The player of the year race is wide-open among men's amateur golfers in Western New York.
Tim Hume, the Buffalo District Golf Association champion six of the last seven years, has abdicated his throne and moved to Florida.
It's good news for the top amateurs trying to win significant amateur titles. However, the 42-year-old Hume will be missed on the local circuit.
"Absolutely, he helped elevate everyone's game," said Williamsville's Bob Rosen, former Buffalo district champion and friend of Hume. "I hate to see him leave. He made everyone work a little harder to try to gain ground on him, and he was good for amateur golf in the area by working on projects that helped the district."
Hume, a Williamsville native and Cherry Hill Country Club member, moved for business reasons. He took a job as regional business manager for a medical company in Tampa.
He leaves a golf legacy. In 1999, Hume became the only man in the 80-year history of the Buffalo District Golf Association to win four straight district titles. Only two men have won more than Hume's four crowns. Paul Hyde won six in the 1920s and '30s. Lewiston's Fred Silver owns five titles, won between '72 and '95.
Hume also is the only Buffalo district golfer to win the New York State Mid-Amateur, which began in 1984. Hume took that event in 2000. He also represented the state in the U.S. Golf Association's team championship at Hazeltine in Minnesota in 2001.
"Winning the state Mid-Amateur was the biggest highlight for me," Hume said from his new home. "But winning four districts in a row was pretty special, and playing in the last group at the Porter Cup two years ago was really exciting."
There wasn't a ton of suspense in most of Hume's district wins. He won by nine shots in '96, and his subsequent winning margins were six, one and eight shots. His 4-under win totals in '96 and '97 are the lowest totals in relation to par in the 39 years the event has been stroke play.
Hume played five years professionally on the Canadian Tour until 1990, then regained his amateur status in '93. His move undoubtedly will be good for his golf game. He will be a prominent player in Florida amateur events.
"In Buffalo you really have four prime months and you have to cram it all in," he said. "Down here you can go three weeks without playing because of other obligations and it's no big deal at all."
Hume was influential in helping the district expand its series of top local amateur tournaments, which has enhanced the area's quality of competition.
"All of a sudden Buffalo has this good pool of young talent -- with guys like Kyle Hess and Matt Thomas coming along -- and you want to expose these guys to the best competition locally and get them exposure," Hume said. "I really hope the points series keeps going."
Congratulations to Dr. Jim Smith of Crag Burn for winning the Senior Division of the Porter Cup on Saturday. It's only the second time in the 13 years since the senior division was instituted that a Buffalo district player won it. The division features some of the best senior players in the country. Lewiston's Silver pulled within a shot of Smith with a birdie on the 16th hole of the final round. But Smith was able to par the par-3 18th while Silver bogeyed, and Smith won by two at 7 over for four rounds. Smith, incidentally, is the only player to edge Hume as Player of the Year since Hume took his first season title in '97. Smith was No. 1 in 2001.
Silver tied for 26th at the Canadian Senior Match Play championship in British Columbia this month.
Jamestown native Dirk Ayers, the 1995 New York State Amateur champion, ranks 15th on the Canadian Tour money list this year with earnings of $25,587. Ayers, 32, played at Penn State and lives in Sarasota, Fla. He tied for second in June at a Canadian Tour stop in Virginia. It was his highest finish ever on the tour. (Only six of the 14 tournaments on the circuit are held in Canada.)
The No. 1 Canadian Tour money winner this year is Floridian Erik Compton, a former second-team college All-America who had a heart transplant when he was 12. Compton played on the Buy.com tour. Fifth on the money list is Steve Scott, who lost the 1996 U.S. Amateur title to Tiger Woods.
Jim Thorpe stands sixth on the PGA Champions Tour money list with $842,794 in earnings. Lon Nielsen stands 41st at $278,809. Nielsen needs to get close to $600,000 to avoid going back to qualifying school in the fall. Nielsen did not make the field for the U.S. Senior Open because only the top 20 on this year's list got an exemption.