WATERTOWN – Almost perfect weather conditions welcomed the first day of competition of the Watertown City Golf Championship on Saturday.
The annual weeklong tournament opened in the morning at the redesigned Watertown Golf Club, which now has a driving range.
Qualifying took place at temperatures in the low 80s and low humidity for the traditional city event, with the tournament game starting today.
“It’s a wonderful day for golf,” said Todd Heckman, who is also the college golf coach at Watertown High School. “It’s just nice to get out of here and compete.”
The club has opened a driving range in Thompson Park next to the clubhouse that will be open to the public and will be the only driving range in town.
The 64 best qualifiers were split into two match play flights with 32 players, including a championship flight. Bob Hughes, the 14-time city champion, won a one-hole playoff on Saturday and took the medalists with a 69.
“It’s nice, perfect conditions for goals,” said Hughes, who was two-under with Adam Brown and Matthew Barton. “The course is in top condition, the weather is perfect, no reason not to score.”
Along with the new practice facility, the golf club also has a new head golf professional in the north of the country, Matt Russell.
“I think it’s in fantastic shape right now, the weather definitely played along,” said Russell of the Thompson Park course.
“It’s been going on since the 1920s,” said Hughes of the tournament, which began in 1924. “So we’re only a small part of it today. We had over 60 participants (today), so that’s enough for a full field. “
A native of Cranberry Lake, Russell attended SUNY Canton and was an assistant professional on the St. Lawrence University golf course in Canton.
“I think today’s layout will be a fair test for everyone and all ages involved,” said Russell.
“A 69 today,” said Hughes of his score. “Not really positive about the whole lap, I kind of scratched around, but I got a lot of it. I’m not upset, but I’m not overly excited about it either. “
Last year, the city golf tournament took place despite the occurrence of the coronavirus pandemic. John Bufalini successfully defended his 2019 title with a 1-up win over Hughes and earned his eighth career title in what has been known as the “Clash of Titans”.
But this year Bufalini is not participating in the event that promises to be as competitive as ever.
“We used to have a lot more attendees,” said Watertown’s Joe Tufo. “But at the moment there are a few children performing, some of the older ones are still there. It is fun.”
Last year Hughes defeated Shawn Thomas, 4 and 3, in his semi-final game, making it his first final since 2016.
“It all depends on the draw, it’s the match play so we’ll see how it goes,” said Hughes. “Hopefully you have your A-game every day.”
This year’s first round of 18-hole match play begins today with a shotgun start at 10 a.m.
The pairings will be matched according to the qualification result and announced on Saturday afternoon.
“I felt good, I hit the ball well, I just didn’t do a lot of putts,” said Tufo. “But to score, you have to do putts.”
“I grew up here, so it’s fun to play here,” said Hughes. “If you hit the ball well, it’s a good point course. But it all depends, your wedge game, your putting, it’s golf. You have to bring it all together. “
The loser in a championship flight match becomes first flight, while the loser in the second flight becomes third.
The second round, also in the 18-hole match game, will be played on the same course from Monday to Wednesday, with the losers being eliminated. The players must agree the tee times with the pro shop.
The quarter-finals will be played on either Thursday or Friday, with the losing players eliminated. Here, too, the players should agree match tee times with the pro shop. Semi-finals over 18 holes will take place next Saturday. Tee times will be announced by Watertown Golf Club by the end of the day on Friday.
The final will take place on Sunday, July 18th. The championship flight has 36 holes and is tee off first. The remaining flights play 18 holes and follow the championship flight.
“I feel pretty good, there are a lot of small children here and there, but you learn a lot with old age,” said Tufo. “The course doesn’t play too badly.”
Prizes will be awarded by category based on the number of qualifiers, including US $ 100 awarded to Hughes as a medalist in qualifying.
“I’ve been in the final eight times and I’ve won it once,” said Tufo, who won the 2003 tournament. “But you can’t relax in the final, you still have to play. You can’t stop and still have to grind with every shot. “
As for the new driving range, the set-up has an automatic ball dispenser that allows longer hours and is easy to use. The ball dispenser with 12,000 balls accepts credit and debit cards or tokens. The driving range will have distance markings, flags and targets. Clubs can be rented.
Parking spaces are available in the parking lot right next to the clubhouse.
“Looking ahead, the course definitely gets tougher the further we go down the road,” added Russell. “The more greens we build and everything, the more difficult it gets.”
“I’ve played enough here to know that I can expect the unexpected,” added Hughes.
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