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Katz points to next season's district race

Jake Katz doesn't have to look far for a reminder of what he'd like to accomplish on the Western New York amateur golf scene. One of his six roommates at the University of Binghamton is West Seneca's Jeff Wolniewicz, whose resume includes wins in this year's Buffalo District points championship, this year's New York State Amateur, the 2006 Buffalo District Individual Championship, as well as multiple appearances in the Porter Cup.

"One of my biggest goals is to qualify for the Porter Cup," Katz said by phone this week. "A bunch of my buddies qualified last year and I kind of felt left out. And then to win the district championship. Two years ago I came in second to Jamie [Miller] and last year I came in 10th I think. Do either one of those two things. Both would be great, but either qualify for the Porter Cup or win the district championship."

No New York State Amateur?

"Oh, definitely," Katz said. "Especially after seeing Jeff win it last year."

The final Buffalo District points standings had Wolniewicz and Miller holding down the top two spots. But that will change next summer. Miller, having graduated from Augusta State, is ready to hit the pro circuit. Wolniewicz, now a grad student at Binghamton, plans to do the same after playing the 2009 Porter Cup. The next crop of collegiate golfers is ready to take aim at the points title, with the smooth 6-foot-4 Katz, third in this year's rankings, among the favorites to ascend to the throne.

"It's very competitive now with Drew Creighton and Matt Stasiak and a lot of those guys," said Katz, who plays out of Westwood. "I feel that it could be me and if I work hard enough hopefully it will be. But I still got to put the work in and there's plenty of guys who definitely can claim to be the next guy. But if I work hard why not me?"

Katz shot out of the blocks in the district season, winning the match play championship and placing second at Park and third at Elkdale. But a poor showing in the points-heavy BDGA Individual and a failure to qualify for the Porter Cup prevented him from taking a run at the points crown.

However, Katz has caught fire again during his fall sophomore season. He has three top-10 tournament finishes, including a tie for the individual championship at last weekend's Big 5, where he shot a pair of even-par 71s. His best round, a 3-under 68, came while finishing seventh at the Rutgers Invitational.

"Jake Katz has been our most complete player thus far in our fall season," Binghamton coach Bernie Herceg wrote via e-mail. "Jake has a lot of potential going forth. The more times he's able to compete against top players and put himself in position to win events the more confident he will be with his overall game and win tournaments. He will then develop more belief in his ability to go under par and become a fearless competitor."

The maturation process has already begun to take place. Like many a young player, Katz has a belief in his abilities that invites recklessness into the picture. Yes, he can make a lot of birdies and a lot of pars. But a train wreck or two always seemed to await.
"Last year I was kind of a little shaky," Katz said. "I'd have a good string of pars going and then all of a sudden I'd make a big number. My bad score now is like a bogey instead of a double or triple. I've been a little more consistent. And from there if I make a big number I can make a couple more birdies and level it out."

Instead of forcing opportunities, Katz is more determined to strike when the chances present themselves. His goal is to improve his accuracy from his 8-iron down through his sand wedge, thereby taking the strain off his putter by creating more makable birdies.

"I would probably go back to just being a little more consistent in getting the ball close to the hole with my approach shots. I've been making a lot of birdies, but my proximity to the hole hasn't allowed me to make a lot of putts even though I've been putting well. I'd like to be a little closer to the hole and be a little more consistent with my approach shots."

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Around the links

*Wolniewicz earned the points title over close friend Miller on the strength of his winning effort in the New York State Amateur. That made it five state amateur champions in 10 years for BDGA golfers. John Gaffney won in 1999, Kyle Hess in 2002 and '03 and Matt Thomas in '04. Wolniewicz and Thomas also had runner-up finishes in that span. Clarence's Stasiak, a Miami (Ohio) sophomore, made this year's semifinals.

*Adam Baj of Buffalo and East Aurora Country Club and Michael Harrower of Batavia are among 11 statewide recipients of $1,500 New York State Golf Association Scholarships.

*Fox Valley CC won the 33rd annual BDGA Leonard Cup for best overall performance in junior and sub-junior interclub competition. Fox Valley placed second in the juniors while its sub-junior team won the O'Connor Division during the regular season and tied for second in the playoffs. Joe Mitchell was sub-junior medalist in the playoffs with an 83 at Crag Burn.

e-mail: bdicesare@buffnews.com

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