Richard Lord | Tee to Green: Wrapping up a busy summer
Trying to sum up a summer's worth of tournament golf in the Berkshires isn't easy, but as the season winds down, here's my best effort to point out some of the summer's best stories and most successful players.
TWIN NATIONAL CHAMPIONS
The Williams College women's and men's golf program's pulled off a pair of victories in May that defied the odds when senior Cordelia Chan and junior Sam Goldenring both captured NCAA Division III individual championships.
Chan fired a final round of even-par 72 at Bay Oaks Country Club in Houston to hold off New York University's Arisha Mahant by one shot to give the Ephs their second individual women's champion. Georgiana Salant captured the championship in 2014.
Goldenring, meanwhile, also shot an even-par 72 in the final round to record a two-shot win over Hope College's Josh Gibson at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky. Goldenring finished at 3-under 285.
Chan's victory was dampened slightly by the disappointment of the Ephs falling to capture their second team national title. They entered the final round with an eight-shot lead over New York University but the Violets caught fire in the final round, shooting an NCAA women's Division III record-low 294 — 6 over par — to overtake Williams for a five-shot victory.
With four members of last year's team back this season, the women have had a great fall season and look like they will be national title contenders again next spring.
Goldenring, meanwhile, followed up his victory in Kentucky by qualifying for this year's U.S. Amateur Championship and has already earned a collegiate victory this season as a senior, taking individual honors in the Williams Fall Invitational.
TIELE'S THE REAL DEAL
There is no question that the feel-good story of the summer belonged to Waubeeka Golf Links head professional Erik Tiele, who completed an amazing comeback to capture the Northeast New York PGA Section's Senior Professional Championship at the The Edison Club (N.Y.) in Rexford, N.Y.
Tiele, performing coolly in the first true pressure situation he has faced in years after physical issues curtailed his ability to play, survived a 44-hole day and eight-hole playoff to win the tournament and a berth in October's national Senior Professional Championship in Austin, Texas.
To say the win was improbable is an understatement. Over the previous three years, Tiele 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.
"I've been getting stronger and I am playing a lot more golf, because I can," said Tiele, who proved his recovery is for real by handling 44 holes in the heat and coming out victorious. "I'm now the Bionic Man, but I hadn't played much competitive golf, so I didn't have thoughts of winning. I just wanted to go over, not embarrass myself and maybe shoot a couple of 75s and finish in the middle of the pack."
The win was very popular with his fellow professionals.
"Everybody is thrilled, after all Erik has gone through, it's by far the most popular win I've seen in a long, long time (in the NENY section)," said Wyantenuck Country Club head professional Tom Sullivan. "It's just wonderful."
Tiele was in the day's first group and, after steady rounds of 73 and 75 on the first and third nines on the 27-hole Edison layout, had to wait more than two hours before even knowing he was in a four-way playoff for the championship with New York pros Rocky Catalano, Jim Jeffers and Peter Gerard.
"I was smoked by the end, the hip was pretty sore and in need of a lube job" Tiele joked. "That much golf in the heat and humidity? I could definitely feel it when I went to work (the next day)."
While things didn't go as well in Texas, with Tiele finishing near the bottom of the leaderboard against the nation's best senior club professionals, his story of perseverance in getting that far should serve as an inspiration to us all.
GOOD RUN FOR CHYLINSKI
Berkshire Hills Country Club member Mark Chylinski served notice early in the season that his game was sharp and his strong play continued all summer long.
In the second Mass Golf event of the season, the Massachusetts Senior Four-Ball Championship, Chylinski teammed with fellow Hills member Ralph Dastoli to finish second behind Cape Cod's Joe Walker and Kevin Carey with a 36-hole total of 7-under 133 despite never having seen the two courses (Willowbend and Wianno) they played.
"We went in blind, but it didn't end up being a handicap" Chylinski said. "There was one fairway where we both hit driver right down the middle and discovered when we got to the ball that the fairway was only 10 yards wide in that spot."
Despite knowing they would be at a knowledge disadvantage — the eventual winners, after all, live on the Cape, as do many of the state's other top seniors — the longtime friends still harbored hopes of a high finish.
