Richard Lord | Tee to Green: Tiele finds 'new life' in surprising comeback
In looking back at this golf season locally, there have been plenty of highlights, but it's hard to argue that Waubeeka Golf Links head professional Erik Tiele's victory in the Northeast New York PGA Section's Senior Professional Championship in July was the top feel-good story of the summer.
As a result of that dramatic victory, the 50-year-old is headed to Austin, Texas, to play in the national Senior PGA Professional Championship at the Omni Barton Creek Resort this week, and there are plenty of folks in the Berkshires who have their fingers crossed that he'll play well.
"There's no question about it," said Wyantenuck head professional Tom Sullivan, when asked if it was the most popular win of the summer. "It is fabulous that he won, it really is."
For those unfamiliar with the personable pro's story, here is the quick version of a long and difficult process: Over the past three years, Tiele has had an ankle reconstruction — it was originally injured in a serious car accident in 1987 — and lost some 160 pounds with the help of gastric sleeve surgery so he could undergo a hip transplant, which he received in January.
With that as a backdrop, Tiele, who hadn't played much tournament golf in recent years, put together steady rounds of 73 and 75 in late July at the Edison Club in New York to get into in a four-way playoff for the championship with New York pros Rocky Catalano, Jim Jeffers and Peter Girard.
Tiele then survived a grueling eight-hole playoff to outlast Girard, with both golfers earning tickets to the national tournament. That's 44 holes in one day for a pro who had played very little golf under pressure in many years.
The victory was — and still is — a cause for celebration at Waubeeka.
"We put together a raffle and a spaghetti dinner to help Erik defray the costs of the trip," said Waubeeka owner Mike Deep, who might be as excited about his pro's trip than anyone. "This has really brought our club closer together."
Deep said that Tiele is working hard on his game in preparation, but it isn't just about himself and his personal goals.
"I've never seen a pro so excited and focused on what he is doing," Deep said. "He's found new life. He so very much wants to do well, but not for himself. He wants to do it for all the people who bought raffle tickets to help him. He wants to pay back the members."
Tiele has been a bit overwhelmed by all the support, but he believes that it won't add any pressure when he goes to the first tee on the Fazio Foothills course at Barton Creek on Thursday.
"The members have been great, and a contingency of members at Worthington have also been supportive," said Tiele, who was the head pro at the Links at Worthington before he moved on to Waubeeka. "One of our members is a pilot and he had accrued so many miles, he got me a hotel room for the week about 20 minutes from the golf course.
"I have played enough tournament golf that while I will have a few jitters on the first tee, I am going out with the attitude of looking at what I have overcome and that I have nothing to lose and that this will be a great experience."
At Tiele's request, Wyantenuck's Sullivan made the trip north to Williamstown to work with him on his game.
"He hit a few balls and we chatted, he's fun to work with" said Sullivan, who is regarded as one of the best instructors in the state. "Any help you can give a fellow player is great. He's hitting the ball good."
Sullivan helped Tiele make a few adjustments to his swing that seem to be working.
"I called him yesterday and told him that we were working on is starting to click," Tiele said of the adjustments. "All of a sudden, I am hitting the ball about 10 yards further. I am having to adjust on gauging my distance, but I am making more good swings now."
While he won't find out his starting time until Tuesday, Tiele does know that he will be playing his first round of the Fazio Foothills Course and the second round on a Coore-Crenshaw layout at Barton Creek, which is well-known for its four-course complex, complete with plenty of humps and bumps. Tiele said the Fazio course will be played between 6,500 and 6,600 yards while the Coore-Crenshaw course will measure between 6,200 and 6,300 yards.
"One of our members has a friend who played there and he says that, believe it or not, it plays a lot like the courses in the Berkshires," Tiele said. "He that there are lots of hills, it isn't flat like much of Texas."
Tiele said he will play a practice round on each course on Tuesday and Wednesday before the tournament begins on Thursday.
Making it through to the final round would be quite an accomplishment it itself. The large field of 264, which includes more than a few former PGA Tour players, will be cut to 90 players after the second round and 70 after the third round in the 72-hole tournament.
Tiele no doubt will be in Texas to perform as well as he can, but as a Waubeeka member reminded him, what he has done to get there is a very big deal.
"A member told me that even if I finish dead last, I got there and that you can't say enough about that," Tiele said.
Amen to that.
- - -
Berkshire Hills Country Club member Bob Linn and Wyantenuck Country Club member Andy Congdon have long been among the state's best senior golfers. In fact, both have won Mass Golf Senior Player of the Year honors, Linn in 2009 and Congdon is 2011.
Now, having reached age 65, they are eligible for the first time to play as super seniors and as a result both will be teeing it up at Wood's Hole in Falmouth on Tuesday in the fifth annual Massachusetts Super Senior Championship.
