Pros lead the way in annual Save the Water event

JOSHUA BOUCHER | Staff Photographer
Barbara Jones, Dale Mathews, Peg Barrett, Jennifer Flanagan and Pat Peters tee off on the Hill Course of the Chautauqua Golf Club. Their team won the women’s section in the annual Save the Water event, which serves as a fundraiser for the Chautauqua Watershed Conservatory.

On a clear day at Chautauqua Golf Club, where clouds floated around Chautauqua Lake instead of crossing the street to fill the skies, golfers of all abilities exchanged handshakes and hugs before their round, many of them reuniting for the first time this season.

Club professionals from the New York and Pennsylvania area were paired with three amateurs in a two-ball, best-ball format last Monday at the 29th Annual Pro-Am Tournament held at the course. It marked the third time the Save the Water event was used by Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy as their biggest annual fundraiser.

Before tee-off, players parked their cars and used their trunk ledges to slide on golf shoes and stretch. Others sipped on coffee, while some exhaled cigarette and cigar smoke that swirled in the steady breeze.

Players filled the driving range and putting green to prep for the day’s play, making last-minute adjustments to fix the kinks in their game before heading to the two-by-two line of carts that were parked near the clubhouse and the Hill Course’s first tee.

Four groups of women teed off the Hill Course, while droves of men took to the Lake Course. The terrain was soggy in some areas from the weekend rainfall,  and at least one cart had to be rescued from an especially wet area on the Lake Course.

As soon as Troy Moss, head professional at the golf club, muffled a few words into a megaphone, players headed off to their designated holes a few minutes before 11 a.m. A clean sheet of competition would eventually turn into a lopsided victory for the men, but a close win for the women.

The foursome led by Thomas Keenan of Whispering Woods Golf Course won the event with a 21-under score. After the round, the team credited their success to piggybacking off each other and playing well when someone wasn’t pulling their weight.

On the Lake Course’s par-four 17th hole, a close approach shot from Keenan’s foursome resulted in a birdie — or a net hole-in-one, their lowest score of the day, and perhaps the most improbable.

Keenan’s team beat out Rob Krajewski’s foursome by seven shots. Krajewski, of Orchard Park Country Club, set the low single round of the day with a nine-under 63.

On the women’s side, Patty Jordan-Smith’s team led the event with a combined 125, five strokes better than the next competitor.

Club professionals became the unofficial caddies for many groups throughout the day, with many amateurs relying on the pros’ electronic rangefinders for yardages. Once on the green, professionals would offer words of advice on the slope and speed of the greens.

Josh Dankovich and his team, composed of Southern Tier Brewing Company employees, came in a five-way tie for fourth place. He said that his team played well, but acknowledged how important the event was for the nearby lake.

“It’s obviously a great cause,” Dankovich said. “It’s so much a part of this community [and] it brings in people from all over. During the summertime, the lake means everything to this area … It’s a gem in our backyard.”

Trevor Burlingame, golf course superintendent at Chautauqua Golf Club, was a fill-in for a contestant who did not show.

“I don’t play very often, so I played OK considering,” Burlingame said.

Superintendent at the golf course for 14 years, Burlingame has close ties to the impact of environment in the community, as the golf course uses a significant amount of water and fertilizers to maintain playing conditions.

He said he has been able to reduce fertilizer input by 50 percent in the past decade, stretch his pesticide application, as well as set up grass buffers that prevent nutrients and sediment from flowing downstream into Chautauqua Lake.

“It’s nice being a part of this and giving back to something so important to us,” Burlingame said. “We try to do as much as we can from our standpoint on the golf course maintenance … We’re really proud that we can do our part.”