By Mike Dougherty
PURCHASE – There was precious little wiggle room when Danny Balin noticed a little mud clinging to his Titleist in the 15th fairway, but he shrugged and fired at the green.
The ball immediately veered right, heading for a water hazard fronting the green. Nobody saw it land. A search of the heavy fescue surrounding the pond was fruitless, so Balin took a drop. The assistant pro from Burning Tree Country Club lofted a delicate pitch from the first cut of rough below the green, and the ball came to rest some 12 feet on the far side of the hole.
“I’m just thinking about not making double,” the 33-year-old Maryland native said. “I saw the mud beforehand and didn’t think it would affect the ball as much as it did.”
Chris Scialo reached the gettable par 5 in two, and was confident he would get a shot back and walk off the green tied for the lead with three holes to play in the 93rd Westchester Golf Association Open Championship at Brae Burn Country Club.
That’s not the way it played out as Balin curled in an unlikely par.
“Danny played really well and saved himself a couple of times in places where he could’ve gotten into trouble,” Scialo said. “I thought I was going to get one back there.”
Balin had a steady hand all day long, shooting rounds of 72 and 71 to claim the championship with a 10-under 206 total. He also lifted the sterling trophy in 2010, Balin also rolled in a 30-foot par save on the ninth hole before lunch.
He gladly posed with an oversized check for $7,200 when it was over.
“The pins were in some tricky spots,” Balin said. “Chris and I, one of us always seemed to be on the wrong side of the hole and we had some dicey putts. I only had one bogey this afternoon, and one this morning, so that was good.”
Scialo carded a 69 in the morning and was leading by one heading into the final round. Both players were 10-under when Balin converted a birdie putt on the 12th hole. Scialo three-putted two holes later, and was suddenly in chase mode.
That’s when the putter failed.
“I just struggled with the speed of the greens on the back nine,” said Scialo, a Paramount member who in the last year began playing less competitive golf in order to focus on a new real estate career. “There were some tough, tough pins and I left myself in some difficult spots for birdie.”
He also bogey the 16th and 17th holes, finishing three shots in back of Balin.
“I’m happy with the way I played, it was fun,” Scialo said. “It was good to be in contention again. I’m going to play the New York State Open and the Met Open, so I’ve got two more cracks at it.”
Steve Scott (Paramount) closed with a 66 and moved into third place. Christopher Toulson (Sunningdale) was fourth at 4-under. Cameron Young (Sleepy Hollow) was the low amateur. He closed with a 66 and landed in a fifth-place tie with Brian Gaffney (Quaker Ridge) at 213.
The 93rd WGA Open Championship
At Brae Burn Country Club – Par 72
1. Daniel Balin, Burning Tree 63-72-71-206
2. Chris Scialo, Paramount 65-69-75-209
3. Steve Scott, Paramount 72-72-66-210
4. Christopher Toulson, Sunningdale 68-72-72-212
5. Cameron Young (a), Sleepy Hollow 73-74-66-213
5. Brian Gaffney, Quaker Ridge 68-75-70-213
7. Kyle Baehler, Willow Ridge 67-72-75-214
8. Rob Labritz, GlenArbor GC 72-72-72-216
8. Patrick Schwarze, Wykagyl 71-69-76-216
8. Luke Feehan (a), Mahopac 70-75-71-216
8. Anthony Casalino, Innis Arden 69-74-73-216
8. Peter Kampmann, Manhattan Woods 74-70-72-216
13. Stephen Clark, Sunningdale 73-71-73-217
13. James Ondo, Apawamis 73-70-74-217
13. Ben Hoffhine, Wykagyl 71-73-73-217