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Celebrating golf and helping four-legged friends

LAKE PLACID — There was no way that local golfers were going to let the coronavirus hamper them from helping out their four-legged friends inhabiting the villages of Saranac Lake and Lake Placid and the surrounding communities.

The pandemic has forced the cancellation of countless events in the area for the past several months, but on Tuesday at the Craig Wood Golf Course, the tradition of the Bar Fly Open continued. Although the 18-hole, two-person scramble normally draws about 90 participants each September, 70 golfers on 35 teams came out in force to raise money for the Tri-Lake’s Humane Society.

It was the 42nd year the Bar Fly Open took place, and the first time Craig Wood has hosted the tournament since 2014.

A pair of Black Fly Open newcomers teamed up to win the tournament as Saranac Lake’s Connor Gibbs and Tristin Fitzgerald fired a 6-under par 66 to eke out a 1-shot victory. Longtime Bar Fly competitors Rhett Colby and Nick Planty, both of Lake Placid, finished runner-up with a 67.

“This means a lot,” Gibbs said. “It feels good to come out and play a good round. We picked each other up and we had a lot of fun. It’s September, there’s not a lot of golf left and it was a wonderful day.”

“We honestly didn’t think we were going to win it but we did,” said Fitzgerald. “We drove the ball well, our second shots helped and we sank a few putts. It was our first time playing. We have to come back next year and defend.”

Fitzgerald added he loves animals and has a dog and a cat at home.

“That gives me a good background for this,” he said.

Fitzgerald and Gibbs were awarded gift certificates from tournament sponsor Rock Bottom Golf and also got to hoist the Harry and Larry Cup, named after Harry Tucker and Larry Stringer, who were well-known restaurant and bar owners in Saranac Lake and avid golfers.

Tom and Lynn Meldrim took the mixed division with a 78.

The Bar Fly normally begins en mass with a shotgun start with golfers playing on every hole. But due to coronavirus precautions that have become common in in the game, golfers reserved tee times with the first group getting off to a chilly start on the first hole at 9:30 a.m. But as the morning progressed, the weather warmed up and it turned out to be a perfect day on the course.

Tournament organizer John Morgan said even though some of the usual sponsors weren’t involved this time around, a good chunk of money was again raised for the Tri-Lake’s Humane Society.

“In this year of COVID, it really was a great turnout,” Morgan said. “We love raising money for this cause and celebrating the game of golf. Hopefully, we look forward to raising even more next year. A big thanks to everyone involved.”