Tee to Green: Bob Ahlen still going strong, hits another hole-in-one on home course

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Senior standout Bob Linn, who was 61 at the time, perfectly summed up Bob Ahlen's amazing longevity as a competitive golfer in 2015 during a strong performance by the octogenarian in the Berkshire Hills Singles tournament.

"I was thinking that it would be great to be able to do what he is doing at 86 and then I realized that means I've got to play 25 more years to do that." said Linn, who coincidentally will be the oldest golfer in the Massachusetts Amateur field when he tees off in the state's premier amateur tournament on July 10 at Charles River Country Club.

Considering Ahlen's latest feat, it looks like the 25-year time frame remains the same for Linn to equal his fellow Berkshire Hills Country Club member's decades-long run of brilliance.

Playing with restaurateur Mickey Soldato and longtime friend John Goodlow, Ahlen hit his 10th career hole-in-one on his beloved home course on Wednesday, holing out from 160 yards on the fifth hole.

"We were in the shadows and the sunlight was sparkling on the green, so with that contrast it was difficult to follow the ball. None of us saw it go in the hole," Ahlen said. "Mick had hit a good shot to about 5 feet and then I hit a 7-wood. I knew it was a good shot on the right angle."

Ahlen hit a slight draw and got the typical "members" bounce to the left that those familiar with the hole are used to seeing and trying to duplicate. The hole was on the left side of the putting surface and the ball found it — even if initially the threesome couldn't.

"We were looking everywhere for the ball for awhile," Ahlen said. "Finally, Mick said, 'look in the hole' and there it was. I said 'Mick, you better come over.' My God, was I surprised. What a thrill."

It was his first ace on the hole, leaving the uphill 17th as the only one of the course's five par 3s he hasn't had a hole-in-one on. He has made four aces on both the third and 13th holes, and one on No. 7.

"I had had shots hang on the edge (of the hole) on both Nos. 5 and 17, but they didn't go in," Ahlen said.

Longtime amateur standout Steve Magargal is the one golfer who has managed to ace all five holes, finishing off the feat on No. 17 during the Pewter Cup tournament in 2011.

While this was Ahlen's first ace on No. 5, it wasn't the first time since he turned 80 that the hole has been part of an unlikely accomplishment. In 2013, he birdied the hole by draining a long putt and followed that up on No. 6 — the Hills' signature par-4 Cape hole — with an eagle 2, finding the bottom of the cup with a 5-wood shot from about 200 yards out.

"I haven't heard about anyone else doing that since," said Ahlen. It is unlikely he will any time soon. The fifth hole is no easy birdie and an eagle on No. 6 would be a lifetime thrill for most of us.

While Ahlen says playing good golf into his late 80s is fun, he still takes his game seriously. Asked about how the rest of Wednesday's round went, I could sense disappointment in his voice when he said shot an 83 — easily beating his age, as is almost always the case for him.

"I ran out of gas and bogied the last four holes," he said. "The pins were in tough spots. That's the best alibi I can come up with."

We should all have to alibi when shooting well under our age!

Partly because of this spring's lousy weather, Ahlen has only played about nine rounds so far this season. He is still posting scores in the low 80s and occasionally can dip into the 70s.

"I still know what to do, but it's hard to get through the ball right," he said. "I can't get the turn like I used to. I struggle some out there, but it's still a lot of fun."

On a personal note, of all the great people I have met through covering golf for The Eagle, Bob remains my No. 1 inspiration to keep working on my own game into my late 60s. Reminding him of that, he said he's heard similar things before.

"I've had people who recognize me on the streets who say I have inspired them," he admitted. "That helps me a lot to keep going."

Ahlen, who has always carefully watched his diet and maintained a consistent exercise routine, said that his current health is good. He points to a career change — from design and engineering to being a stockbroker — as being a big reason for his good health and longevity on the golf course.

"I had more time for golf when I changed careers," Ahlen said. "Being behind a desk all the time can harm your health. People need to eliminate stress and being outdoors on a golf course can help with that."

I have little doubt that I will be writing again about another amazing feat accomplished by this ageless wonder. Perhaps when he finishes off his search for that elusive ace on No. 17?

I wouldn't bet against it.

***

While a senior received today's spotlight, it is time for those young golfers out there to tee it up in tournament play when the Berkshire County Junior Monday Series tees off a week from Monday at Wahconah Country Club.

The summer series, open to juniors ages 11-17 who are members at Allied Association courses, has been a part of the county golf scene since the 1970s and remains a great place for juniors to hone their skills in a tournament setting. It is still a tremendous deal — 18 holes of golf and lunch at some great golf courses for $10 or $15 (this year's greens fee was uncertain at press time).

Golfers need to sign up for the tournaments with the head professional or general manager at their home club by the Friday before each event. They will then forward an entry list to the host club. Golf begins with a shotgun start at either 8:30 or 9 a.m., depending on the host club's desires. It would be wise to arrive at least a half-hour before the tee time.

