Galloway Township, N.J. – Give an assist to Bill Moore.
Moore is the executive director of the New York State Golf Association and the man responsible for making the final call on the state’s selections for the USGA Men’s State Team Championship.
Because the state has a number of regional golf associations, picking the three players for the biennial competition can be challenging.
This year, Moore decided to put politics aside and go with who he considered the three best available golfers.
For the first time in the event’s 10 playings, all three New York representatives came from the Metropolitan Golf Association (Greater New York City).
The decision paid off.
Competing as the youngest team among the 52 entries – their average age is 24.67 – the trio of Mike Miller, 20, of Brewster; Max Buckley, 22, of Rye; and Joseph Saladino, 32, of Huntington, claimed the title at Galloway National Golf Club by six strokes over Iowa. Normally 20-year-olds don’t play in the State Team because NCAA rules forbid anyone currently playing on a college team from competing.
Miller, a former Penn State player, is currently not enrolled in school and thus was eligible to participate. Buckley completed his eligibility at Southern Methodist in the spring and will graduate in December.
“I think this year was unique where we had three individuals who were stand-up guys and outstanding golfers, all from the Met area,” said Brian Mahoney, the director of Rules and Competitions for the MGA and New York’s non-playing captain for the Men’s State Team Championship. “It was a unique opportunity and they made the most of it.”
Mahoney talked with Moore a couple of times during the spring about potentially joining New York’s team. While the state has many fine players, Moore ultimately decided in August to go with the three MGA golfers.
Jay Mottola, the MGA’s executive director who came to Galloway National Golf Club for Friday’s final round, said Moore deserves all the credit for making what was a difficult decision.
Then again, with Miller having a strong summer that included a round-of-32 appearance at last month’s U.S. Amateur and top finishes at the Lytham Trophy (England), Irish Amateur and Sunnehanna, and Buckley coming off a 2011 U.S. Amateur quarterfinal appearance, Moore’s decision was made a whole lot easier. Saladino is a two-time MGA Player of the Year (2008 and 2010) who has competed in several USGA championships, including one past State Team.
“I wish I could have played a little better personally, but those two guys were just terrific the whole entire week,” said Saladino, whose scores were never counted in the 54-hole, three-count-two format. “To see them pull through in the end, it was really cool to watch.”
Added Mahoney: “This was a team effort. Joe played his part off the course.”
Before this year, New York’s best finish was fifth in the inaugural event in 1995, but recently the team had finished in the lower half of the final standings.
“I think New York deserves it for sure,” said Mahoney. “Obviously, we’re an important state in the country for golf. And these three guys just embodied team golf. It was fantastic. It was really good.”
Hail The 49th State
Alaska didn’t walk away from Galloway National with any medals or trophies, but the state’s three representatives can return home proud of a state-best performance.
In nine previous State Teams, the largest and second-youngest state in the Union had finished no better than a tie for 44th. This week, Adam Baxter, Paul Blanche and Kevin Daniels led Alaska to a share of 30th.
Baxter had the top performance, shooting an even-par 71 in Thursday’s second round. He struggled to a 78 on Friday, while Blanche added a 79 for a 34-over total of 460.
“We had a really strong team coming in and we’re all really good friends and there was a lot of good camaraderie,” said Baxter, at 30, the team’s elder statesman. “I think we just kind of fed off of each other and had a lot of fun.
“Every year when we come to this we try and do better than the year before and I think where we stood after the second round maybe got to us a little today.”
Added the 29-year-old Blanche: “We got down here early and had time to prepare. We’ve been looking forward to this for two months and we were just really fired up. I think there’s some good chemistry between us, we’re all good friends and we play competitively back home so I think that helps us.
“Our goal was to finish better than we ever have before. Breaking into the top 30 is fantastic and that’s all we could have asked for. If you would have asked me before we started this, I would have taken 30. I’m really proud of these guys, they put up some good numbers and we’re looking forward to the next one.”
Odds And Ends
One of Galloway National’s minority owners, Steve Lewis, caddied for Matt Schneider of Minnesota… Clay Homan of Mississippi registered the eighth hole-in-one in Men’s State Team history. The ace came at the 184-yard eighth hole with a 5-iron. Homan is the men’s golf coach at Mississippi State. It was his fourth career hole-in-one… Wes McNulty of Arkansas had to withdraw after 11 holes due to an injured calf he sustained by stepping into a hole near the third tee… Bill Winter, of Oregon, also withdrew prior to the round for an unspecified reason… Simon Hagger, of Delaware, had one of the more interesting final rounds. He registered two eagles, four birdies, three double bogeys and one triple bogey in shooting a 77. Hagger actually had more birdies than pars (three)… Hagger wasn’t the only player with a pair of eagles on Friday. Ohio’s Jeff Scohy eagled Nos. 6 and 11, but struggled over his final six holes en route to a 73. Scohy was four under for his round after the second eagle. “It gave me a great mindset at first and then I [struggled] on the way in,” said Scohy, a three-time winner of the Armed Services Championship. “I got out of my comfort zone probably and bogeyed everything coming in. I ended up being six over on my last six holes but it was fun while it lasted.”… In the battle of cousins, Brian Komline, of New Jersey, bested Vermont’s Devin Komline by four shots, 229-233… New Jersey-based caddie John Doherty worked overtime on Friday. In the morning he caddied for New Jersey’s Michael Stamberger in the morning, then quickly walked to the first tee and picked up the bag for Iowa’s Dennis Bull.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Kelly O’Shea, the USGA’s summer online intern, contributed.