New York Mid-Amateur: Billy Hanes opens up his title defense strong
Billy Hanes (New York State Golf Association Photo)
Billy Hanes (New York State Golf Association Photo)

The 39th New York State Mid-Amateur Championship’s opening round saw 132 players tee off on a beautiful fall day at Crag Burn Golf Club. as the defending champ stands alone atop the leaderboard. Not far off, however, are two other past state champions who posted in red numbers on Friday.

Billy Hanes, the defending champion and member of the host club, showed out in round one as he fired an impressive 5-under 67 to take an early lead for his title defense.

He sank five birdie putts, including three in a row on holes No. 8, 9, and 10, and no bogeys during the round.

Playing at his member club, he felt right at home and met expectations as he played a flawless round with little mistakes en route to his lead.

“It’s probably my best tournament round at this golf club. Played club championships here for fifteen years and I’ve never shot that low in a legitimate tournament,” he mentioned of the low opening score. “I had the right amount of biochemistry going on.”

After an 11th-place finish in this year’s NYS Amateur at Wykagyl Country Club in August and winning the 2023 Men’s Amateur Four-Ball title in May, he has a good opportunity to potentially be just the second player in NYSGA history to win back-to-back Mid-Amateur championships.

The first to achieve this was Jim Roy of Syracuse, where he won in 2001 at Leatherstocking Golf Club and in 2002 at Westwood Country Club.

Right behind Hanes is 2023 NYS Men’s Amateur champion Kyle Downey of Locust Hill Country Club. He was the leader after the morning wave before Hanes teed off, and no other player in the morning shot under par.

With a bogey on his first hole, he rallied to sink five birdies for the rest of his round. Three of those birdies came on par 5’s.

“I hit it really well. I kind of changed my game plan a little bit. I never carry a two iron in my bag and I always have one sitting in my truck. Around here if you can just bash that thing around and get it out there 260-270 because the fairways are so firm, and just not hit it in the heather, that’s really advantageous.”

Downey is also chasing a bid for history at the 39th edition of the championship. He is looking to become the only player to win the Men’s Amateur and Mid-Amateur in the same season. He was runner-up to Hanes in last year’s championship at Seven Oaks when he surged up the leaderboard in the final round, similar fashion to what he did at Wykagyl.

He was able to fire a 3-under 69 to keep him only two strokes off the lead.

In a three-way tie for third place are Mid-Am newcomers, Yaroslav Merkulov of Ridgemont Country Club, Andrew Watson of MGA eClub – Hudson Valley, and Sean Paul Owen of Corning Country Club. They are all at 1-under after round one.

Merkulov, who hasn’t played in an individual NYSGA Championship in many years, has four NYSGA titles, including the Boys’ 14U, Boys’ 18U and Men’s Am. The Mid-Am title is the only state title left for him to capture at this point.

“I was surprised to see just how tough it was. I knew it was a really difficult golf course and I guess really at any length you play it at it’s going to be tough. They had it pretty much tipped out on every hole,” said Merkulov.

“Once I got to the first tee it kind of became the eye of the tiger so to speak. I became very focused and ready to go play golf.”

In solo sixth place is Brad Monroe of Onondaga Golf & Country Club. With 3 birdies on his scorecard, he scored an even par round of 72.

Tied at 1-over par is 2021 runner-up Chris Blyth of RDGA eClub, past NYS Men's Am champion Doug Kleeschulte of Wiltwyck Golf Club, and Jeff March of Penfield Country Club.

Rounding out the top ten is Jonathan Farber of Mill River Club, Joseph Fitzsimmons of Shaker Ridge Country Club, Kristopher Boyes of NYSGA eClub – Western NY, and Crag Burn’s own 2023 club champion and state four-ball champion, David Hanes. They all sit at 2-over 74.

The 18-hole cut fell at 7-over, with the top 60 and ties advancing into Saturday morning’s second round.

View results for New York State Mid-Amateur
ABOUT THE New York State Mid-Amateur

Entries will be limited to male amateur golfers who enjoy membership privileges at Clubs belonging to the New York State Golf Association, or are NYSGA Associate Members. Entrants must have attained their 25th birthday by the date of their regional qualifier.

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