Adam Shinder/Recorder staff T.J. Sumigray, left, gives chipping lessons during the Joe Merendo Swing Fore Kids golf clinic at the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course in July.
Adam Shinder/Recorder staff T.J. Sumigray, center, watches young golfers work on their chipping skills during the Joe Merendo Swing Fore Kids golf clinic at the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course in July.
By ADAM SHINDER
Recorder Sports Staff
Golf has taken a bit of a back seat for T.J. Sumigray over the past year -- not for much longer, though.
Sumigray, a former Amsterdam High School standout on the links who went on to play Division I golf at St. Peter's College, had originally planned to turn professional and join the National Golf Association Pro Golf Tour this past winter, when several life-changing events altered his plans.
First was the death of his father, Tony, in November after a battle with cancer, which immediately made Sumigray reconsider his plan to head south for the winter with the NGA Tour. Then he made the decision to move out to Buffalo with his girlfriend, a medical student, pushing back his pro golf career until 2014.
"I'm the kind of guy where whatever I do, I do 100 percent, and I didn't feel with my father's passing and a lot of other stuff that I could go at golf 100 percent," Sumigray said. "Now, I'm rounding into form and I'm gonna give it 110 percent."
Sumigray lived in Buffalo until May, when he returned to Amsterdam for the summer before moving back out to the western part of the state earlier this week. In that time, golf became less of a priority in his life.
"Golf's kind of taken a back seat in my life, which I'm OK with right now," he said. "I've kind of got everything else squared away. I've got a beautiful girlfriend that's really been a great thing in my life -- even better than golf. Golf-wise, it's really taken a back seat."
"Life's been good. It hasn't all come down to golf," he added. "There's been a lot of other things that've really helped out. That being said, I'm really looking forward to the second half of this year, which is really rolling along and getting back in top form for this upcoming season."
Though he's definitely been playing less this year -- " I haven't been doing too much golfing since my father passed away," he said -- Sumigray has tried to stay active out on the course, playing at least once per week. In July, he qualified for the New York State Men's Amateur Championship, but missed the cut after shooting back-to-back rounds of 80 at the Schuyler Meadows Club in Loudonville.
During that time, he's also found a passion for teaching the game -- both out in Buffalo and when he returned to Amsterdam to help Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course club professional Joe Merendo with his annual Swing Fore Kids clinic last month.
"I've done a lot of teaching out in Buffalo, which was really fun, doing a couple kids clinics," Sumigray said. "I just seem to really get along with them."
However, Sumigray said he does plan to go full-steam ahead with his plans to enter the world of professional golf in 2014 on the NGA Tour, which is a step down the ladder from the Web.com Tour that serves as the primary developmental group for the PGA Tour.
In Buffalo, Sumigray's started the fine-tuning to have his all-around game in top shape when he heads south in the winter.
"I have a really nice system out here in Buffalo where I've been really working on the short game, chipping and putting," he said. "I'm really working on my weaknesses more than my strengths, trying to get an all-around game back, because I've always been good with the longer shots, but you score with the shorter ones and that's where I've put most of my effort into."
And when Sumigray does turn pro, he'll be heading into the game with everything else in his life in order -- just the way he wants it.
"I feel like outside of the sporting world, outside of golf, I've really taken care of a lot of things -- and that really does help your mind out on the golf course," he said. "If you've got a clear mind, then you're all set to go."