County pros succeed in NY
Perhaps the Northeast New York PGA section needs to be renamed the Berkshires PGA Section considering the season the county's pros had in section tournament competition.
Greenock Country Club head professional Bob Mucha and Wahconah Country Club assistant pro Milton Torres Jr. capped off a great season for the Berkshires by capturing the section's match-play and assistants' match-play titles in recent weeks.
Mucha defeated Frank Mellett of Colonie Golf and Country Club 3 and 2 in his final at Albany Country Club while Torres took the assistants' event by beating John Upson of the Edison Club in a tense 21-hole battle.
Earlier, Berkshire Hills County Club's Josh Hillman won the section championship, Taconic Golf Club's Rick Pohle claimed the section senior pro championship and Wyantenuck's Tom Sullivan took the senior stroke-play title.
That's four wins in the section's five biggest events -- Normanside County Club's Scott Berliner won the section stroke play with Mucha second -- to go with Torres' victory in one of the two biggest events for assistant pros.
"We've got a good bunch of players," said Mucha, who finished second in the final player-of-the-year standings behind Berliner. Mucha was also second in the Vardon Trophy standings (top scoring average) behind Berliner. Mucha won that title last year.
"We did OK," Sullivan said. "It's fun for us to do that. I'm always happy to see one of us come back home with a
Albany Country Club wasn't a course that necessarily fit Mucha's game.
"I didn't have high expectations going in because it's a long course," said Mucha, whose game is more about precision than booming drives.
Mucha played very well in his opening match, defeating Saratoga Golf and Polo Club's Kevin Hughes 5 and 3 by playing 2-under golf through 15 holes. In a matchup of county pros, Mucha made some clutch putts late in the round to edge Sullivan 2 and 1. Mucha then got what he admits was a good break when the long-hitting Berliner had to withdraw, lifting the Greenock pro into the finals against Mellett.
"I was fortunate to get that bye, but I'll take it," Mucha said. "He would have had a huge [distance] advantage on that course."
Mucha has a reputation for being Mr. Consistency and showed why against Mellett.
"I made 15 pars and one bogey," he said. "My short game was really, really good. The course was playing long and I knew pars were good."
Given his consistency, match play fits Mucha well. He previously won the match-play title in the Connecticut PGA section and had lost in the NENY section final several times.
"It's nice to win the match play and a major," he said. "It's also some redemption for not winning the stroke play when I had a good chance."
Meanwhile, Torres had a slightly more tense time in his four-match run to victory. He needed extra holes to defeat a pair of pros from The Edison Club. Torres eliminated Nathan Kane in 19 holes in the second round and John Upson in a 21-hole final.
Against Kane, Torres drained a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 18, knowing he needed the putt to continue -- Kane was already in with a birdie -- and then made another 10-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to advance.
Remarkably, Torres had been struggling on the greens.
"I wasn't putting well at all," Torres said. "My ball striking was excellent, but I think I had 12 three putts in 72 holes."
But when it mattered, he delivered.
"I seem to putt better under pressure," Torres said. "If it's to stay alive, I tend to make them. I have done that in qualifiers before. I spent more time studying those putts and put solid strokes on them."
In the final, Torres let a 2-up lead slip away, but prevailed when Upson found big trouble on the third playoff hole and conceded the match.
"I've never won a match-play tournament, so that feels good," said Torres, who has now captured two section tournaments.
As a result of his third-place finish in the senior stroke play championship, Sullivan is headed to Leesburg, Va., for this week's PGA's Senior Pro Championship. This year marks the 11th time in 13 years the 62-year old has made the field.
"I haven't played much since the senior stroke play [ Aug. 14]," said Sullivan, when asked what his expectations are. "You never know until you play. We'll see what happens. It will be a good time and a chance to see some people I haven't seen in a long time."
Pohle was also scheduled to play, but he informed Sullivan on Saturday that he won't be able to make the trip.
Pohle, who is retiring in November, is coaching his Williams College men's team for the final time this weekend at the Hamilton (N.Y.) Invitational. So far, it's been a good fall season. The Ephs have won two of four tournaments, taking top honors in their own Invitational and in the Bowdoin Invitational.
The Berkshire Country Senior Fall Series continues Wednesday with a singles event at Greenock Country Club. The tournament will tee off at 11:30 a.m., an hour earlier than the previous tournaments.
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