COCCA & COACH MISS CUT
Story and photos by Bob Weiner
ALBANY – With windy conditions slowing down the usual array of birdies here, Australian Hannah Green posted a 68 (-3) Saturday for a two-day total of 134 (-7) and a one-shot lead heading into the final round of the Symetra Tour’s Fuccillo Kia Classic at Capital Hills @ Albany.
Green, a Symetra Tour rookie who is seventh on the money list, is looking to notch her second career win. Besides her victory this season, her claim to fame so far was finishing second to LPGA Tour star Lydia Ko at the 2015 New Zealand Open. The 2015 Karrie Webb Scholarship recipient is a member of the Australian National Team.
First-round leader Mia Piccio, who has yet to win on the Symetra Tour, is a shot back after a surge of three birdies in her final five holes. The Phillippines National Team member and two-time All-SEC performer at the University of Florida has just $29,496 in career earnings since 2014. The lead group tees off Sunday at 9:31 AM. Seventy players made the cut at 146 (+4). The final round will begin at 7:30 AM off split tees to avoid expected inclement weather in the afternoon.
Capital Area sponsor-exemptions Bailey Cocca, 23, now an assistant pro at Normanside Country Club, and University at Albany head women’s golf coach Colleen Cashman-McSween, both missed the cut. Cocca’s double-bogey on her 17th hole led to a 75 and a two-day total of 151 (+9), while Cashman-McSween posted a second consecutive 76 for a 152 total (+10).
Green, 20, has rolled in 10 birdies so far against just three bogeys. If she wins this tournament, she will collect the keys to a 2017 Kia Forte LX. “I was thinking about buying a car to travel around with, but I didn’t realize this was the week you could win a car along with the prize money,” Green said. “That’s a great incentive, and it would be very nice.”
Her priority this season is to win three times in order to secure her LPGA card. She said she is getting plenty of help from her boyfriend, Jarryd Felton, who is a professional golfer on the PGA of Australia Tour. He is her caddie this week.
Piccio, who carded a 70 (-1) Saturday, said she needed to be patient in the windy conditions, and she added that a recent visit to her golf coach paid dividends in her mental game. “I was confident over my putts,” she said. “I’d like a chance to win, and I’m excited. I haven’t been in the lead group on the Symetra Tour. I’ve been working on staying in the present,” she said.
Piccio’s only professional win came on the LET Access Series in 2014.
It was a disappointing day for the pair of locals. “I was going pretty good (on her back nine) but then I messed up,” said Cocca, who graduated from Shaker High School and Coastal Carolina University. She won the New York State Women’s Amateur last summer and also is a two-time NYSGA Junior Girls Amateur champ.
“There’s always one hole that gets me. Today, it was the eighth hole (where she suffered a double-bogey), and yesterday (Friday) it was the 17th,” she said.
The long-hitting Cocca, who had her father, Jim, on her bag, said she didn’t feel nervous at all, thanks to a successful college career. But she was disappointed that she didn’t fulfill her goal of making the cut here. “It was fun,” she said. “It was a good experience.”
Cocca is headed to the U.S. Women’s Open local qualifier in Massachusetts this week. There are 48 women playing for just one berth.
Cashman-McSween, who competed in more than 100 Symetra Tour events when it was known as the Futures Tour and is a former winner on this tour, saw much more success with her short game than she did Friday, but it was still a frustrating day.
“I just didn’t hit the ball well this week,” she said. “One birdie today isn’t going to get it done. It was very windy, and it was hard to judge some of your shots against the wind into an elevated green. I putted better today, but I had a lot of blown opportunities.”
One of the highlights of the day belonged to Carleigh Silvers of Martinsville, Indiana, who aced the 156-yard seventh hole with a 6-iron. It was her second career hole-in-one but first since she was in middle school.
“I hit it well, but I didn’t think about it going in,” Silvers said. “Our cart driver was up by the green, and he kind of did a little scream, and we were like ‘did I go in?’, so it was cool even though I didn’t see it go in.”