There are plenty of ways to describe Billy Gaffney on the final day of the BDGA Men’s Individual Championship, but above all, he was an opportunist.
Ben Reichert entered the day with a three-stroke lead, playing the first two rounds even on the par-71 Transit Valley course. It didn’t take long for that lead to disappear on Day Three as Reichert, the former Williamsville North Spartan, triple bogeyed the par-4 first hole. Gaffney saw an opening.
“I had made a miraculous par almost out of bounds on the right near the driving range,” Gaffney said. “I knew I was right back in it.”
He birdied on the second hole to take the lead and never looked back. Gaffney finished with a 2-under 69, the best single-day score of the event, to take home the title.
It’s been a memorable few weeks for Gaffney, who played in the Porter Cup for the first time last week after attempting to qualify for years. He finished 53rd with a 289 score at the event.
The summer isn’t slowing down for Gaffney. He’ll take part in the New York State Amateur tournament this weekend in Schenectady and then the Crag Burn club championship in East Aurora before moving in with family in Houston to begin his pro career at either the end of September or early October. The former Youngstown State Penguin slimmed down 20 pounds in the past few months in preparation.
“I just keep telling myself, ‘If I can’t win these events I can’t win on a tour level,’ ” Gaffney said.
Gaffney thanked fellow local golfer Danny Yustin for helping him have his best outing of the three-day tournament Wednesday. Gaffney worked with Yustin on his putting for about 2½ hours Tuesday.
“It really paid off,” Gaffney said. “I started putting really well. I was lucky enough for him to be able to come out and caddy for me. He made a lot of good reads and I made a lot of good putts.
“I putted the worst I putted all year the previous two rounds. Today I made a putter switch and with Danny’s help I started putting a lot better. That was a deciding factor because a lot of the putts I made today I missed yesterday.”
Reichert, this year’s Prep Talk Player of the Year for boys golf, finished the day 3-over par and two back of Gaffney. He’s heading to Middle Tennessee State to begin his collegiate career.
Andrew Romano, who is entering his senior year at Canisius College, finished third with 217. David Hanes, who’ll be a freshman at Canisius College, bested his older brother Billy by one stroke to finish third.
At 23 years old, Gaffney was the oldest of the top-three finishers. Local golf has become more of a young man’s game as of late.
“They hit it further. They’re stronger. Their swings are better,” Gaffney said. “One thing that I would recommend, just practice, practice, practice on your short game because that’s the only thing that saved me this week.”
Billy’s victory made it four BDGA individual titles for the Gaffneys. His father John won the tournament three times, in 1988, '89 and '91.