The first Charity Skins Game at Mohawk Golf Club provides entertainment

NISKAYUNA — Exhibits like the first Charity Skins Game to be played at Mohawk Golf Club on Tuesday are meant to entertain more than charm galleries with golf skills, but David Duval reminded everyone these guys can play.

Duval, along with four current and former members of the PGA Tour Champions, hit his tee shot under a tree on the 18th hole. Forced to keep the ball low to avoid the tree branches, Duval rebounded his second shot between two bunkers onto the green and within two yards of the pin.

He made the birdie putt to conquer the final two skins and land at the top of the leaderboard.

“You know what,” Duval said, “it was a good shot and a bit of luck. We all know that is the case.”

“I don’t know if he could do that again,” said playing partner Fred Funk, “but that was a really good shot. I don’t know what he was up to, but that was all he had. Doing that is really cool.”

Duval, grandson of longtime Capital Region golf pro Hap Duval, won a total of 10 skins and $17,500 of the $31,500 in contest – players generally donate the winnings back to the charity.

The big winner that day was the Boys and Girls Club of Schenectady who received $250,000 from the exhibition.

Charity Skins Game
(Mohawk GC, Niskayuna)
Winning from player skins
David Duval 10 $17,500
Chris DiMarco2 $5,500
Blaine McCallister3 $5,000
Darren Clarke*3 $3,500
Fred Funk $0 0
*- only played the first 10 holes

“$250,000 in the first year, it doesn’t get any better than this,” said event organizer Joel Slutsky.

The original field of four expanded to five when Chris DiMarco, 2002 PGA Championship and 2003 Masters runner-up, was added. Darren Clarke, winner of the 2011 British Open and most decorated player in the group, left the team after 10 holes due to a previous commitment.

Those four were joined by Blaine McCallister, who has retired from competitive golf but has the backbone to lure players to the capital region.

McCallister, 63, appeared at 11 of the 16 previous Skins Games held to benefit Ellis Hospital. This event, which inspired the exhibition on Tuesday, ended in 2008.

“We’re Champions Tour players now,” McCallister said. “Our careers are not based on what we are doing now. We had our careers. The Champions Tour is probably the most approachable and laid back group of guys and we understand the circumstances. This is about ProAms. This is about entertainment. It’s not about going out and proving something.”

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Duval, whose father Bob is a former Champions player and a native of Schenectady. “I have local connections, but distant connections. I never grew up here, I was born and raised in Florida, but meeting so many people who knew my dad, my uncle (Jim), Hap, that’s cool. Apparently everyone I meet in this area has a story about Hap.”

The focus was more on needling the other players than trying to sweat out birdie putts.

On the second hole, a 194-yard par 3, the short-shot Funk approached the tee shot, iron in hand. Clarke immediately handed him a driver.

Funk, the group’s oldest at 66, was the only one not to win skins — missing 12- and 10-foot putts that would have made him money — but accepted the role of class clown.

“A lot of times on TV you see a pro pulling his shot back because you think he’s nervous,” Funk said as Clarke stepped behind his ball. “Nine times out of ten, it’s because he has gas.”

A gallery Slutsky estimated at about 1,100 followed the senior professionals around the course, hoping to enjoy some of the banter that was exchanged.

“That was a little 7-iron,” McCallister said of his drive to the #12. “Everything I hit is small — a little left, a little right, a little short.”

All players except McCallister made their way south after the exhibition to compete in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open, a champions event in the Binghamton suburb of Endicott.

Players agreed that the 50+ year old circuit has a much nicer atmosphere than the regular PGA Tour, but like Tuesday they are trying to put on a good show.

“The sponsors gave good money for a good cause,” said Duval. “People want to come out and see you play. That is our task. Yes, it’s a bit of a hit and giggle thing, but there could be 20 people here who drove two hours to see us play. You want to show them what you can do and what you can do. You don’t want to screw around and take it seriously.”

About Gloria Skelton

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