Sneak Peek: This article will appear in the June 10 issue of Global Golf Post.
MAMARONECK, NEW YORK | Though the elite amateur golf circuit comprises primarily individual tournaments, it also has its share of team competitions. And one of the best and most historic of those is the Anderson Memorial, an annual invitational that concludes Sunday at the Winged Foot Golf Club in this Westchester County burg some 25 miles northeast of midtown Manhattan. It attracts many of the best mid- and senior-amateur golfers in the land, and one of the stalwart pairs of that tourney in recent years has been a duo from Upstate New York, David Hayes and Dan Russo.
Playing out of the Schuyler Meadows Club near the capital city of Albany, where between them they have captured 11 of the last 14 club championships, Hayes and Russo have enjoyed individual successes through the years at Metropolitan New York-area events such as the Travis Invitational at the Garden City Golf Club and the C.B. Macdonald Invitational, aka the Singles, at the National Golf Links of America. But they have truly excelled in team contests, winning the Olympia Fields National Invitational outside Chicago a decade ago as well as a pair of John R. Williams Invitationals at the Oak Hill Country Club near Rochester, N.Y. While they have yet to take the Anderson title, the Empire Staters seem to be in the mix year after year. And no matter how they finish, Russo and Hayes always enjoy the chance to compete in such an esteemed competition at one of the finest clubs in the country – and to do so together.
“Dan and I have been teaming up for at least 20 years or so,” says Hayes, 52, who boasts a plus-1 handicap index and helps his father and two brothers run a software business out of the town of Loudonville, N.Y. “We were good friends before we became partners, and we find it very easy to play together. The key, I think, is that we never apologize for mistakes we make on the golf course. We both know we are putting forth our best efforts, and what happens, happens.”
“We play our own games. We’re pretty easygoing with each other, and no one gets upset. We just try to do the best we can.” – Dan Russo
Russo concurs. “We play our own games,” says the 61-year-old, who is a scratch golfer and makes his living as a broker reselling natural gas and electricity. “We’re pretty easygoing with each other, and no one gets upset. We just try to do the best we can.”
Growing up in the Albany area, Hayes learned the game of golf from his father, the son of an Irish immigrant who had caddied as a kid. And the younger Hayes quickly picked up the game, becoming good enough to be a finalist in the national PGA Junior Championship in 1983, and to play on the golf team at Boston College. “I was going to go to Clemson, but once I got into B.C., my father said that is where I was going,” Hayes says. “I really wanted to play golf in the South. But B.C. was great, and I loved it there.”
Hayes continued to compete in golf after graduating from B.C. with a bachelor’s in communications in 1986. “My one goal was to play in a U.S. Amateur, and in 2002, I was able to qualify for one, at the Oakland Hills Country Club outside Detroit,” he says. “That same year, I also played in the (U.S. Mid-Amateur), at Stanwich.”
Married for 23 years and the father of five, Hayes attempts to play in perhaps 10 golf tournaments a year, the Travis, the Singles and the Anderson among those and also the J.R. Williams at Oak Hill, where he is also a member.
“I’ll try to qualify for four USGA events a year, too,” he says. “Business keeps me busy, and so does my family, and I try to go to the office each day. That doesn’t give me much time for social golf, and I do what I can to stay sharp by hitting balls before work four or five days a week. We live right on the course at Schuyler Meadows, which is an old Devereux Emmet design that Gil Hanse revamped not too long ago. And I will head out to the range there at 6 in the morning and try to hit 100 balls or so before heading to the office.”
As is the case with his Anderson partner, Russo took up the game as a young boy. “I was probably 4 or 5 years old when I first started swinging a club,” he recalls. “And in the summers, my cousins and I would play all day every day on the muni course in Amsterdam (N.Y.). My dad joined Antlers Country Club when I was 11 years old, and we played a lot together there. I competed some as a junior, but there were not a lot of tournaments for juniors back then. At least not in the Albany area.”
The father of two grown children, Russo competed on his high school golf team, and then in college at Florida Atlantic. By that time, he had become a strong enough player to win all but one club championship at Antlers from 1978 through 1996 – and to have been a four-time club champion at the Amsterdam municipal course where he learned the game. And after the turn of the 21st century, he was playing in more prestigious events, qualifying for 11 USGA championships, including a pair of U.S. Senior Opens (in 2009 and 2017) and several U.S. Senior Amateurs and U.S. Mid-Amateurs. It was during that stretch that he and Hayes paired up in a select few four-balls – and procured those victories at Olympia Fields and Oak Hill.
They agree that it would be nice to add a victory at the Anderson Memorial to their golf résumés. But even if that does not happen, they are still pleased to be part of that venerable tournament, which was first played in 1933.
“The tournament is so well run, and the members make you feel very welcome,” says Hayes. “The golf courses are among the best anywhere, and then there is the history of the club. Places like Winged Foot are the story of golf in America, and to be able to play in a competition here is the best.”
Even better is being able to do it with a partner.
Top photo: Dan Russo
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