Nicole Criscone of Clifton Park shone into the national spotlight at age 10 when she competed in the Drive, Chip & Putt National Championship at Augusta National Golf Club in 2016. Since then she has continued to excel and is one of the capitals. The brightest rising stars in the region.
Some of the memories of that fantastic experience, which included a second-place finish in the putting contest in the 10-11 year old division, are starting to fade a bit, but that’s only because Nicole, who is now finishing her junior year at Albany Academy for Girls creates many new memories of great accomplishments.
“I remember most parts of that trip, like what happened on the putting green and stuff like that,” she said in a phone interview this week. “I remember I was lucky enough to meet Bubba Watson, and Jason Day was having lunch next to us. Then I met Condoleeza Rice [former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor] and Lou Holtz [former Notre Dame football coach]. It was a fun time.
Criscone is still having fun and continues to record good times on the golf course. Last weekend, she won her fourth Hurricane Junior Golf Tour title in Chicopee, Massachusetts. She has won the PGA of Northeast New York Player of the Year award seven times for her age group while winning more than 70 titles. Criscone also already has over 100 US Kids Tour wins. Don’t forget that she’s still only in high school.
Last summer, she earned a third-place finish in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, giving her a complete exemption from competition on that prestigious national tour for elite young players this summer. She’s been to the Junior PGA Championship a few times and helped the Albany Academy for Girls team go undefeated for three straight seasons with a section title last fall. She will shoot for an NYS School Championship June 4-6 at McGregor Links Country Club, where she will also compete in the NYS Women’s Amateur.
Criscone’s ball-striking skills are evident, but the intangibles like dedication and desire are just as important.
“I practice every day, if I can. Sometimes the weather is inconvenient, but I always look forward to working on my game,” she said. “Sometimes I play nine or 18 holes if I need to prepare for a tournament.”
Criscone first learned the game from her father, Craig, who took her with him to the driving range at Van Patten Golf Club when she was “very little”. She took her first official lessons with several NENY PGA Teachers of the Year Anders Mattson, worked with Burden Lake CC’s new head pro Justin Hearley this winter, and is now taking lessons with owner Scott Battiste and director of golf. Scott Berliner at Eagle Crest Golf Club. . She received some of the best instruction the Capital Region has to offer.
She recently got a new Callaway driver, which she loves.
“My driver is the best part of my game, and my putter has improved lately. I love my Odyssey putter. I would say chipping isn’t my strong point, and that’s what I spend a lot on long now,” Criscone said.
Criscone’s career-best trick is a 67, which she did twice, and she hit a 69 three times last summer.
She works just as hard in the classroom, taking a specialized math class to go along with a physics class and a photography class. She plans to take anatomy classes next year and hopes to study forensics at university.
“I hope to play college golf. This is my priority. I’m not sure after that,” Criscone said. She has already considered the possible university choices and a few places have contacted her.
Keep an eye out for this young standout. The Capital Region produces more than its share of notable golfers in the style of LPGA stars Dottie Pepper and Laura Diaz, and more recently Albany Academy teammate Kennedy Swedick.
The University of Albany women’s golf team closed out the season with a second-place finish at the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championships, hosted by Disney’s Magnolia Course in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The Great Danes shot a 908 (plus-44) over 54 holes and led the first two rounds.
Claudia Blochliger finished third individually at 4 over par and was named MAAC Rookie of the Year. Mariel Tee was fourth (8 over par) and Madison Walker shot 15 over par to finish 10th. Tee and Walker joined Blochliger on the All-MAAC team.
The Siena men’s golf team also finished second, paced by junior Matthew Ferrari, who finished seventh individually at 4 over par. Juniors Nolan Crowley of Saratoga Springs and Jack Tobin tied for 11th at plus-5.
The Siena women finished eighth and were paced by rookie Manoela Barcellos in 12th place with a 235 of 19 over par.
