FARMINGDALE – Peter Ballo admittedly gets a little more downtime during the week than most assistant professionals.
It was evident this summer.
The 24-year-old, who is working toward PGA membership at Old Oaks Country Club, made the most of each opportunity to practice and play, finishing in third place at the Westchester Open and the Met Open.
He maintained that momentum at the National Car Rental Met Assistant Championship, winding up in fourth place on Wednesday after posting a 3-under total of 137.
“It’s been a really good summer,” Ballo said Wednesday after closing with a 2-under 68 on the Red Course at Bethpage State Park. “I’ve had a lot of good finishes and been right there at the end. There’s just a learning curve. When you get to that spot, it’s about learning how to be like a Frank Bensel or a Grant Sturgeon or a Rob Labritz. It takes a few times being up there to learn how to control your body and your emotions.”
The rapid improvement has a lot to do with using downtime wisely.
“I’m lucky to be where I am,” added Ballo, who helps with outside operations and teaches occasionally. “I do get to work on my game and prepare. … I always played hockey during the winter in high school. In college, I only went to Florida for maybe a week or two, otherwise I was playing hockey or coaching hockey. So this winter I was down there for about five months and it’s amazing when you don’t lose your clubs and play all year round how consistent you can continue to be.”
Kyle Higgins won the Met Assistants title with a 6-under total of 134.
The 29-year-old Long Island native also made the most of his free time, which is scarce at most clubs on Labor Day weekend.
“It’s a long weekend coming into this event so it’s nice to get a little time in to practice,” he said after signing for a 3-under 67. “I was feeling pretty good coming into this and just held it together.”
Sturgeon was also 3-under in the final round, tying Wheatley Hills’ John Guyton for second at 136.
The Winged Foot assistant made six birdies and three bogeys. He kept the pressure on, manufacturing a number of scoring chances inside 25 feet on the closing holes, but was unable to coax any of them in.
“I played 15 really well, hit a perfect putt and it just didn’t break,” Sturgeon said. “And then at 16, I played a brutally poor hole and somehow made a 15-footer for par, then I hit good putts on 17 and 18. They just missed. All in all, it was good.”
An invitation to play the National Car Rental PGA Assistant Championship in Florida this fall was extended to the top 12 finishers.
National Car Rental Met Assistant Championship
1. Kyle Higgins (Inwood) 67-67-134
2. Grant Sturgeon (Winged Foot) 69-67-136
2. John Guyton (Wheatley Hills) 69-67-136
4. Peter Ballo (Old Oaks) 69-68-137
5. Josh Rackley (Tam O’Shanter) 71-67-138
6. Kevin Lisi (Bergen Point) 72-67-139
6. Daniel Lee (Deepdale) 68-71-139
8. Ben Polland (Deepdale) 72-68-140
8. Todd Larson (Round Hill) 71-69-140
8. Anthony Aruta (North Shore) 71-69-140
8. Colin Corrigan (Friar’s Head) 69-71-140
8. Matt Noel (Huntington) 68-72-140
13. Kyle Baehler (Willow Ridge) 73-68-141
13. Frank Bensel (Century) 71-70-141
13. Jim Farrell (The Creek) 72-69-141
13. Adam Larkin (Old Oaks) 71-70-141
13. Tyler Jaramillo (St. Andrew’s) 70-71-141