From left, Ryan Welch, head coach Tim Jones and Erin Rivera chat on the putting green at the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course during Amsterdam High School golf practice Tuesday. (Paul Antonelli/Recorder staff)

By PAUL ANTONELLI

Recorder Sports Editor

High school golf is always the first sport to begin and the first to finish its regular season.

That means a busy two-week stretch for Amsterdam golf coach Tim Jones as he prepares his squad for its 2017 opener Thursday at 9 a.m. against Broadalbin-Perth at the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course. Next Monday, the Rams will then play four matches in three days including a doubleheader on Aug. 31 at Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course with a 1:30 p.m. date with Hudson Falls and 4 p.m. start against Queensbury.

C.J. Durinick putts on the practice green during Amsterdam High School golf practice Tuesday at the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course. (Paul Antonelli/Recorder staff)

The good news for Amsterdam is that the Rams return everyone from a squad that finished second behind Johnstown in the Foothills Council South Division last fall. Johnstown went on to win the Foothills Council Tournament at Saratoga Spa State Park and later the Section II Class B title at Eagle Crest Golf Course.

The Rams’ top returning player is sophomore Erin Rivera, who was Amsterdam’s lone sectional qualifier in 2016. Rivera shot a 94 in the Section II Class A championship. A player qualifies for sectional play with five rounds of 8-over par or lower. Two of those rounds must occur away from home.

“Erin continues to improve,” Jones said. “His tempo is fantastic. He’s smooth and physically he is getting stronger. His game is solid.”

Senior Mike Hughes has taken more of a leadership role this season according to Jones and freshman C.J. Durinick is also expected to make a key contribution this year. Both missed sectional competition by just one stroke last season.

“Mike has been in the program since he was a seventh grader and we’re excited to see what he can do this year,” Jones said. “He’s one of our leaders and C.J. continues to improve.”

Jones also has the services of senior Stephen Knack as well as first-time seniors Thomas Knack and Adam Noce.

Also on the roster are sophomores Andrew Iannotti and Nicholas Antonelli, freshman Ryan Welch and eighth grader Danny Riley.

Jones, with the assistance of Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course head professional Joe Merendo and assistant professional Chris Mathewson, is in the planning stages of creating a junior Rams program that will benefit the high school squad. Planned fundraisers will go toward the purchase of clothing apparel including rain gear. Also, all Amsterdam golf players receive free memberships at Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course — a first for the squad.

“I’d like to thank Matt Ossenfort and Matt Beck for their time and efforts to make the free memberships happen,” Jones said. “The only way these kids will get better is if they play. Joe Merendo and Chris Mathewson are also always there for the kids. We are in a great situation.”

Jones added that the Rams are at a big advantage playing its home matches over the 3,315-yard Robert Trent Jones original trek. The yardage on Muni’s front nine is the longest in all of the Foothills Council.

“The length of our course and what it offers gives us a huge advantage,” Jones said. “We are not intimidated when we go play at other courses.”

Jones is hoping to have multiple Amsterdam players qualify for the Class A sectionals slated for Oct. 4 at McGregor Links. Top players there will advance to the Section II Class ABCD sectionals on Oct. 10 with the state qualifier also scheduled for Orchard Creek on Oct. 12.

“I know we are young, but it’s important for the kids to stay in the present when on the golf course,” Jones said. “They can’t think too far in the future. If the kids can do that, we’ll be okay.”