 25 feet below the cup. However, he three-putted again for bogey. That meant he needed a par on the final hole to force his second consecutive playoff.

“I had no idea where I stood,” Hope said. “Usually, I like to know where I stand in the tournament, and I wished there was a leaderboard to look at. On my final hole, maybe it was a good thing I didn’t know I needed to make a birdie to win. That was a great way to finish, or so I thought. You saw how I was putting on the back nine. It wasn’t very good.”

Hope tried to put his bad luck into perspective. “I was nervous, but I thought I played well. These things happen,” he said.

Chad Stoffer shot 76 on Sunday to finish third in the Schenectady Classic.

RESULTS (Par 72-216)

x-Jim Mueller 72-218
Lance Hope 75-218
Chad Stoffer 76-220
Joe Fitzsimmons 77-221
Greg Bennett 75-221
Justin Deitz 72-222
Ben Bates 72-226
Rob Bigley Jr. 69-226
Todd Czepiel 77-226
Jim Welch 75-226
Ed Chylinski 73-227
Aaron Simone 69-228
Paul Pratico 74-230
Kyle Adams 79-231
Mike Carroll 82-232

Joe Fitzsimmons led after round one and finished T4 at Schenectady Municipal.

Mike Stopera 74-233
Glenn Stopera 74-233
Brandon Haase 76-235
Mike Dwyer 76-235
Seth Adams 79-237
Tom Salmon 78-237
Bob Cooper 81-239
Mike Wheeler WD
x: Won playoff on second extra hole