Rob Horak and Nick Morreale have similar goals for the 2014 golf season.
They’d each like to re-establish themselves as major factors on the local circuit.
Both players took a big step in that direction Monday with their performances at the Western New York Open at Wanakah Country Club. Horak cruised in the event in the 66-player field that mixes local club professionals and the region’s top amateurs, shooting a solid round of 4-under 68 on the 6,961-yard, par-72 layout.
“It was nice to get some warm weather, not wearing, like, nine layers,” said Horak, a PGA staff instructor at Ravenwood Golf Club in Victor. “I’ve got a short swing, so the looser I can be, the easier it is for me to hit the ball, so it’s all good.”
Horak, who’s an assistant coach for the St. John Fisher College men’s team, attacked the par-5s in his round, recording birdies on three of four of them. “Our head coach, Bob Simms, always stresses playing the par 5s well,” he said. “Good players should play them under par, and I’ve taken that to heart a little bit. I grind a little harder on those holes now.”
Horak also dropped in a 30-foot birdie putt on the 484-yard, par-4 13th hole – a hole playing long Monday.
“I got it to the back-left of the green and made about a 30-footer there,” he said. “That was like stealing two shots there. I just snuck it on the green and made a long putt.
“I hit the ball really, really solid. I’ve been struggling with the putter lately, and today the putter kind of helped me out. I missed a few shorter birdie putts, but I made three or four of them that were 25-30 feet, so that made up for the anxiety of missing the short ones.”
Horak, 53, earned a total of $2,300 for the win – $1,500 for being the overall champion and $800 for being the low senior player.
“I kind of had a pep talk to myself over the winter. I want to get out and play well this year and play more events,” he said. “I feel like I can compete with some of the guys who have been up there near the top. I haven’t played as well the last few years, but I feel like it’s still in there. Days like today make you feel kind of like you’re a little younger again.”
Morreale similarly hopes Monday’s result is the springboard to a big season. He finished as the low amateur after carding a 1-over 73, mixing three birdies with four bogeys. “I’ve probably played more times already this year than I played all of last year, so I’m doing pretty good,” he said. “I’m kind of committed to playing more golf. I want to practice and try to compete in the tournaments. I’ve taken a couple years off here of really competing. My ultimate goal would be trying to win a Buffalo District match play or stroke play championship.”
Morreale and his wife have a two-year-old daughter, so the past couple years haven’t allowed for much practice time. But the Grand Island resident recently joined River Oaks Country Club, so he’s been able to work on his game in his free time.
Morreale rolled in a pair of birdies from at least 15 feet out. He was impressed with the condition of the course after the frigid Western New York winter. “I can’t believe how good the course was playing,” he said. “I’m feeling good and just really happy to get out and play.”
The tournament was shifted from its usual home of Niagara Falls County Club to Wanakah after the greens at NFCC suffered damage from the brutal cold and are not yet ready for play.
Rob Krajewski of Orchard Park Country Club was the runner-up, shooting 2-under 70, for which he earned $1,300. Dwayne Randall of Peek ’n’ Peak finished third at even-par 70, earning $1,000.
Defending champion Danny Yustin was the amateur runner-up after carding a 2-over 74.
The Buffalo District Golf Association held its 2014 Senior Men’s Stroke Play Tournament on Monday at Tri-County Country Club in Forestville.
Fred Gigliotti of River Oaks County Club in Grand Island was the overall champion, carding a 2-over round of 74.
The four flight champions, along with their scores, were: Gigliotti (super seniors), Bob Rosen (seniors, 79), Woody Arnold (masters, 78) and Reynold Jennetti (76).