But when he got an exciting reception after his victory from some of his fellow competitors who were his age or older, Miller realized the importance of winning.
“I knew the younger players were taking over the championship,” Miller said. “I was representing the older guys. They wanted me to take the kids down.”
Round one of the 54-hole men’s amateur county championship will take place Friday at Woodstock Golf Club. Round two will take place on Saturday at Apple Greens Golf Course, and the final round will take place on Sunday at Wiltwick Golf Club.
The last golfer over the age of 25 to win the Herdegen title before Miller was Bryan Smith, who won the last of his four championships in 2003 at the age of 44. After Smith’s victory, the Herdegen champions from 2004 through 2019 were junior players who were often still competing in high school or college. Herdegen has not been held in 2020 due to the pandemic. Herdegen’s young winners during that time are Chris de Forest, Mike Tollach, Doug Clescolt, Jeff Schaller, Chris Ferraro and Justin Lin.
Smith, who was inducted into the Herdegen Hall of Fame in 2012, said it’s no surprise that young players have dominated Herdegen for the past two decades.
“It’s a change of age,” Smith said. “College kids play tournaments in the spring all the way in Herdegen. They are ready for the tournament. The older guys take two weeks to get ready for Herdegen and then set off.”
Although Miller and Smith are members of the Twaalfskill Club, Smith said they haven’t played golf together yet. “I saw him playing,” Smith said. “He’s a great player.”
Miller said he still has fond memories of last year’s win, particularly when he broke through a 6-iron from 200 yards for a Double Eagle on a 5-second hole on the final round at Wiltwick Golf Club.
“It was fun to win in front of family and friends,” said the 36-year-old Miller, who owns a commercial cleaning business in Ulster and Dutches counties. “Obviously the albatross (double eagle) was a miracle shot that happened. That’s the main reason I won.”
Miller headed into the final last year at Wiltwick, trailing by one shot to Scott Klesholt and Oliver Watson. But the Double Eagle started on Miller’s Tour (2-over 74) and ended up scoring a two-stroke win over runner-up Nick Beaulieu on 54 holes of 220. Beaulieu (73-222) followed suit.
Watson (78-224) and Clichault (79-224), who tied for third.
Puleo, who just earned a NCAA honors for an All-American college in his sophomore year at SUNY Ulster, entered this year’s event. So is Watson, a New Paltz golfer. Other potential competitors are St. Thomas Aquinas College golfer Donte Gruposo and Kyle Hilliard, a 21-year-old member of the Wiltwick who was the medalist in the Heerdegen playoffs with a 4 over 74 at Toalveskill.
Tom Sanford, who finished fifth in 2021, is back to defend the Leon Randall Senior Award (50 and up).
Miller is paired with Brandon Kraft and Ryan LaContour on Friday afternoon for the opening round in Woodstock. He feels he can defend his title.
“I haven’t played as much as I’d like to prepare to play for Herdegen,” Miller said. “But I think it’s good enough to win. We’ll see. Usually it has to do with the racket.”