Poughkeepsie's Brian Viola gets engaged after winning Dutchess Amateur golf title

Poughkeepsie Journal
Poughkeepsie Journal

Brian Viola, surprisingly, had never practiced for this. He knew for months there was the possibility he would end up in this position but figured his instincts alone would suffice.

As he stood before a large audience, with the pressure having mounted, the moment became “more nerve-racking” than the longtime golfer could have imagined.

“‘Oh, my God, you’re not,’” Christina Herchenroder remembered thinking as she observed him closely. “But he was smooth and executed it well. The performance was definitely a 10 out of 10.”

Well, of course. She said “yes.”

Viola fulfilled a promise and delivered what was his proudest achievement yet, proposing to his girlfriend as a crowd of friends, relatives and golfers cheered them.

“Along with being born,” the 36-year-old said, “this is up there with the best days of my life.”

The golf tournament he won that evening became the cherry on top of his Sunday.

Before presenting Herchenroder a sparkling engagement ring, Viola also received a piece of hardware that he’ll cherish, hoisting the championship trophy at the Dutchess County Amateur golf tournament.

He totaled a 4-under 212 in the three-day competition at McCann Memorial Golf Course in Poughkeepsie to win the title for the first time since 2012. Viola shot a 67 on Sunday to pull from behind in the third round and surpass collegiate standout Erik Stauderman and Dan Gabel, who was seeking a record seventh career victory in this tournament.

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“Having wins here 10 years apart is pretty cool,” the Poughkeepsie native said. “I was a pro for seven years, but becoming an amateur again really helped me regain my passion for the game. I’m very happy with how this went.”

Stauderman, a former Spackenkill High School star, carded a 216 and shot an even 72 in each round. Gabel totaled 217, including a 2-under in the second round. Luke Whalen had a 219 for fourth place, Mark Yan followed with a 222 and Josh Yan with a 223.

Viola pulled away on the back nine. He birdied the 12th hole, which helped him offset a bogey on the 10th. On 15, he got within eight feet on a 60-foot putt and drained the second to make par.

This victory, he said, was dedicated to four loved ones who have passed in recent years. In his thoughts down the stretch were his grandmothers, Nancy O’Shea and Gwen Viola, along with Ralph DeStefano and Art Smith, venerated local golfers whom he considered beloved mentors.

“Those people made me a better person and golfer,” he said. “I wanted to make them proud of me.”

Viola figured there was a chance he was in or near the lead before the 17 th hole, but the live scoreboard was slow to update. It wasn’t until later, while on 18, that he checked the leaderboard on his phone and realized he was ahead by four strokes.

It obviously helped that Viola has made McCann his home course since he was a kid. He also worked there as the club professional before briefly moving to Florida in 2021 and is practically familiar with every blade of grass.

“Working there and playing there for 26 years, I know it very well,” said Viola, who credited club pro Chris Kemble and his staff for the grooming of the course. “There was definitely a comfort level and some confidence, knowing I needed a good score to win.”

He figured there would be a level of comfort in popping the question, given the familiarity with his now-fiancé. He and Herchenroder were friends for more than a decade and when they began dating, she said, Viola told her he eventually hoped to marry her.

The plan he conceived in the spring was to win the Dutchess Amateur and, during the excitement, propose on the 18 th hole. But he wasn’t in the final group Sunday, so there was a necessary pivot.

“I made a speech after the tournament and said, ‘I wanted to propose today, but it didn’t go as I expected and I’m sorry,’” he said. “I gave her the misdirection and she believed me.”

He then raced to retrieve the ring, which he had stashed at his father’s house nearby, before making his way to the Pirate Canoe Club, where the winner traditionally is celebrated with dinner and drinks.

While posing for photos with family and other golfers, he called for one of just him and his girlfriend. As Herchenroder smiled for the photograph, Viola knelt to place the trophy on the ground and remained in that position. She gasped as he began to speak.

“I couldn’t have asked for it to go any better,” the Wappingers Falls native said. “I was already unbelievably happy about him winning, and then I find out I get to spend the rest of my life with him. It’s the best day of my life.”

Now that’s an ace.

Stephen Haynes:; 845-437-4826; Twitter: @StephenHaynes4

Full list of Dutchess County Amateur champions

2022: Brian Viola

2021: Dan Gabel

2020: Dan Gabel

2019: Dan Gabel

2018 Nick Dilio

2017 Nick Dilio

2016 Nick Dilio

2015 Nick Dilio

2014 Mike Fisher

2013 Nick Dilio

2012 Brian Viola

2011 Mike Fisher

2010 Dan Gabel

2009 Chris Sanger

2008 Mike Fisher

2007 Jim Hilaire

2006 Dan Gabel

2005 Dan Gabel

2004 Steve Nosonowitz

2003 Mike Flynn

2002 Mike Flynn

2001 Steve Nosonowitz

2000 Steve Nosonowitz

1999 Terry Walsh

1998 Terry Walsh

1997 Bruce Aubin

1996 Bruce Aubin

1995 Dave Jensen

1994 Craig Busby

1993 Terry McGinnis

1992 Steve Nosonowitz

1991 Harold Girdlestone

1990 Harold Girdlestone

1989 Ed Boone

1988 Bruce Aubin

1987 Harold Girdlestone

1986 Harold Girdlestone

1985 Jim Bernard

1984 Bruce Aubin

1983 Bob Botsford

1982 Ed Burke

1981 Bruce Aubin

1980 Ralph DeStefano

1979 Bruce Aubin

1978 Ralph DeStefano

1977 Ralph DeStefano

1976 Bruce Simmons

1975 Bob Boschan

1974 George Pacheco

1973 Dick Jamieson

1972 Brad Davis

1971 Heinz Mews

1951 Johnny Cwik

1950 Joe Vallo

1949 Jack Yank

1948 Jack Yank

1947 Dean Lucarini

1946 Ray Billows

1936 Ray Billows

This article originally appeared on Poughkeepsie Journal: Poughkeepsie's Brian Viola gets engaged after winning Dutchess Amateur golf title

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