ARAKELIAN WINS 4TH STRAIGHT SENIOR
Story & Photos by Bob Weiner
TROY – As a youngster, Jimmy Sullivan used to caddie for longtime family friend Dave Arakelian during the annual Rensselaer County Men’s Amateur.
Sunday, both Country Club of Troy members each won their respective divisions at Frear Park Municipal Golf Course.
“When I was a kid, I was too young to play in this, so I caddied for Dave,” Sullivan said. “I always wondered what it would be like to win this. For me to win the open division on the same day that Dave won the senior division is really special.”
The 24-year-old Sullivan, who shot a 72 (+1) during the opening round on Saturday, eventually pulled away from first-round leader James Nero on the back nine, posting a 70 (-1) that included 5 birdies in the final round to win his first Capital Area major championship.
Arakelian, 58, a former winner of the open division, won his fourth straight senior division crown with help from an outstanding up-and-down from the bunker on the par-3 17th hole.
BACK NINE PIVOTAL FOR BOTH
Interestingly, Sullivan wrapped up his title on that same 17th hole, hitting a 6-iron to within 5-feet and rolling in the clutch birdie putt.
“We measured that hole at 186-yards to the cup, and my perfect 6-iron shot goes 185 yards,” Sullivan said. “I knew it was a good shot as soon as I hit it, but I just wanted to make sure it carried far enough. I wasn’t aiming for the flag, but I pushed the shot just a little bit.”
Sullivan played conservatively on the short par-4 18th hole. He hit an iron off the tee, found the middle of the green with his approach shot and ended up with a tap-in par to secure the comfortable victory.
“Hitting the fairway is always the key for me,” said Sullivan, who graduated from Averill Park H.S. and Siena College. He earned his Masters Degree from Clarkson University. “I’ve been hitting the ball very well recently, and I felt that if I just kept hitting the ball the same way, positive things would happen. I kind of pulled away a little bit at the end. I would say this is just about as special for me as winning the club championship at the CC of Troy.”
One of the holes Sullivan didn’t hit the fairway on during the back nine was on the par-4 16th hole. He pulled his tee shot well left and was blocked from the green by several tall trees guarding the left side of the fairway. “The 16th hole was huge,” he said. “I was able to hit a 4-iron under the trees and onto the green. That was a very frustrating hole for me. I fade the ball, and I knew if I went right on that hole I would be in big trouble, but I didn’t want to go that far left. I was fortunate there.”
PLAYERS BATTLED THROUGHOUT
Sullivan trailed Nero by two shots after the eighth hole, but he picked up one stroke when Nero bogeyed the par-3 ninth.
On the par-4 10th hole, Sullivan took over the lead when he rolled in an 8-foot birdie putt while Nero bogeyed. He picked up another shot on Nero on the par-5 11th, narrowly reaching the green in two and knocking in a birdie while Nero settled for a par.
Sullivan bogeyed the 12th hole, and Nero parred it to get back within a shot, but Nero bogeyed the par-3 13th hole, and Sullivan birdied the 14th to extend the lead back to three shots.
Nero, a 49-year-old member of Burden Lake CC, birdied the 15th hole, and two-time champion Dave Mooradian also recorded a birdie there to close the gap on Sullivan to a pair of strokes once more, but Mooradian bogeyed the 17th hole and Nero bogeyed the 18th hole when he hit his tee shot out of bounds to the right.
“I thought I played a great tournament,” Nero said. “My first round on Saturday was my lowest round ever here at Frear, and I would say finishing tied for second in this tournament is probably one of the best if not the best finishes I’ve had in a major tournament.”
Mooradian, who came on strong during the back nine to get back into contention, lamented a few mistakes, like a pop-up hybrid shot off the tee on the 16th hole. His tee shot on the 17th hole came up just short because he was between clubs.
“I was happy with the way I played this weekend,” he said. “The course is in much better shape than it was earlier this summer. They are headed in the right direction.”
Meanwhile, Arakelian was ecstatic that he was able to win his fourth straight senior crown. “This one was very difficult for me,” Arakelian said. “I was down by two strokes after I had a double-bogey on the sixth hole, but I kept on fighting back. I was praying a lot on the back nine.
“I’m so happy that I was able to win this one, and I’m so happy for Jimmy. Our families are good friends, and he’s a terrific kid.”