Senior Ashley Harding tied the program’s two-day points record with 157 to lead the Union College women’s team to a whopping 96-stroke win at the William Smith Invitational last weekend at Clifton Springs Country Club. The Liberty League Championships are taking place this weekend at the Turning Stone Resort in Verona.
The first major tournament of the season for local amateur men begins Friday with the opening round of the Tri-County Match Play Championship at Colonie Golf & Country Club. Friday will be qualification for the open and senior division. Match play begins on Saturday in both divisions and continues with the semi-finals in each division on Sunday morning and the finals in the afternoon.
Hearley won the first NENY PGA Pro Classic of the season on Monday at Saratoga Golf & Polo Club. Hearley hit the final hole to beat Ian Breen of Saranac Inn G&CC, Berliner and Thomas Sennett of Pittsfield CC, avoiding a playoff four. It was an even sweeter victory after some of his money was stolen from his car over the weekend. John Durcan won a playoff against Kirk Armstrong to win the Legends Division.
David Duval, whose father and grandfather were Schenectady natives, will be the featured player in the inaugural Charity Skins Gaming Tournament to benefit Schenectady Boys and Girls Clubs on August 16 at Mohawk Golf Club. Homestead Funding will be the hall of fame sponsor. A former No. 1 ranked player in the world, Duval has won the Open Championship and Players Championship among his 13 PGA Tour victories. Blaine McCallister, who has five PGA Tour victories and is well known to local golf fans as a longtime competitor in the former Ellis Hospital Capital District Skins Game, will host the tournament. Contact Joel Slutsky (518-376-9909) for more information.
The 29th Annual Great Dane Athletic Club Golf Classic will take place June 9 at noon at Wolferts Roost Country Club. For more information, contact Justin Brown at 518-437-4774 or [email protected]
Wolferts Roost Country Club is hosting a qualifier for the Notah Begay III Junior Golf Championship on May 15. The qualifier will consist of four divisions and will be taped for broadcast on The Golf Channel.
Dottie Pepper, former LPGA star and current CBS reporter, will serve as honorary chair of the second annual Soroptimist of Saratoga County’s Spring Fever Golf Tournament at the Saratoga National Golf Course on May 18. golf cart, driving range access, raffles and prizes. SISC’s mission is to empower women and girls to achieve economic empowerment. Pepper has won 17 LPGA tournaments, including two majors. She was inducted into the NYS Golf Association Hall of Fame in 2018 and is the author of “Letters to a Future Champion: My Time with Mr. Pulver.” For more information, visit www.soroptimistsaratoga.org/springfever or contact the Spring Fever Committee at [email protected].
The Fox Run Golf Club is hosting the Seventh Annual Greater Johnstown Lions Club Golf Tournament on May 21 with a 9:30 a.m. tee time for the scramble event. The registration fee is $125 if received before May 6 or $145 on the day of the tournament. Registration fees include golf, lunch, cart, dinner and prizes. Call Colleen Ioele-DeCristofaro (518-281-4467) for more information.
The NYSGA Amateur Series kicks off Thursday at Kaluhyat Golf Club at the Turning Stone Resort – site of the 2015 NYS Men’s Amateur – in Verona.
The 16th Annual Fred “Snake” Blake Fundraiser Golf Outing to benefit Vivian White will take place May 14 at 9 a.m. at the Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. Registration fees are $125 per person or $500 per team. To reserve or donate, contact Karrie Blake or Tina Blake.
HOLES IN ONE
Fred Kokosa hit the 17th hole with a 9-iron for his second career hole-in-one at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
At Airway Meadows Golf Club, Dan Ryan holed a hole-in-one (also an albatross) on the 292-yard fourth hole with his driver.
Cohoes’ Dean Lagace used a 9-iron for his hole-in-one on the 110-yard seventh hole at Briar Creek Golf Course.
John Urkevich hit the par-4 16th hole with a driver and wedge at Mechanicville Golf Club.
Contact Bob Weiner at [email protected].
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