Given that they are now the "young" guys in a field, it would seem that they could well be serious contenders on Cape Cod. The county twosome are a decade younger than remarkable two-time defending champion Dave Houghton, who captured last year's tournament at Haverhill Country Club and the 2017 title at Wyantenuck.
While Linn has been a very busy competitor — he says he will be playing his 28th event of the summer (including Mass Golf and USGA qualifiers) — while Congdon hasn't played as much though he has showed he still has plenty of game, shooting an opening 3-under 69 in the Berkshire Singles on his way to a fourth-place finish and capturing the senior club championship at Wyantenuck.
Linn, who said he has been looking forward to this tournament for "a long time," will tee off at 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday while Congdon will be two groups behind him, teeing off at 12:35.
Good luck, guys, let's see one of you bring back the prize!
- - -
Carter Fasick, one of the top golfers who will be playing in the Super Seniors, took a trip west from his home course in Westborough and made it pay off with a victory in this past week's Berkshire County Senior Fall Golf Series event at Greenock Country Club.
Fasick, who has teamed with his brother Carter as a dominant senior duo in state events, shot a 2-over 73 to take the Blue Division (younger seniors) by two shots by the previously mentioned Bob Linn and Ed Garbacik, a member at The Orchards.
Meanwhile, in the Green Division, Greenock's Bill Porter shot a 75 to defeat the Links of Worthington's Doug Reed by five shots.
Three tournaments remain in the series, starting with a two-man scramble at the Cranwell Spa and Golf Resort on Wednesday. The last two events, also two-man scrambles, will be played at Wahconah Country Club on Oct. 9 and at the Waubeeka Golf Links on Oct. 16. Call the pro shops at the host courses to enter. The entry fee is $45.
- - -
Bradford Country Club's Nick Maccario put together arguably the best performance of the year in a Mass Golf event this week, setting a course record on his way to an amazing 15-shot victory in the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship at Brae Burn Country Club in Newton.
Maccario shot an 8-under 64 despite a double bogey in the opening round and never looked back, finishing with a 72-hole total of 8-under 208. He followed up his 64 with rounds of 73 and 71. Herbie Aikens, who always seems to be in the title hunt in major state events, tied with David Spitz for second place.
Maccario, who had 10 birdies and needed only 21 putts in his round of 64, had recently also set the course record at his home course. Setting a course record at Brae Burn is impressive considering it is one of the state's great and historic Donald Ross-designed gems.
The two Berkshire County club members in the field, Wyantenuck's Brian Cunningham and Sam Hindels, found Brae Burn to be a challenge, missing the cut with identical 36-hole totals of 165.
- - -
Williams College's Sam Goldenring continued his strong 2019 season last weekend by capturing the individual honors in the Williams Fall Invitational at Taconic Golf Club while the Ephs ended up losing the team title by a single shot to Babson College.
Goldenring fired rounds of 71 and 70 to finish at 1-under 141 to finish in a tie for medalist honors with Hamilton's Jack Habeeb. The senior won a playoff with a par on the third hole to take individual honors.
The Ephs shot a final-round 295 to finish with a two-day total of 589.
The tournament was the last warm-up for this weekend's NESCAC qualifier at Sandy Burr Country Club in Wayland. The top four teams will advance to the NESCAC championship in the spring with this week's winner as the host. The Ephs failed to advance last year, giving them plenty of motivation this week.
"Stings to lose by one in our home event but credit to Babson," Goldenring said. "They are a great team and really played well today. Despite the loss, I think the team is in a great spot heading into the NESCAC qualifier next weekend. We have to tighten up a few things here and there, but all in all I'm liking the trajectory we are on for next weekend and beyond."
The Williams women, meanwhile, continued to show signs of being as strong or stronger than last year's NCAA Division III national runners-up, rolling to a 23-shot romp in the Mount Holyoke Invitational at The Orchards in South Hadley.
The Ephs finished with an impressive 54-hole total of 599 that included a tournament-record 293 in the final round that featured even-par rounds of 72 by three Ephs — sophomore Olivia White along with freshmen Malini Rudra and Catalin Yturralde. White lost in a playoff to Cortland State's Daniella Bambola for the individual championship after both players finished at 3-over 147.
It is worth noting that the Ephs beat the defending national Division III champions New York University in the victory. NYU tied for second with Middlebury.
Berkshire County Fall Senior Series
At Greenock Country Club
1. C. Fasick, 73. 2. B. Linn, 75. 3. (tie) E. Garbacik, 75.
1. D. Eisenberg, 69. 2. M. Cartier, 69. 3. B. Gates, 71
1. B. Porter, 75. 2. D. Reed, 80. 3. B. Kotelski, 81.
1. D. Mead, 72. 2. J. Hoke, 73. 3. J.Baranger, 73.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.