League achieves parity during the 1970s as all four teams won
(Editors note) The Penn-Ohio Golf league begins its 61st season on April 2 at Sharon Country Club. Through the years almost every top amateur golfer in the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys particpated in this early spring league. Former League President Frank Bellino of Youngstown has compiled a five-part history on the league which will run each Sunday until the season opener.
Part 3Everyone Takes a Turn at Winning (1968-1978)
In 1968 with John "Rags" Gennock serving as president, the Penn-Ohio continued to flourish. Players like Lalu Sabotin, Leo Zampedro, Joe Campana, Bill, Bob and Andy Santor, Jim Lucarell, Bob Lilko, Steve Hreen, Gennock, Dick Love, John Lucas, Ed Seginak, Ed Gladysz and Jack Ayers were among the high-profile players in the league. Ironically, it was one of the lesser-known players that determined the championship that year.
Due to a number of rainouts, the league finished July 7 at Leeland Golf Course in Hermitage with only two teams in contention, Sharon and Warren. Warren's Sabotin fired a 68 while teammate Bob Lewis shot a 71 putting Warren in the lead. Sharon answered back with scores of 72 by brothers George and John Lucas and Ed Seginak. Rich McCoom came in with a one-under 70 giving Sharon a narrow lead.
When the final foursome approached the 18 hole, a par three, it was Youngstown's Bill Liberato who would determine the winner. After hitting two shots he was left with a short but tricky four-foot putt. If he made the putt, he would beat his Warren rival giving Sharon the title, but if he missed, Warren would tie Sharon for the first tie in league history. When his putt dropped into the hole for a par and a score of 72 for the day, the Sharon team celebrated with another victory.
Teams share honors
For the next few years, the league finally achieved parity. From 1968 to 1979, Youngstown won four times, New Castle and Warren each won three while Sharon won twice. It was New Castle's turn to step up as they won 3 out of 6 times from the years 1967 to 1972. They especially played well at their home course, Sylvan Heights.
Though not particularly long, Sylvan Heights required a player to hit a variety of shots that most Ohio players weren't used to. The hilly course along with tricky greens made scoring difficult for the out-of-towners. Players like Gennock and Love could be counted on to break par practically every time they teed it up at the old course.
Many legends over the years played "The Muny" as it was called, including Arnold Palmer and Sam Sneed. After 1972, unbelievably, New Castle won only one more time. Their next victory came in 1993 at Del Mar Golf Course in Ellwood City.
Changes in office
In the early 1970's, John Lucas retired as captain of Sharon, turning over the post to Mickey Alexander. In 1978, Ed Seginak stepped down as secretary-treasurer appointing Frank Bellino Jr. to replace him. One year later, when Gennock became too ill to continue his duties, he stepped down and named Bill Santor to replace him as the league's president.
The captains continued to strengthen their lineups. New Castle acquired John DiMuccio, a Pennsylvania Publinx runner-up, Ron Phares and Jim Grunenwald. Warren, under Joe Campana's leadership, added Rick Banish and Ray Sanfrey while Sharon picked up Denny Dolci, fresh out of the University of Louisville, Nick Dzurinda and Andy Klutcher.
Youngstown picked up Tim Miller, the Kish brothers, Bob and Bill and the Taylor brothers, Jim and Julian. Bob Kish started with Youngstown then switched to Warren. He led the league several times and had many low rounds, the best of which was a record-setting score of 63 at Candywood Golf Course.
In the late 1970's, Youngstown acquired another player that would have a huge impact on the league for the next two decades. His name was Rick Jones.