Bob Rosen always had what it takes to become one of Western New York's top amateur golfers. After all, he grew up with a hockey stick in his hands and a puck at his feet.
The hockey connection pulses through Western New York's community of golfing standouts. Fred Silver played at Clarkson on scholarship. Tim Hume, Tony Starzynski and John Gaffney all have hockey backgrounds.
Rosen, 40, played for the Buffalo Junior Sabres on a line that included Dan McFall, who went on to the NHL. He was on Canton Tech's 1981-82 national championship team. He finished out playing two years at Canisius College, where his road roommate was Mike Buczkowski, now the general manager of the Buffalo Bisons.
Rosen has coached at Canisius College. He coached the Amherst Junior B team that won two national championships. He's overseen the hockey program at Williamsville North, his high school alma mater, for the last 12 years.
Late every fall the synthetic putting green in Rosen's backyard disappears. Over the top of it goes an ice rink, 70 feet long and 40 feet wide. That's where 7-year-old Jake and 4-year-old Alexa practice; both play in leagues, and Rosen coaches Jake's Mite team. His wife, Beth, must be an angel.
It's too early to say if the kids have a future in hockey. But their roots would indicate they should become pretty good golfers.
"I hope so," Rosen said. "It's just a tremendous game, something they can play the rest of their life."
Golf's appeal as a lifelong sport is what lured their father to the game. Rosen dabbled in golf during his early years but began a determined effort to become an accomplished player following his sophomore year of college.
"I wanted to have something to be competitive at after college, and playing senior hockey didn't really excite me," he said.
His hockey background eased the transition.
"It's the eye-hand coordination," Rosen said. "A lot of guys who grew up playing hockey have that eye-hand coordination. When I was younger I hit it a lot farther but I had a lot of hands in my golf swing from hockey. There's a lot of good correlation between hockey and golf, but there's a lot of bad. In hockey you can hit somebody, in golf you can't. Controlling your frustrations is part of the learning process, and I think it helped me in my coaching."
Rosen, the club champion at Westwood, placed third in this year's Buffalo District Golf Association point rankings. It's his highest finish since the scoring system was implemented four seasons ago.
Rosen surely would have finished higher, overtaking No. 1 Dr. Jim Smith of Crag Burn or runner-up Tim Hume of Park and Cherry Hill, had not personal tragedy intervened.
The first round of the district individual championship was played on a Monday. Rosen, who shot an opening-round 74, was well-positioned. On that Wednesday, his father, Harold, died at 67 after an 18-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
"He never was sick a day in his life," Rosen said. "He never smoked, he never drank. Even though I knew it was coming -- with pancreatic cancer you don't get better -- it was a shock. You expect him to be there at the kids' hockey games, and he's just not there. He used to follow me at Westwood during the club championship. This year, my son walked up 18 with me and it made me think about him not being there."
Rosen withdrew from the districts, the biggest points tournament on the local schedule. Had he played the final two rounds, held Friday and Saturday that week, he would have been a veritable shoo-in to earn the 50 points that would have put him atop this year's rankings.
As it was, Rosen's season was top shelf. With longtime caddie Chief Brant helping to read the greens and steady his nerves, Rosen placed ninth at the state amateur and the state mid-am, won the Crag Burn invite, finished second at the Westwood invite and tied for second at Cherry Hill.
Rosen's trademark: More often than not he's hitting his approach from the fairway.
"I don't usually get into too much trouble," he said.
A March escape to warm climates for five rounds of golf helped Rosen to get off to a fast start this season. He's looking for another chance to get some golf in before the next season commences.
"This was a great year," he said. "I hope to pick up where it was. I hope to play more golf throughout the winter. I hope it's cold enough for my skating rink, but not a lot of snow."
Smith, 52, played steadily throughout the season to become the first golfer other than Hume to top the rankings since the points system was implemented in 1998. He was third in last year's rankings, second in '99 and third in '98. Smith picked up high-range points at a number of events, including 150 for his tie for eighth and the districts and 100 for his fifth-place finish in the state mid-amateur held at Leatherstocking in Cooperstown.
Hume had a disappointing showing at the districts, but he rebounded to shoot five rounds in the 60s in winning the club championships at Park and Cherry Hill, along with the Champion of Champions at East Aurora. He also took the district match-play tournament and represented New York in the USGA national team championships at Hazeltine in Minnesota.
FINAL BDGA RANKINGS
1. Jim SmithCrag Burn785.2
2. Tim HumePark/Cherry Hill780
3. Bob RosenWestwood746
4. Tom GantressSheridan609.3
5. John GaffneyBrookfield536.3
6. Tony StarzynskiSpringville460.9
7. Jay StellrechtLancaster452.4
8. Frank BroderickEast Aurora380
9. P.J. AlterioNiagara Falls374.4
10. Fred SilverNiagara Falls371