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It’s a big year for watching tournament golf in WNY

It’s a bigger than normal year for watching tournament golf in Western New York.

Two new events coming to the region are the Senior PGA Championship at Rochester’s Oak Hill Country Club in May and the Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf and Country Club in June.

The big annual events on the schedule are the Porter Cup in Lewiston in July and the LECOM Health Challenge Web.com event at Peek’n Peak Resort in July.

A rundown:

• Senior PGA Championship, May 23-26. Oak Hill is the No. 22 course in the United States in the latest Golf Digest ranking. It has hosted three U.S. Opens, two PGA Championships and a Ryder Cup, among other big events. This event, one of five majors in senior men’s golf, continues Oak Hill’s tight relationship with the PGA of America. Oak Hill hosted the Senior PGA in 2008. The PGA Championship will return to Oak Hill in 2023.

Oak Hill generally plays tough. At the 2008 Senior PGA there were only 11 rounds in the 60s by the entire field. The king of senior golf is Bernhard Langer, 61, who has won the Champions Tour money list seven straight years and has a record 10 Champions Tour major titles.

Tickets are $25 for practice rounds and $45 per day for the tournament.

• Canadian Open, June 6-9. Hamilton Golf CC, located 70 minutes from the Peace Bridge, is the No. 7-rated course in Canada. The event gets a big boost on the PGA Tour schedule this year with a move to June, the week before the U.S. Open. For the past decade, the event was in July, the week after the British Open. Top tour pros found that an easy week to take off.

A lot of top players like to play the week before a major, so the field is expected to be significantly improved.

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, ranked No. 3 in the world, will make his first ever appearance at the Canadian Open. World No. 2 Dustin Johnson also is entered.

Tickets prices (Canadian) are: $25 for practice rounds, $70 Thursday, $75 Saturday and $80 Sunday. Friday is sold out. Hamilton will get the event again in 2023.

• Porter Cup, July 24-27. Lewiston’s Niagara Falls Country Club is the host for the 61st annual event, which is free to the public. Past champions include Phil Mickelson, Ben Crenshaw and David Duval. The past two champions, Stanford’s Brandon Wu and Virginia’s Thomas Walsh, are among the top collegians in the country this year.

• The LECOM Health Challenge Web.com, July 4-7. The PGA Tour’s Triple-A circuit will come for the fourth straight year to the Findley Lake course, 90 minutes from Buffalo, near the Pennsylvania border. Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson and Charley Hoffman are PGA stars who played at Peek’n Peak in the past. First prize last year was $108,000.

State Ams in WNY

The New York State men’s amateur championship will be held at East Aurora’s Crag Burn Club Aug. 6-8. The NYS Women’s amateur will be held at Lancaster CC July 9-11.

It’s the first time the men’s amateur is in Western New York since Transit Valley hosted it in 2002. It’s the first women’s am here since Gowanda hosted it in 2005.

New BDGA Junior League

The Buffalo District Golf Association’s Friday Interclub League for junior golfers has been overhauled. For decades, the league consisted of 24 or so clubs split into three divisions and playing over five Fridays in the summer.

Due to declining participation, the BDGA has turned it into a three-event, individual competition.

“We’re renaming it the — IJGS — the Interclub Junior Golf Series,” said BDGA board member David Delisanti. “Participation dwindled for multiple reasons. We’ve cut it down to three events so that we hopefully can drum up more participation, with the hope of maybe expanding it to five next summer. We just found that with a lot of kids going on vacation, they can’t make the commitment to five team events, so they don’t bother doing it. And if a club had three players but couldn’t find a fourth, they’d just say we’re not going to play.”

The cost will be only $30 for a junior to be eligible to enter all three events. The BDGA is in the process of lining up the courses and dates. When they are set, an entry link will be available via the BDGA website at nysga.org.

The IJGS also will be called “the race to the Williamson Cup,” because it will help pick a four-man team that will represent Buffalo in the prestigious all-star event that has been held since 1964.

The Williamson Cup pits teams from 11 districts in the Northeast and Canada. This year’s Williamson Cup will be held in August at Rochester’s Irondequoit CC. The 2020 event will be held at Country Club of Buffalo. The last time Buffalo won the Williamson Cup was in 1983, when E.J. Pfister, Tim Straub, Kyle Gay and Gus Weigel were on the team. Players will earn points from the IJGS events, plus the BDGA stroke and match-play events and the Erie County Amateur. Anyone with questions about the series can call Delisanti at 716-445-7616.

Meanwhile, the BDGA Scholarship Tournament is Sept. 7 at Seneca Hickory Stick. It supports grants that annually go to about four junior golfers bound for college.

BDGA partners with NYSGA

Over the past decade, the United States Golf Association has encouraged the consolidation of district golf organizations across the country. As a result, the Buffalo District Golf Association a year ago entered into a partnership with the New York State Golf association. For lack of a better phrase, the BDGA is now under the NYSGA umbrella.

The NYSGA offers more support in the operation of all the area championships run by the BDGA.

“We’ve entered into collaborative agreements with both Buffalo and Syracuse to help support their tournament programs,” said Andrew Hickey, assistant executive director of the NYSGA. “We’ve taken an active role in doing much of the behind-the-scenes work for the Buffalo district. We built all their websites for tournament registration, under our main website. Their new website is embedded within the NYSGA’s website. We also provide support to people registering for events because we have full-time staff. We create the pairings, print score sheets, rules sheets, score cards and we’re working with the clubs to manage the setup of the events.”

Rochester and Metropolitan New York now are the only two fully independent districts in the state.

