PURCHASE – After spending four years grinding out a living on mini-tours, Chris Scialo made golf less of a priority in the fall and began to sell real estate.
It was time.
There was a moment of uncertainty when the 27-year-old New City resident teed off Monday in the 93rd Westchester Golf Association Open Championship, but he quickly settled back into the routine, shooting a 7-under 65 at Brae Burn Country Club.
Scialo held the course record until Danny Balin came in two strokes better an hour later.
“I had conditional status on the Web.com Tour last year, but I wasn’t getting into many events as I would’ve liked,” Scialo said. “I wanted to keep playing, but it’s really hard, so rather than go back to Q School, I decided to do something different. I joined up with Coldwell Banker down in Boca Raton and I’ve been going back and forth between New York and Florida. I didn’t play over the weekend, so on the first hole, I was a little nervous where the ball was going to go.”
Balin and Scialo did not completely separate themselves.
Willow Ridge assistant Kyle Baehler, Trump Westchester member Andrew Giuliani and Winged Foot head pro Mike Gilmore opened with 67s and are tied for third, four shots off the lead. There are 36 holes scheduled for Tuesday.
Scialo had not played a competitive round since the Met Open last August.
He only got into one Web.com Tour event last year and made two PGA Tour Latinoamerica starts, earning less than $700. Scialo had a number of wins over the years in minor league events, but was unable to break through and earn a comfortable living.
“It’s so hard,” said Scialo, who plays out of Paramount Country Club. “It’s a lot of travel and you go through a lot of money. I was spending a couple thousand for each tournament on the Latinoamerica events. You have to stay at five-star resorts in the Dominican Republic and Panama because you want to make sure you’re safe. It adds up. The lifestyle was fun, but I was ready to move on, and I felt good about the decision.”
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Scialo is very much at home on this course. The lefty won the Brae Burn Invitational in 2009, and enjoys the opportunity to fire at flags.
“This course has a lot of fun holes,” he said. “You can definitely score, which is great for tournament play because it makes things exciting. My brother, Stephen, won here the year after I did, so the Scialos have some history at Brae Burn, which is nice.”
Balin, who picked up a PGA Tour Latinoamerica win in May and is back working at Burning Tree Country Club in Greenwich, Connecticut for the summer, made 10 birdies.
“I hit it close all day,” said the 33-year-old who won this event in 2010. “I don’t think I made more than one putt from outside 12 feet.”
93rd WGA Open Championship
At Brae Burn Country Club
1. Daniel Balin, Burning Tree 30-33-63
2. Chris Scialo, Paramount, 34-31-65
3. Kyle Baehler, Willow Ridge, 34-33-67
3. Andrew Giuliani, Trump Westchester, 33-34-67
3. Mike Gilmore, Winged Foot, 36-31-67
6. Brian Gaffney, Quaker Ridge, 33-35-68
6. Christopher Toulson, Sunningdale, 34-34-68
8. Anthony Casalino, Innis Arden, 35-34-69
8. Charles Meola, Saxon Woods, 32-37-69
8. Frank Bensel, Century, 34-35-69
11. Luke Feehan (a), Mahopac, 36-34-70
12. Ben Hoffhine, Wykagyl, 36-35-71
12. David Young, Sleepy Hollow, 36-35-71
12. Patrick Schwarze, Wykagyl, 33-38-71
12. Tony DeMaria, Fairview Golf Center, 35-36-71