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Democrat Photo by Rob Potter

THESE NINE GOLFERS will represent Section IX at the upcoming New York State Regional Championship. Sitting in front, from left to right are Ashley Zambito (Newburgh Free Academy), Alexis Brinkerhoff (Monticello), Danielle Mellina (Warwick) and Veronica Hilton (Warwick). Sitting in the back row, from left to right, are Nellie Norden (Sullivan West), Kate Gallo (Warwick), Kaitlin Sabbagh (Goshen), Brittney Morse (Monticello) and Melanie Kleiner (Sullivan West).

Nine Area Golfers
Headed to State

By Rob Potter
HAMPTONBURGH — May 28, 2004 – A group of 25 high school girls made history on Tuesday at Stony Ford Golf Course in Hamptonburgh.
The 25 girls, who represented 12 area high schools, competed in the first-ever Section IX Girls’ Golf Tournament on the 18-hole Stony Ford course.
The top nine finishers qualified for the New York State Regional Championship, which is scheduled to be held on Sunday, June 6 at Foxfire Golf Course in Baldwinsville.
Section IX Girls Golf Coordinator Bill Earl said that the June 6 event is called a regional championship rather than a state championship since only a few of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s 11 Sections hold girls’ golf championship events.
“We in Section IX will be sending our top nine players and so will Section III, which is the Syracuse area, and Section V, which covers the Rochester area,” Earl said. “Section VI, which covers the Buffalo area, is sending a few golfers.”
For a first-time event, the Section IX tournament offered plenty of excitement. The top three places were not decided until the last hole.
The threesome of Veronica Hilton of Warwick, Nellie Norden of Sullivan West and Ashley Zambito of Newburgh Free Academy (NFA) were only separated by two strokes as they teed off on the par-4, 273-yard 18th hole.
After they made their putts on the green, Zambito had edged out both Hilton and Norden to become the first Section IX girls’ golf champion. The NFA seventh-grader took first place with a total score of 93 (42-51). Hilton was one stroke behind at 94 (49-45) and Norden finished third with a 95 (49-46).
“I’m glad I made it,” said Norden, referring to her finish among the top nine players and the chance to play at the upcoming regional competition. “But I could have done better. My putting was awful and I had bad drives on two of the holes.”
Joining the top three finishers at Foxfire Golf Course will be Danielle Mellina of Warwick (49-49-98, fourth place), Melanie Kleiner of Sullivan West (51-50-101, fifth place), Kate Gallo of Warwick (53-49-102, sixth place), Brittany Morse of Monticello (48-54-102, sixth place), Kaitlin Sabbagh of Goshen (52-54-106, eighth place) and Alexis Brinkerhoff of Monticello (52-55-107, ninth place).
Brinkerhoff actually had to play two extra holes for her ninth place finish. Brinkerhoff, a freshman, and Roscoe senior Shannon Bowers, finished with identical 107 scores after 18 holes of play. The two then began a sudden-death playoff to determine who would earn the final spot at the state regional competition.
Brinkerhoff and Bowers each bogeyed the first playoff hole, the par-4, 343-yard 10th. But on the par-5, 390-yard 11th hole, Bowers could not match Brinkerhoff’s par.
However, Bowers is one of three Section IX alternate players for the regional competition. The other two alternates are Monroe Woodbury teammates Mallory Weinstein (57-51-108, 11th place) and Michelle Reibis (56-54-110, 12th place).
“Last year there were only nine of us who played,” said Bowers, referring to last year’s Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) season-ending event at Stony Ford GC. “There are a lot of good golfers here this year. It was a very competitive event.”
Brinkerhoff was happy to qualify for the state regional event. She credited her improvement this season to playing a great deal of golf last summer.
“I went to the Concord Golf Academy last summer and that probably helped,” she said.
Her teammate Morse didn’t hesitate when asked what the key to her fifth place finish was.
“My fairway shots, that’s what saved me,” she commented.
Kleiner already was planning to practice a certain part of her game before the regional event at Foxfire Golf Course.
“I want to work on my irons. I think I can get some help from my dad with that,” said Kleiner, referring to her father Matt Kleiner, who is the PGA Pro at the Villa Roma Country Club in Callicoon.
Although four golfers from Sullivan County high schools are headed to the state regional competition, three others missed the cut. Nicole Failla of Roscoe (56-55-111) and Fallsburg’s Jessica Orlan (52-59-111) were among four players who tied for 13th place. Meredith Levine of Monticello shot 59-57-116 to finish 18th.
“We had two-thirds of a good day,” Monticello Coach Kyle Hoar said. “Meredith didn’t have her best day. If she had played as well as she could have, she would have qualified. She just had a couple of bad holes.”

Sullivan West Wins
Team Golf Title

The OCIAA regular season division titles were also presented at Tuesday’s event.
Kleiner, Norden and Sullivan West Coach Joe Walsh proudly accepted the OCIAA Division II championship plaque. The Lady Bulldogs went undefeated in Division II competition this season. In fact, SW only lost one match in 2004. Warwick was the only squad to defeat the Lady Bulldogs.
In addition to Kleiner, a seventh-grader, and Norden, a junior, the SW team includes Jessica Armstrong (freshman), Kate Fanning (sophomore), Patti Knack (freshman), Sabrina Reimer (junior) and Claire Stabbert (seventh-grader).
“I attribute the success to great facilities, great support from the school district and the fact that all of these kids are from golf families,” Walsh said. “These are great kids.”
Walsh noted that the team receives a great deal of support from Matt Kleiner and everyone at the Villa Roma as well as Bob Fife, who is the coach of the SW boys’ golf team.

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