FARMINGDALE — It’s no easy task, catching Danny Balin.
And the job’s even more difficult when the Burning Tree assistant is in his element. The 31-year-old, who’s currently going back and forth between the lesson tee and the PGA Tour Latinoamerica, is in position to defend his New York State Open championship.
Balin followed up an impressive opening-round 66 with a 68 Wednesday on Bethpage State Park’s famed Black Course and is leading with an 8-under 134 heading into the final round.
“I love this golf course, and I’m very comfortable out here,” he said.
All of the previous laps around the demanding track have taught Balin where to be patient and where to miss. He started on the back, turned at even par and began to score on the front.
“If you can get through the back nine at even or better you’re picking up a lot of strokes,” he said after stringing birdies together at Nos. 1 and 2 and 6 and 7. “I chunked a sand wedge from the middle of the fairway on the ninth and made bogey, but all in all, I played well and I am in good position for tomorrow.”
Andrew Giuliani, a mini-tour player who lives in New York City and plays out of Trump National Westchester, was tied for the lead with Balin after the first round and is now two shots back after shooting a 70.
“I’ve been working with Bobby Heins at Old Oaks for the last three years and he’s been more than a coach to me,” said the 27-year-old whose first pro win was the Met Open. “The things we’ve been working on, I could feel a difference yesterday. I’m a slow learner, I guess. It feels awesome, so I’m excited for what’s coming.”
Three players are tied for third at 140.
David Schuster, a mini-tour player who lives in New York City and plays out of Rotella, is part of that group.
Not everyone is going to applaud if Balin or Giuliani wins.
The championship is essentially open to all professionals who are state residents as well as PGA members who currently work in any of the state’s four sections. A handful of club professionals have expressed concern about the number of competitors who play on mini-tours or spend a large chunk of the year in Florida.
A $100,000 purse makes this a popular stop for anyone chasing a payday.
“Some guys have an issue with me playing,” said Balin, who’s also a student of Heins. “If you live in New York or work in a club in the Met section, you should be eligible for this. I put my hours in (at the club) when I’m home. Some people do their own thing. There is kind of a thin line that some people cross, but at the end of the day it’s about golfing your ball.”
Tournament officials can ask players to prove residency. Of course, it’s not unusual for a competitor to put a parent’s address into play.
“It’s the New York State Open,” said Giuliani, who makes the rounds in Florida when he’s not in this neck of the woods. “I’m coming from a different perspective, but if you’re going to call it an Open, you have to at least open it up to players who live in the state.”
Lenox Advisors New York State Open Championship
At Bethpage – Black, par 71
1 Danny Balin Burning Tree CC 66 68 134
2 Andrew Giuliani Trump National – West 66 70 136
T3 David Schuster Rotella Memorial GC 71 69 140
Bryan Bigley Pinehaven CC 70 70 140
Tarik Can Bethpage State Park GC 68 72 140
T6 Bob Rittberger Garden City GC 69 72 141
Charlie Meola Saxon Woods GC 69 72 141
T8 Frank Bensel Century CC 73 69 142
Dan McCarthy Bellevue CC 72 70 142
John Stoltz International Course 68 74 142
T11 Paul Selvaggio Wykagyl CC 71 72 143
Colin Amaral Metropolis CC 72 71 143
Jamie Sindelar Soaring Eagles GC 74 69 143
Greg Etimos Island Hills 74 69 143
John Guyton Metropolis CC 74 69 143
Chris Deforest Rondout CC 69 74 143
Scott Ford North Hills CC 74 69 143
T18 Ben Polland Deepdale 68 76 144
Kevin Roy Bellevue CC 77 67 144
Dan Gabel (a) Dutchess 76 68 144
Michael Midgette Bethpage State Park GC 72 72 144
Adam Fuchs Bethpage State Park GC 71 73 144
T23 Pj Cowan Eisenhower Park GC- Red 72 73 145
Scott Berliner Cobleskill 71 74 145
Del Ponchock Hudson National 74 71 145
Mark Brown Tam O’Shanter Club 70 75 145
Michael Furci Island Hills 74 71 145