"Ralph and I discussed it on the way over and we thought we should be able to contend," said Chylinski.. "We weren't necessarily thinking about winning, but we thought we should be able to contend for the top 10, at least."
The victory was the start of a great summer for the 60-year-old. He went on to capture the Allied Senior Championship for the first time, finished fourth in the Massachusetts Father-Son Championship with his son Brent and eighth in the Massachusetts Senior Championship. He also teamed with longtime partner Jim Mueller to win the Senior Division of the Shaker Ridge Invitational best-ball tournament in New York.
THREE FOR SCHOPP
Wyantenuck Country Club member Mike Schopp earned three victories in South County, taking the individual title in the Stockbridge Classic, combining with Ben Shopp to win the Wyantenuck Fall Invitational and teaming with Davis Mullany to capture the Stockbridge Invitational..
Playing in windy conditions, Schopp took the Championship Flight in the Classic with a 1-under par 70 in a wild round that included five birdies and an eagle. Schopp's eagle came on the par-5 15th hole while the birdies came on Nos. 3, 6, 8, 11 and 12. However, with a double bogey on No. 1 and four bogeys, he needed most of those circles on his card to prevail by two shots over Dean Godek of Feeding Hills.
Mullany and Matt Scarafoni pointed to Schopp's putting as the key in the championship match in the Invitational.
"The finals were not my match to shine," said Mullany, who won this year's Wyantenuck club championship. "Mike really stepped up and made some bombs."
Scarafoni recalled three putts of at least 30-plus feet that Shopp hit that found the cup. Perhaps the biggest came on the par-3 11th hole after Shopp had birdied the previous hole to even the match.
"That's when things started to get crazy," Scarafoni recalled. "I drained a 30-footer (for birdie), and Mike puts it in on top of me to tie the hole. Then he makes a 35-footer (for birdie) on No. 13. His putting was incredible."
Country Club of Pittsfield head professional Eric Mabee was determined to earn a ticket to next spring's PGA National Championship in Austin, Texas, and that focus paid off.
While he didn't come away with the victory in September, he did reach his goal as a result of his second-place finish behind Hiland Park (N.Y.) assistant pro Scott Berliner.
"I wasn't going to miss qualifying two years in a row," said Mabee, who fell short of qualifying for the 2018 national championship after having made it four previous tries. "It sucked having to watch the tournament on television."
Berliner, the section's biggest winner in recent years, pulled away on the final nine holes to earn his own ticket to the nationals, shooting a final-round, 3-under par 69 to prevail by three shots over Mabee, who shot a final-round 70. The winner finished with a 36-hole total of 9-under 136.
While Mabee wasn't satisfied with his play at times this summer, he not only earned his berth in the premier event for club professionals, he also qualified for and made the cut in the Massachusetts Open and also qualified for the New York State Open at Bethpage Black.
TWO FOR SULLIVAN
Kathy Sullivan, the wife of Wyantenuck head professional Tom Sullivan, captured both the women's club championship and the Women's Allied Championship at her home course.
Sullivan outlasted past champion Jen Race to take the club win and then shot an impressive 75 at the South County gem to defeat Taconic Golf Club's Kathy Duguay, the defending champion, by two shots in the Allied Championship.
Sullivan, Race, Lynn Truta and Sharon Connelly combined to take the Allied women's team championship, a first for the Wyantenuck women.
Country Club of Pittsfield member Matt Scarafoni, as usual, was in the hunt in most of the summer's main events, and did come away with his fifth victory in the Country Club of Pittsfield Men's Invitational and his 16th men's club championship.
He teamed with Pioneer Valley golfer Chris Ferriter to defeat Longmeadow's Dave Laporte and Greg Fisk 3-and-2 to win his fifth Invitational title and later went on to defeat Jake Driscoll in the club championship by one shot by sinking a dramatic 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole to complete a rally from a four-shot deficit.
This is the last Tee to Green column of the season. Have a good offseason. As LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Hall of Famer Kay McMahon has said often, "golfers are made in the offseason."
Time to go to work and get ready for next spring!
Mark Brazeau hit a hole-in-one on No. 4 at Donnybrook Country Club on Oct. 13.
Brazeau used a Top Flite 9 iron to record the feat. Gordie Fosser and George Aslan witnessed the shot.
Richard Lord can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-281-2226.
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