Anyone who swings a club on the golf course knows that a little bit of luck is involved in having a good round. But how about bad luck?
Just one day before the High School golf season began in the Capital District, one of its premier players stubbed his right toe while running barefoot around a cement pool after a round of golf the Schuyler Meadows Country Club in Loudonville, N.Y.
The two-time Colonial Council champion, who plays for the Albany Boys’ Academy, looked to be sidelined for his junior season. But the determined 16-year old junior right-hander wouldn’t even consider missing the season.
So despite confirmation from his orthopedic doctor that, indeed the foot was broken, Puleo never considered not playing.
“I worked too hard this summer to come this far and not play in my most important season yet, ” said Puleo, who carries just one tee in his pocket.
So Puleo made many, many adjustments to his body and his game. Those adjustments have paid off.
The week after he broke his foot, Puleo couldn’t finish off of his back foot which made the ball go a lot lower. Not only did he have to alter his swing, he also had to figure out how to walk the nine holes with much discomfort.
A bright student in the classroom as well as on the golf course, Puleo creatively overcame those disabilities. “I altered my swing and used a golf umbrella as a cane,” Puleo said. “I couldn’t get my own golf shoes on, so I decided to wear my own shoe on my good foot and my brother’s bigger shoe on the bad foot. Big brother Jay is a three-year starter on the Hobart golf team.
His creativity combined with determination and talent got Puleo right where he should have been – the top player in the Colonial Council.
For the season he is averaging an amazing 1-under par and has been the medalist in every contest but one for the month of September.
In every match, but one that Academy has played in this season, Puleo has been even or under par.
“The key to my success has been my putting,” not even mentioning his injury. “I practiced all summer because it was the weakness of my game. I knew if I wanted to score better, I would have to make everything inside of five-feet, which I have been doing.”
Puleo’s most impressive round was at the Albany Country Club, one of the toughest courses in the Capital District, where he shot 32, four strokes under par. His round was highlighted by five birdies in nine holes.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself. I always want to be an example for the rest of the team,” said the 6-foot-two, 160 pound Puleo. “I think I have been handling pressure well this year. The Amateur Junior Golf Association Tournaments that I played in the this summer gave me great experience.”
Puleo defended his two-time Colonial Council championship with a 75 last week at Fairways of Halmoon. “Freshman year (win) was a bit of a surprise to me, but sophomore year I figured I was one of the favorites. “If Puleo repeats as Colonial Champion next year, he will knock off his former coach Robert Bigley, who holds the championship title with three victories.
You can bet Puleo isn’t getting much sleep tonight as the Section II title is on the line today. The youngster from Loudonville, N.Y. was the individual runner-up last year, while leading the Cadets to the team championship.