|Club House at TPC Sawgrass|
15 golfers from the 2012 Golf Channel AmTour Buffalo Tour made the trip to Ponte Vedra, Florida to compete for a national title in the 2012 Championships and all came away with what can only be described as the "experience of a life time". Just the act of qualifying is a feat in itself as the right is earned by performing well in a number of events over the course of the entire 2012 season. The National Championships are contested over 4 days on 4 separate courses and bring together over 1,100 golfers from all over the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.
The 1st week saw the Senior Division players arrive for the challenge. The player dinner featured the Golf Channels resident humorist David Feherty who entertained the golfers and their guests with a heart warming and humorous diatribe about his experiences regarding the charity that he founded, the "Troops First Foundation". The AmTour presented him with a check for $63,450 for his foundation, raised during the season from 50/50 raffles at all the Major Events.
Feherty addressed the golfers in attendance with a little pep talk to help them through the arduous week ahead. "The tournament starts tomorrow, but I just want you to know this," Feherty said. "This is golf. You're meant to suck and you will suck this week."
Once on the golf course, the atmosphere changed from relaxed to serious. The infamous par 3 17th at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course, greeted it's competitors with a challenge from 138 yards. To say the least, some found it to be more of a task than others as one golfer carded a "32" and another a "24." Regardless, the games were on and before weeks end, 6 Senior Champions would be crowned in 6 separate flights contested over the 4 days on the TPC's Stadium and Dye Valley courses and the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club's Ocean and Laggon courses.
Competing from the Buffalo Tour were 2009 National Champion Pekka Ojapalo from Oakvill, Ontario, 2010 3rd place finisher in the Senior Snead Flight Robert Zehler of Williamson, NY, Rick Stein of Cheektowaga, ken alexander from Henrietta, Jack Potter from Macedon, Donald Sheldon of Honesdale, Pa, and Dwight Trafford of Toronto, Ontario. Rick Stein led the Senior Sarazen Flight entering the final round but was unable to keep the lead and finished in 7th place.
Stephie Sparks and Charlie Rymer co-hosted opening festivities for the Open Division of the National Championships on the 2nd week. At a dinner welcoming a record 636 players to the 2012 event, four of the dozen women of this year's Big Break Atlantis were special guests and shared their experiences, hopes and dreams with the packed ballroom at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa, which was the host hotel and headquarters for the event.
Brian Davis of Amherst made the biggest news of the week by finishing tied for 5th place in the Palmer Flight and earning an exemption into next year's National Championships at PGA West in San Diego. Ken Englert of Tonawanda, Chris Dolce of Buffalo, Chris Dopp from Collingwood, Ontario, Carl Assini from Brighton, 2011 National Champion Bradley Bishop of Alden, David Yackoff from West Henrietta, and Tom Pettinella of Batavia, also competed representing the Buffalo Tour.
Though a few of our local participants may have walked away feeling a little disappointed with their game this week, all were treated to a first class experience and a time they will not soon forget.
As a closing note, I'd like to thank all golfers who competed this past season on the GCAmTour - Buffalo. You helped make this the best season I've had since taking over the helm for the tour. Your loyalty was a big assist in helping me be named "Director of the Year' for the Northeast Region. Again, thank you.