Shining stars: Fink has area’s top season

This week, we’re recapping the top achievements of the area golf season:

1. Artie Fink Jr. – The area’s best amateur golfer capped off another great season by qualifying for this year’s United States Amateur Championship. The 43-year-old Altoona native carded a 6-under par, 36-hole total at Down River in late July to qualify for our country’s top amateur event. Fink played respectfully at the championship – shooting 79-79 – but was unable to advance to the final match-play portion of the event held at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass. 8.

Fink also accomplished yet another great golfing feat this summer when he captured Sinking Valley Club Championship last weekend by nearly 20 strokes. His four-day total of 13-under par 275 captured his club-record 13th stroke-play championship.

2. Matt Shaffer – Though he didn’t even swing a golf club, Martinsburg native Matt Shaffer achieved what is merely a dream for most golf course superintendents.

The 60-year-old Shaffer was the man in charge of preparing Merion Golf Club for this year’s U.S. Open, golf’s sternest test. Though many experts predicted low scores at the Philadelphia-area club, the course stood up extremely well against the world’s greatest players – yielding no scores under par. Eventual champion Justin Rose’s winning total was just 1-over par.

By all accounts, Shaffer, who has spent the past 11 years as Merion’s Director of Golf Course Operations, did a fantastic job preparing the course for golf’s most prestigious championship.

3. Anthony DeGol – Hollidaysburg’s Anthony DeGol concluded his senior year at Penn State as a major contributor to the men’s golf team.

DeGol finished his college career by competing in nine events for the Nittany Lions – with a top finish at the Colleton River Collegiate Tournament in March, finishing in a tie for fifth place. After graduation, DeGol joined the professional ranks and has competed in several mini-tour events this summer.

4. Michelle Day – Scotch Valley’s Michelle Day captured the ladies’ championship at her home club in August with an amazing two-day total of 153.

Day, a Purdue University graduate, also owns two individual titles in the annual Greater Altoona Tournament. She will be competing in the event again this year as the defending ladies’ individual champion.

5. Tracey Smith – Down River’s Tracey Smith captured his second Central Counties Individual title this past June at Lewistown Country Club. Smith also won the Central Counties best-ball event in May at his home course with long-time partner Dave Uhland.

Smith, who recently turned 50, has the opportunity to achieve something that’s never been done before. If he is able to capture the association’s Senior Championship scheduled for Belle Springs Country Club on Sept. 15, he will be the first man to capture the top three Central Counties tournaments in the same year.

6. Darlene Grove – Hollidaysburg’s Darlene Grove captured yet another ladies’ championship at Park Hills Country Club in early August. Grove, a past individual champion of the Greater Altoona Tournament, will be competing in the event again this weekend – for a record 36th time.

7. Jordan Kirsch – Hollidaysburg Area High School graduate Jordan Kirsch dominated play in this summer’s prestigious Tri-State PGA Junior Series tournaments held near Pittsburgh.

Kirsch captured six first-place finishes and was named the Tri-State PGA Junior Player of the Year in August. Kirsch will be competing on the men’s golf team at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg this fall.