They’ve Got Game

Chautauqua GC, JCC Preparing For 19th Straight National Tourney

Members of the Georgia Military College golf team celebrate their 2017 NJCAA Division III Golf Championship on the Lake Course at Chautauqua Golf Club. P-J file photo

Dante Migliore walked off the 18th green on the Lake Course at Chautauqua Golf Club last June, owner of a 6-under-par 282 and a 6-shot victory at the NJCAA Division III Golf Championship.

He was immediately greeted by his coach, his family and his peers, an acknowledgment of one of the finest performances in tournament history.

For the Mohawk Valley Community College sophomore, it was familiar territory, because he’d done the same thing in 2016 — albeit in a dramatic five-hole final-day playoff — making him only the second player in Division III history to claim back-to-back championships. By comparison, Migliore was seven shots better in 2017 than in 2016 and he never had an over-par round on his way to the convincing victory.

“I think this one feels a little better than last year, because I’ve worked so hard,” Migliore said after his final-round 72. “It shows that hard work pays off and you can really do anything you put your mind to, no matter who you are.”

Migliore’s comments could also perfectly describe the feelings of the tournament committee, which will be the host for the 19th straight year when the NJCAA Division III championship returns to Chautauqua GC June 5-8.

At right is Dante Migliore of Mohawk Valley Community College, who won the title in 2016 and 2017. P-J file photo

To put that into perspective, only two other NJCAA Tournaments — Division I men’s basketball in Hutchinson, Kansas and Division I baseball in Grand Junction, Colorado — have had a longer consecutive streak than Chautauqua GC and Jamestown Community College.

“People are comfortable coming here,” said Greg Fish, the tournament director from 2000-2015. “They know what they’re going to get. There are no surprises. They know the course, they know the players and, to me, it’s kind of like a Masters environment, because it’s the same place, it’s the same course and it hasn’t changed too much.”

Added current tournament director and Jamestown CC athletic director Keith Martin: “They know on (the 17th green the pin placement) is going to be lower left. The coaches tell their kids on the practice day to start putting down there (in preparation) for the final day.”

Course familiarity isn’t the only benefit of the tournament, according to Fish and Martin, noting that the volunteers — both on and off the course — make the week-long event run smoothly.

“We just went to the Asquith Senior Tour (a local group of 60-and-older golfers) and we got an additional 12 to 15 new volunteers to go along with the 100 (from tournaments past),” Martin said.

From the left, are Chautauqua Golf Club pro Troy Moss; NJCAA Division III Golf Championship director Keith Martin; and former tournament director Greg Fish. Submitted photo

“With the new ones, we’re able to cover more holes in more areas,” Fish said. “It allows us to keep the tournament running more efficiently and makes it easier on the players. We can eliminate kids losing their ball and having to go back to the tee and restart. That slows down play and everybody gets backed up.”

Next month’s tournament will mark the first of a successful three-year bid that will keep it at Chautauqua GC through 2020. That approval was granted at the NJCAA national meeting in Reno, Nevada in April 2017.

“Some people would argue it would be nice to see other courses, but the majority of coaches really like coming back here,” Fish said.

For the record, last year’s team champion was Georgia Military College, which claimed a 24-shot victory over Columbus State (Ohio) CC in 2017.

“It’s one thing when you survive and hold on, but it’s another thing when you go and just take it,” Bulldogs coach Josh Miller said after the final round was complete. “That’s what we did today. It’s not that somebody else lost it, we won it.”

The same holds true for Martin, Fish, Chautauqua GC pro Troy Moss and the rest of the golf course staff and volunteers.

It’s not that somebody else lost the bid to host the tournament the last 19 years, it’s just that the local folks have figuratively teed it up and hit it straight down the middle.

Every time.