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ZEN-LIKE DEMEANOR HELPS HUME ACHIEVE ONENESS IN RANKINGS

Tim Hume says he never has forgotten a piece of advice Buffalo golfing great Ward Wettlaufer gave him 15 years ago.

"Ward told me when I was 20 that you don't reach your apex in golf until your mid-30s," Hume said. "Now I'm 35, and I realize he was absolutely right."

Hume, of Park Country Club, may not have reached his apex in golf yet, but he has reached the top of the Western New York amateur golf scene. Hume won his second straight Buffalo district championship this summer. And he did it with a second straight record score of 4-under par for three rounds.

That accomplishment is the biggest reason he rose from No. 2 to No. 1 in The Buffalo News' annual ranking of the top 10 men's amateurs in WNY. Hume displaced Niagara Falls CC's Fred Silver, who had held the No. 1 ranking since 1994.

Hume has been a great golfer for years. He's a former pro who was on the Canadian Tour from 1985-90. However, he gradually has developed his mental discipline since then to the point where it is a huge asset.

"Golf is a game of emotions," Hume said. "You've got to keep an even keel."

Hume is a stoic on the golf course. He is practically a flat line on a heart monitor.

"You've got to put the negative thought out of your mind," Hume said. "That's why golf is so hard. You're constantly filled with negative thoughts. You can pure it all day. Then on the 16th tee you block it way right. And you know exactly what you're going to be thinking about on the 17th tee."

Hume says thinking positively, avoiding rushing and taking deep breaths are keys to staying even-keeled. He says he saw good examples of how not to do it when he played in the U.S. Amateur in Illinois this summer.

"All those college stars there are great golfers, but they almost all get way too upset on the course," Hume said. "The guy who won, Matt Kuchar, was different. You could see him closing his eyes, taking deep breaths, calming himself down, all over the course.

"If you've hit a bad shot, you've got to step back and take a deep breath and think a positive thought. If you've got a 9-iron shot and your last 9-iron was bad, you've got to think back to the day before or whenever when you hit a great 9-iron. . . . I change my routine if I'm going bad. I might take three practice swings instead of two practice swings."

Hume has gradually become a more disciplined decision-maker on the course, as well.

"I had some low scores this year but not as many really low scores as in past years," he said. "But I think I had more consistently good scores than ever before. I think a big reason was better course management.

"A lot of mental preparedness is being patient. If it's a short par-4, don't hit the driver. If it's a par-5 and you've got a 1 in 5 chance of reaching it in two, don't go for it."

That isn't to say Hume totally suppresses his aggressiveness on the course, but he constantly questions his aggressive thoughts.

"Being aggressive depends on if the situation fits your game," he said. "For me, it might be a question of, 'Do I cut a 2-iron around a bunker to try to hit the pin?' Yes. But do I try to hit a hard hook around a bunker to go for the pin? Don't do it."

Hume says his mental discipline has been aided by a new technique he has adopted -- yoga. He does it 40 minutes a day and for one two-hour session once a week.

"Golf is about playing within yourself," he said. "And without getting too deep, knowing your inner self is part of yoga. My back had been bothering me, and a friend recommended that yoga might help. I've been doing it since August, and it helps me stretch better and to try to focus better."

A Hume-Silver duel will be something to look forward to next season, because it never happened this summer. Silver, 52, was not able to play in the district. His best showing was reaching the quarterfinals of the state amateur. None of the nine voters ranked him any lower than second.

Tom Gantress, 40, was the clear-cut choice as No. 3. A three-time public links champ, he was runner-up to Hume at the district. He has the talent to give Hume and Silver a strong run for No. 1 in the coming years. A slight improvement in putting could make the difference for him.

Jim Smith, 48, was fourth at the district. Wettlaufer, 61, remained fifth in the ranking for the third straight year. He qualified for the U.S. Senior Amateur. Bob Gunnell, 63, is the elder statesman of the top 10. He placed eighth at the district and also qualified for the U.S. Senior Amateur.

No. 7 Kyle Gay is the lone newcomer to the top 10. He plays infrequently in regional competition but placed third at the district and routed a good field for the Brookfield club title. No. 8 Frank Broderick, 47, reached the second round of match play at the state amateur. Former No. 1 John Gaffney took the ninth spot, the same as his placing at the district. Charlie Card, No. 3 last year, hurt his knee in February and it hindered him all summer. However, he held onto 10th place, just ahead of Westwood's Bob Rosen.

The voters for the poll were: Gary Battistoni, teaching pro at the Battistoni Golf Center in East Amherst; Gary Grelick of Crag Burn; John Hoffman of the Porter Cup, Niagara Falls CC and the CC of Buffalo; Ed Kaczor of East Aurora CC and the state golf association; Mike Lawler, president of the WNY Public Links; Bill Lindner of Lindner's Golf Service in Tonawanda; Whitey Nichols, executive director of the Buffalo district; Vince Puglia, pro at Niagara's Golf Wonderland in Niagara Falls; and Dr. Joseph Sheedy of Brookfield and the state association.

The women's top 10 will appear in next Sunday's News.

WNY's TOP 10 MEN'S AMATEUR GOLFERS
1. Tim Hume, Park Country Club

2. Fred Silver, Niagara Falls Country Club

3. Tom Gantress, Sheridan Park

4. Jim Smith, Crag Burn Club

5. Ward Wettlaufer, Country Club of Buffalo.

6. Bob Gunnell, Chautauqua Country Club

7. Kyle Gay, Brookfield Country Club

8. Frank Broderick, East Aurora Country Club

9. John Gaffney, Brookfield Country Club

10. Charlie Card, Sheridan Park

Also receiving votes: Scott Belote (Transit Valley), Jon Boland (Crag Burn), Jim Cecchini (Crag Burn), Mike Fetter (Park), Frank Garcia Jr. (Hyde Park), Rod Lindstrom (East Aurora), Bob Rosen (Westwood), Mike Yurko (Audubon).

Last year's top 10: 1, Fred Silver; 2, Tim Hume; 3, Charlie Card; 4, Tom Gantress; 5, Ward Wettlaufer; 6, Jim Smith; 7, John Gaffney; 8, Ken Riter; 9, Jay Stellrecht; 10, Frank Broderick.