Richard Lord | Tee to Green: Tom Sullivan honored by Northeast NY PGA Section as golf professional of the year

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Wyantenuck Country Club head professional Tom Sullivan has long been regarded as one of the region's top golf instructors in addition to being an outstanding head professional, so it came as no surprise when the 69-year-old was named the Northeast New York PGA Section's golf professional of year recently.

"That was fantastic, no one is more deserving than Tom," said Stockbridge head professional Steve Mazzariello. "He's one of the best instructors around. He has an incredible eye for the swing and his playing ability is remarkable at his age as well."

Of course, giving instruction is just one small part of the professional's duties, but Sullivan's personality is also a perfect fit for the job.

"He's great as a teacher and a player, but he's also just a great guy," Mazzariello said. "When it comes to his fellow pros, everyone calls on him for advice on situations they deal with. I've leaned on him and he has provided me with great insight."

Sullivan is humbled by the honor.

"It's obviously, to me, one of the nicest things that has ever been done for me, to be acknowledged by my peers this way," Sullivan said. "It's something to be singled out. You feel like you have accomplished something."

From my perspective covering Berkshire County golf, Sullivan has been a pleasure to deal with and it is easy to see from his interactions with golfers and others that he is well-liked by both his peers and his club's members.

The most amazing thing to me is how universally praised he is as an instructor. I have lost count of how many times after someone in the Berkshires — amateur or pro — has won a tournament or seems to have made great strides with their games, that they have pointed to Sullivan the biggest reason for their success.

His most renowned former student is Jim Salinetti, who is currently the head professional at Winchester Country Club in suburban Boston. Salinetti won three Mass. Amateur titles (1997, '98, 2000) and a New England Amateur title (2000). Another one who leans on Sullivan often is Taconic head professional Josh Hillman. In looking into my archives I found this from a few years back.

"Jim Salinetti and I went to Florida this winter and played together in some pro-pro events, and we both struggled," Hillman said. "We joked about which one of us would go to see Sully first. He ended up going first and I went second."

Randy Driscoll, a top amateur in the region had this to say after a past victory: "I can't say enough about Tom. He has helped me with my swing and how to play the game. He keeps it simple and works with what you've got. ... Working with him is like sitting on a couch and talking golf and when you are done you have learned a lot."

Of all the things Sullivan, who has been at Wyantenuck since 1999, loves about his job, No. 1 is seeing golfers improve.

"I get a great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction from seeing those I have helped succeed."

Even when it costs him a victory?

"I gave Allistair Cato (a top Pioneer Valley amateur) a chipping lesson right before the final round at the Cape Cod Senior and he beat me and I once gave Paul Daniels a quick putting lesson and he went out an beat us all with a 68. That's OK, it's a good thing."

***

Sullivan wasn't the only head professional honored by the NENY PGA. Mazzariello was named the section's Merchandiser of the Year while Taconic's Hillman (Roland Stafford Award) for sportsmanship and Peter Egazarian (Player Development Award) also took home awards.

"There are a lot of talented guys in the Berkshires," Sullivan said. "It's a close-knit, good group that cares for one another. It's also great feather in the cap of the Berkshire clubs when the pros are honored."

Mazzariello pointed out that there are others contribute when the pros are honored.

"I am flattered to be recognized but my assistants Sebastian (Evans), Anothony (Rizzo) and Nick (Savoy) share in this award. They take a lot of pride in working on the displays and keeping the shop looking good."

***

Anyone who has played at Waubeeka Golf Links knows that a pair of pars to start the back nine is an outstanding outcome. The 10th is one of the county's toughest par-3 holes and the picturesque par-4 11th is another stern test.

So, after Steve Sykes drained a long birdie putt on the ninth hole in last weekend's Allied Four-Ball Championship, he and partner Jeff Puleri knew what was coming next. Or so they thought.

"We're thinking 'let's get our pars on 10 and 11' and all of a sudden Jeff rolls in two (birdie putts) in a row." said Sykes, whose birdie on nine jump-started his team on its way to capturing the Allied title for the second time in three years with a 6-under par 65. Greenock Country Club's team of Tom and Matt Keenan and the Waubeeka pairing of Geoff Tatro and Todd Shafer, who took low net honors, tied for second with 68s.

