29th Annual Otesaga Hotel Seniors Open Begins with Hall of Famer Johnny Bench As Tuesday’s Pro-Am Host

Cooperstown Seniors Open at Leatherstocking Golf Course Starts Wednesday; More than $50,000 Raised for Pathfinder Village Scholarship Fund at Tuesday’s Pro-Am

September 07, 2011
Johnny Bench served as the host for the 29th Annual Otesaga Hotel Seniors Open Pro-Am at the Leatherstocking Golf Course. (Milo Stewart Jr./NBHOF)

COOPERSTOWN, NY -- Baseball Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench returned to Cooperstown on Tuesday to showcase his golf talents as celebrity host of the 29th Annual Otesaga Hotel Seniors Open Pro-Am at the Leatherstocking Golf Course.

The three-day Seniors Open, one of the top senior tournaments in the Northeast, begins Wednesday featuring 106 pros from across the country competing for a $75,000 purse to be awarded to the top finishers at this week's event.

On Tuesday, Bench, a 1989 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, led more than 130 golfers, including 28 pros, in the Pro-Am, with more than $50,000 raised to benefit the Scholarship Fund of Pathfinder Village, a residential community in nearby Edmeston for children and adults with Down syndrome. Proceeds from the tournament also benefit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum's outreach programs, enabling the world-famous institution to fulfill its educational mission.

Tuesday's Pro-Am was made possible by NBT Bank and Coca-Cola Enterprises.

Known for his Gold Glove Award-winning defense and his record-setting power during a 17-season major league career with the Cincinnati Reds, Bench is also an excellent golfer, having competed in many senior events. Leatherstocking Golf Course even features a marker commemorating his record 371-yard drive on hole seven in the 1990s.

"Coming back to Cooperstown for this post-Labor Day event helps support an outstanding community in Pathfinder Village while bringing together some of the top senior pros from throughout the United States," said Bench. "Today's event is very meaningful, not only for the great group of golfers who are here to support this wonderful cause, but for the residents and students of Pathfinder who benefit from the generosity of NBT Bank, Coca-Cola and so many others."

Professional Bob Kurtz of Cullman, Ala., led his team to a victory in Tuesday's two-man, best ball format Pro-Am. Kurtz was partnered with William Cole, Steve Fossaceca, John Griffin and Victor Pepin in the first-place fivesome. The names of the first-place team will be engraved on the Joseph P. Franzese Memorial Trophy, named after the tournament's founder. Pro Scott Spence of Galena, Ohio – and a former Otsego County resident – led his team to a second-place finish, along with teammates Jim Bugonian, Jim Potts, Peter Severud and Andrew Vilacky.

Competition in the Seniors Open begins Wednesday morning with 8 a.m. tee times and continues through Friday.

"This year's field of senior pros is truly outstanding," said Dan Spooner, Tournament co-chair and director of golf at Leatherstocking Golf Course. "This is by far our best field of pro participants, which should make for a great tournament this week in Cooperstown."