“We wanted to be a stand-alone district, and we were not approved,” said BDGA president Bob Rosen, referring to the USGA. “It was across the United States. I guess they want to have a smaller base of associations to make it easier to disseminate information. But it has gone great. The state has been tremendous. Between on-line registrations to scorecards and the scoreboards, when you walk into a tournament it feels like something special, and we really wanted to have that.”

“We’re still a distinct entity inside of the state golf association,” Rosen said. “We still have our own board.”

The BDGA is looking for a new executive director, which is a part-time position but during the season it’s full time. Mark Rydza, who held the post the past three years, moved to Florida.

“Last year Mark did an outstanding job of lining up courses, and he had a lot of the courses set up before he left this year,” Rosen said.

The BDGA men’s and women’s championship will be held at Brierwood CC Aug. 1-3. The district has done a good job of creating a rotation of high-quality courses for its top event. And Brierwood has continued the commendable tradition of ending the championship on a Saturday, which provides a higher profile and makes it easier for participants to enter.

Last year 60 men and six women competed in the event at Brookfield. Last year Canisius College junior David Hanes won the BDGA title, the Erie County Amateur and the BDGA Match Play event. He also won the NYSGA men’s four-ball title with his brother, Billy.

Points Leaders 2018

Here are the top 10 points leaders from the BDGA last season:

Men: 1, David Hanes (Crag Burn); 2, Billy Hanes (Crag Burn); 3, Ben Reichert (Transit Valley); 4, Jamie Miller (Crag Burn); 5, Matthew Pawlak (Niagara Falls); 6, Bob Rosen (CCB); 7, Nick Morreale (Niagara Falls); 8, Patrick Nealon (Wanakah); 9, James Irwin III (CCB); 10, Jake Katz (Brookfield).

Senior Men: 1, Bob Rosen (CCB); 2, James Irwin III (CCB); 3, Andy Bernatovich (River Oaks); 4, John Miosi (Niagara Falls); 4, John Gaffney (Brookfield); 6, Chris Drongosky (Glen Oak); 7, Stephen Stone (Sheridan); 8, Mike McNulty (Park); 9, Mike Grace; 10, Jay Collier (Tan Tara).

Junior Boys: 1, Anthony Delisanti; 2, Matt Jackson; 3, Tyler Edholm; 4, Cary Ignaczak; 5, Ryan Hart; 6, Mitch Jeffe; 7, Luke Stanley; 8, Jaxon Hummel; 9, Anthony Gullo; 10, Matt Jeffe.

Glen Oak Upgrades

Legendary golf architect Robert Trent Jones had just about the flattest piece of property you could imagine at his disposal when he designed Glen Oak Golf Course in 1971. It’s amazing what Jones did with it, creating a wildly imaginative layout winding through the North Amherst parkland. Glen Oak at one time was ranked among the top 75 public courses in the country by Golf Digest.

Club pro Tim Fries is beginning his second year as owner of the course and is continuing his ambitious renovations at the public club.

Fries on what makes Glen Oak great: “Jones’ routing. Every hole is different. It’s not like Florida where it’s flat and you can’t remember a hole. Here, there are memorable holes all over the course.”

Jones built Glen Oak right after building East Aurora’s Crag Burn in 1969.

“We took down another 100 trees this offseason,” Fries said. “We’re trying to open up corridors. We got permission from the Jones family, which has a library at Cornell, to get three documents from the original plans of Glen Oak and what he designed it to be. So we can look and say how come we stopped putting the tee over here? What did he originally intend on this hole?”

The removal of trees, includes the pines to the left of the par-3 second, on both sides of the par-4 10th, around the green on the par-4 16th and on the superb, risk-reward, par-5 11th.

“On No. 11 we’re eliminating trees on the right so you can see the hazard,” Fries said. “I want people to see out of bounds on the left water on the right. I want their heart to beat a little. Before you couldn’t, and you couldn’t find your ball if you hit it right. Now we’re clearing it out so you can see it.”

The removal of trees on the left corner of the love-it-or-hate-it, par-5 18th will give better players a better view if they want to go for it in two. It’s a rare par-5 on which a golfer has to cross three hazards.

Glen Oak has a new fleet of carts, with blue-tooth speakers. Also new is a 6-hole, twilight rate ($12) designed for families.

“If a parent brings their kid an hour before sunset, the kid plays for free and the parent pays a 6-hole rate, any day of the week an hour before sunset,” Fries said.

Off the course, meanwhile, the 10,000-square-foot, two story clubhouse has been completely renovated. The upstairs banquet room can host 200-person weddings. In 2020, Fries plans to have an upstairs deck built out over the back patio and put a sports bar underneath the deck.

Office space in the clubhouse will be the new headquarters for the Western New York PGA and will include the PGA’s WNY Golf Hall of Fame.

Cipolla on No. 2 Texas

Lewiston’s Maren Cipolla is a junior golfer at the University of Texas, ranked No. 2 in the nation. Cipolla, a former Nichols star, has been in the active lineup for three of Texas’ 10 events this season. (In college golf, five players make the active lineup for a tournament and the top four scores each round count to the team’s total.) There are eight players on the Texas team.

Cipolla, who placed 19th at the Women’s Porter Cup last summer, has a stroke average of 76.2. She tied for 20th at an event in Hawaii in March. She was the 2016 New York State junior champ.

Lancaster’s Chelsea Dantonio is the No. 1 player for Winthrop College, in Rock Hill, S.C. The senior has a 75.3 stroke average. She finished second at a Hilton Head, S.C., event in March with scores of 77-73-72.

Lewiston and Sacred Heart’s Victoria Parker is a junior at Coastal Carolina.

On the men’s Division I golf front, East Amherst’s Ben Reichert is a rhirt this year on the Alabama-Birmingham team. Reichert, who tied for 10th at the Porter Cup last summer, is a transfer from Ole Miss and will have two years of eligibility remaining.

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