"Steve is always in play and he held us up over the first few holes when I was scuffling," said Puleri, who drained a 12-footer after a 5-iron shot on the 200-yard 10th and a 15-footer after an 8-iron approach on 11. "His putt on nine put us 2 under and really got us going."

After a brief hiccup (a bogey on the par-4 12th) came three consecutive birdies — by Sykes on Nos. 13 and 14 and by Puleri on 15 — before being on the wrong side on a ledge led both to 3-putt bogeys on No. 16. Sykes finished up the pair's nine-hole birdie binge with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 17th.

"I didn't even realize that we made seven birdies in nine holes," Sykes said. "I'd make a putt, then he'd make a putt, and before you know it we had made seven."

Sykes praised Waubeeka's conditions — especially considering the first nine holes were played in rainy conditions — and came away especially impressed with the putting surfaces, with good reason.

"It was a fun day and the course was in great shape, especially the greens," Sykes said. "We made a lot of putts."

Both golfers finished with four birdies, which was a little different than their usual scorecard.

"Usually, Jeff makes a lot of birdies and I just plod along making pars," Sykes said.

While Puleri may be the more explosive birdie-maker, their games nonetheless are similar.

"We're good friends and we know each other's games well," Sykes said.

"We respect each other's games so we are able to help each other during a round," echoed Puleri.

A pair of past Berkshire Hills Country Club club champions — Sykes in 2015 and Puleri last summer — have now finished second, first, fifth and first in the last four Allied championships. The second-place finish in 2015 came in a playoff when Puleri had to leave to attend to his work duties at MCLA and Sykes was forced into a one-on-two playoff against Paul and Tom Gilardi and came up short.

***

Having lost her winter practice facility at Cranwell Resort and Spa after the resort was sold, eduKaytiongolf's Kay McMahon has been building up her frequent flyer miles over the past six months, teaching at Metro West Golf Club in Orlando, Fla.

But now with the weather finally warming up, the LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Hall of Fame member is gearing up for another big summer in the Berkshires and Greater Albany.

"We will be working by appointment at Skyline, Mills Road and at the Triple Nickel," McMahon. "The biggest difference this summer is that we we are going to hold more one-day workshops. Golfers tend to improve faster taking part in workshops."

The workshops at Skyline Country Club (Lanesborough), Mills Road (Latham, N.Y.) and the Triple Nickel (New N.Y.) McMahon said, will typically run from 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

In addition to the workshops, there will of course still be individual lessons available and McMahon and her staff will be hard at work with the juniors with Junior K-Camps sprinkled into the summer schedule.

For more information, go to edukaytiongolf.com or call 518-669-1551.

Richard Lord can be reached at relord633@gmail.com or 413-281-2226.-

LOCAL RESULTS

Allied Association

Four-Ball Championship


Low gross

1. Jeff Puleri-Steve Sykes, 65. 2. (tie) Matt-Tom Keenan, 68; Geoff Tatro-Todd Shafer, 68. 4. (tie) Chris-Jeff Bourdon, 69; Mike Kinna-Mike Schopp, 69.

Low net

1. Geoff Tatro-Todd Shafer, 59. 2. (tie) Jim Finnegan-Jeff Brown, 62; Sam Nykorchuck-Steve Curry, 62.

Bas Ridge Golf Course

Hinsdale's Monday Night League


Low gross

1. Brad Stevens, 37; 2. (tie) Jim Ballardini, 38, Bob Baillargeon, 39; Don Deremywer 39; Tom Dowling, 39; Bill Hurley, 39.

Low net

1. Keith Blake, 31. 2. (tie) Scott Colbert, 34; Bob LeVardi, 34. 4. (tie) Bob Keegan, 35; Brad Klose, 35,

Skins, low gross

Jim Dowling, birdie on No. 12; Ed Hornstein, birdie on No. 17

Skins, low net

Dave Lefleur, net eagle on No. 11; Jim Dowling, net eagle on No. 12; Bob Keegan, net eagle on No. 15; Ed Hornstein, net eagle on No. 17..

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