Joe Bertino had a good reason for sleeping in Monday morning.
As the executive director of the Western New York PGA section, Bertino put in some awfully long – and rewarding – hours last week during the 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club.
“Today and yesterday were like the days after your best Christmas ever. You couldn’t believe how fabulous it was and now you’re sad that it’s passed,” Bertino said Tuesday afternoon.
The Western New York PGA section, which was founded in 1925 and is located in Williamsville, stretches from Erie, Pa. to the Rochester area. There are 265 members and apprentices.
Bertino said about 115 of those volunteered last week, both before and during the championship.
“All told, it was probably 1,600 or 1,700 hours of volunteer shifts,” Bertino said.
Before the championship, section members ran a night of family activities at a Buffalo Bisons game and also put on a day-long clinic for children at Genesee Valley Golf Club.
In the days leading up to the tournament, section members were stationed at the first and 10th tees, tracking which players were headed out for practice rounds. This information was relayed to the media and fans so they could follow players on the course.
During the championship, section members ran the practice range, providing security and collecting and distributing practice balls to the players.
A typical day last week saw Bertino wake up at 4:30 a.m., and work until 8 or 9 p.m.
“I’m not ashamed to say I slept in Monday until about 10:30,” he said, “but we’ve got our section championship coming up next week at Seneca Hickory Stick, and our Junior Tour championship is Thursday and Friday, so there’s really not a whole of rest to be had, but no one is complaining. This is what we sign up for and we love it.”
Bertino said that proved to be a big challenge during Thursday’s opening round, when a rain delay in the afternoon forced players inside. When it was announced play would resume, about 80 of them headed straight for the range.
“Our volunteers did a great job making sure that ran smoothly,” Bertino said.
The tournament was widely met with approval – from fans and players alike.
“It’s a fantastic course,” said Australian Adam Scott, who finished in a tie for fifth place. “I think everyone is going to go away from here giving it rave reviews. The PGA did a fantastic job setting it up, I think, to see some really exciting golf across the week. … I would love to come back here.”
“They love their golf here in Rochester, there’s no doubt about it,” said PGA champion Jason Dufner. “For them to get a tournament, it seems like every eight to 10 years, makes it really special for them. It’s great to win in front of these folks. They are very knowledgable about their golf and the history of the game goes way back here in Rochester. It’s great to be a part of that.”
Bertino said that’s a credit to the membership at Oak Hill, which remains committed to bringing some of the biggest golf tournaments in the world to their course.
“I don’t know what it will be next, but I’m sure something will come back to Oak Hill,” he said. “The members are really the best in the world at this. There’s no one that does it better than the folks at Oak Hill. The golf course is world class.”
Legends opens academy
Famed golf instructor Rick Smith has opened his first Canadian academy at the Legends on the Niagara Golf Complex in Niagara Falls, Ont.
Smith was ranked the No. 2 golf instructor in the world by PGA Tour players in 2009, and is consistently rated among the top 10 instructors in the world in polls conducted by Golf Digest.
He has worked with players such as Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Paul Azinger and Greg Norman.
“Legends on the Niagara is a first-class facility,” Smith said. “The management team and golf staff are top-notch. We look forward to offering a truly world-class golf experience.”
Smith’s academy offers customized programs for all levels of players. It uses state-of-the-art swing analysis video technology and keeps a minimal student-to-teacher ratio.
Ontario native Bruce Rogerson serves as the director of instruction. Rogerson,who won the 2010 PGA of Ontario Match Play championship, previously was the head pro at Brantford Country Club.
• Tom Rajczak won last week’s Lonnie Nielsen Scratch Invitational at Crag Burn. The tournament, which featured one of the strongest fields of the summer, is played in a Modified Stableford system, awarding points as follows: eagles (+5), birdies (+2), pars (0), bogeys (-1) and double bogeys or worse (-3). Rajczak shot rounds of -1 and +8 for a two-day total of +7, which was one point better than Billy Hanes and Danny Yustin.
• The Western New York Public Links Golf Association will hold its Bill Boyle Memorial 2-Man Best Ball tournament Saturday at Buffalo Tournament Club.
• Local golf news is welcome at the email address below.