So far, five of the six Monday tournament dates are set. After Wahconah hosts the opener on July 10, the series will move to Berkshire Hills CC on July 17th, the Country Club of Pittsfield on July 24th, Worthington Golf Club on July 31st and Stockbridge Golf Club on Aug. 14th. The series finale at Stockbridge will also serve as the Allied Junior Championship.

Series director John Marlowe is still looking to secure a course for Aug. 7th.

The field will be broken into three age groups and points will be awarded at each event, with the highest point scorers in each group being declared season champions.

Kudos go to Marlowe for his selfless work in keeping this wonderful opportunity for junior golfers going through the years. Here's hoping it remains an important part of the Berkshire County golf scene for the foreseeable future.

***

The Berkshire Senior Golf Association held the first of its three 2017 tournaments on Monday at Egremont Country Club, with Paul Zdanis (Wahconah CC) taking low gross honors in the A Division (the youngest seniors) with a round of 82.

The other division winners were Stockbridge Golf Club's Jim Balfanz in the B Division, Steve Agar (Egremont CC) in the C Division and Dennis Moore (Wahconah CC) in the D Division.

The final two series events will be played at Berkshire Hills on July 24th and at Wahconah CC on Aug. 14.

Reach Richard Lord at relord633@gmail.com or 413-281-2226.

LOCAL GOLF RESULTS

Berkshire Hills Country Club

Pewter Cup


Best Ball

54 holes

Championship flight

1. McDonald and Kelly, 198. 2. Scarafoni and Ferriter, 208. 3. (tie) Beraldi and Sturma, 209; Puleri and Puleri, 209; Dahrouge and Ortega, 209.

First flight

1. Underwood and Casey, 203. 2. Hart and Bigley, 210. 3. Lavinio and Lavinio, 215. 4. Keenan and Keenan, 217. 5. Dastoli and Ingham, 220.

Second flight

1. Magargal and Sottile, 209. 2. Bartzsch and Martin, 216. 3. Compton and Stopera, 217. 4. Iturralde and Iturralde, 218. 5. (tie) Ralston and Kelley, 219; Stopera and Comiskey, 219

Third flight

1. Grimaldi and Nachtrieg, 214. 2. (tie) Russell and Russell, 219; Hunter and Hathaway, 219. 4. Bournival and Spezzano, 220. 5. (tie) Breen and Breen, 221; McCormack and Faherty, 221; Ryan and Goerlach, 221.

Fourth flight

1. Barowski and Ellis, 217. 2. Murdock and Richardson, 219. 3. Kay and Boldyga, 220. 4. Mazzeo and Izzo, 223. 5. Danault and Ivy, 224.

Fifth flight

1. Matica and Racz (won in playoff), 225. 2. McCasland and Clark, 225. 3. (tie) Preston and Waite, 231; Campoli and Nonamaker, 231; Cronin and Donovan, 231; Mills and Jakiela, 231.

Sixth flight

1. Hornbeck and Nykorchuck, 231. 2. Brown and Maroney, 232. 3. Strileckis and Byron, 233. 4. Jamula and Haddad, 234. 5. Marinaro and Quadrozzi, 235. 6. Graham and Curry, 76.

Seventh flight

1. Tharion and Tharion, 229 2. Noyes and Seppa, 235. 3. Reynolds and Battista, 244. 4. Shewcraft and Hanley, 250. 5. Lavoy and Ashmore, 252.



Berkshire County Senior Golf Association

Egremont Country Club


A Division

Low gross

1. Paul Zdanis, Wahconah CC, 82. 2. Doug Reed, Worthington GC, 87.

Low net

1. Anthony Gulottia, Wyantenuck CC, 75. 2. Steve Seward, Wyantenuck CC, 77.

B Division

Low gross

1. Jim Balfanz, Stockbridge GC, 86. 2. Sam Lussier, Amherst CC, 86.

Low net

1. Doug Link, Worthington GC, 74. 2. Bill Case, Egremont CC

C Division

Low gross

1. Steve Agar, Egremont CC, 93. 2. Paul Deres, Donnybrook CC, 94.

Low net

1. Bruce Person, Wyantenuck CC, 71. 2. Joe Wilkinson, Wyantenuck CC, 74.

D Division

Low gross

1. Dennis Moore, Wahconah CC, 87. 2. Chet Douglas, Stockbridge GC, 89.

Low net

1. Sidney Meyers, Wyantenuck CC, 70. 2. Lyn Camin, CC of Pittsfield, 73.

Worthington Golf Club

Rally for the Cure


Best Ball

Women

Low gross

Ann Pickrell and Hillary Irvine, 75. 2. Susan Cook and Linda Haskell, 77. 3. Linda Petrozzi and Chris Eugin, 78.

Low net

1. Deb Goerlach and Sheila Labarbera. 2. Darlene Gill and Chris Korona, 68.8. 3. Chris Ciosek and Kathy Vanorman, 70.3

Men-Mixed

Low gross

1. Doug Reed and Doug Link, 72.

Low net

1. Jeremy Stachowicz and Liz Kay, 62.5.


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