By Tom Williams
The 2011 Greatest Golfer of the Valley lives in Boardman and has strong ties to the Youngstown State University golf program.
So does the runner-up.
In fact, Anthony Conn (the winner) and Josh Zarlenga (the runner-up after Sunday’s one-hole playoff in the Pete Mollica Open Division) are roommates. Even better, Zarlenga asked tournament officials to have Conn placed on the waiting list for the three-day tournament.
“He was a late entry,” said Zarlenga, a certified public accountant with Hill, Barth & King who played for YSU from 2001-05.
How does he feel now about his decision to help his friend?
“Terrible,” Zarlenga said with a laugh. “Seriously, Anthony is a great player. I actually begged to make room for him because I knew that he would be worthy of being here.
“If I have to lose, I’d rather lose to one of my best friends.”
Conn began Sunday’s play at The Lake Club a stroke behind Zarlenga, Greg Cook of Girard and Scott Porter of Canfield.
He fell further behind very quickly.
“I started off poorly today — a bogey double,” said Conn who is preparing for his senior season with the Penguins. “I started the back nine the same way.”
All play for the day started off the No. 10 tee and finished on the No. 9 hole. Conn said his play improved dramatically on the final four holes.
“I started hitting the ball a lot better and felt really good,” Conn said.
About the long No. 6 hole, Conn said, “I had two really good shots on the Par 5 — driver and 9 iron. The eagle chip was right on the lip.
“Whenever you have easy birdies like that, it always takes the pressure off,” said Conn, who played ahead of the threesome of Zarlenga, Cook and Porter. “It kind of calmed me down, I felt like I didn’t have to do anything [extraordinary].”
Midway through Sunday’s first 18 holes, Cook surged for a three-stroke lead over Porter and Zarlenga, whose putting struggles prompted him to ask the gallery if anyone had a sledgehammer he could borrow.
Good thing they didn’t.
Before the final hole, Zarlenga and Cook were tied, with Porter a stroke behind. Watching was Conn who was a stroke ahead.
Zarlenga, who was told he needed a birdie to forge a tie, hit what he called “probably the best shot of my life” as the ball just missed the flag, rolled by the edge of the hole and stopped about a foot away.
“When I saw his ball land, I thought he had aced it to beat me,” Conn said. “It ran right over the lip for a hole-in-one. That would have been pretty sweet if he had made a hole-in-one.”
Cook said he was unaware that he trailed Conn before his final tee shot.
“I wish I would have known, but I knew where Zarlenga sat,” Cook said. “I tried to put a good one on [the green] but I just got a little too much of it. It was right over the flag, but too deep.”
Cook’s shot landed about 25 feet past the hole and his downhill putt for birdie was a little wide right.
“This was fun, I just wish I could have played a little better,” Cook said. “But that’s golf. It’s fun, though.”
Conn and Zarlenga returned to the No. 9 tee for the sudden-death playoff. This time, Zarlenga’s luck expired as he shot the ball past the green off to the right. Conn’s shot landed on the edge of the green,
Zarlenga’s chip shot went past the hole to the edge and his birdie attempt missed to the right. Conn’s birdie attempt stopped about two feet away from the hole. He sank that to win.
“I wish I could have hit it a little bit better the second time,” Zarlenga said of his playoff tee shot.
Cook finished in third, a stroke behind the 222 recorded by Conn and Zarlenga.
Despite hitting water on his final hole, Porter made par when his chip shot went in to put him in a three-way tie for fourth with his brother Mike and Dick Marlowe. Mike Porter was the 2010 tournament winner.
Other winners in three-day tournament were: Katie Rogner, women; Michael Watson, men’s division 2, Bill Stanton, men’s division 3; Phillip Roudebush, men’s division 4; Tom Walker, seniors; and Ed Antonelli, super seniors.
Rogner started Sunday’s round with a 13-stroke lead.
“It hurt and it helped,” said Rogner of the advantage. “The first hole, I tripled — I don’t know if it was nerves or just not being familiar with this course.
“But it helped, too, because I had more relaxed rounds.”
Rogner defeated Joan Ash, the 2010 winner, by 18 strokes.
Antonelli repeated as super seniors champion after overcoming a two-stroke deficit at the start. His deficit to Ralph Roberts actually grew to five.
“I came from way behind,” said Antonelli of his rough start on the first two holes. “It’s a marathon, I just kept plugging away, trying to make pars.”
The tournament was hosted by The Vindicator and Farmers National Bank.
Competition was at Mill Creek South and Reserve Run on Friday and Youngstown Country Club and Trumbull Country Club on Saturday.
Greatest Golfer || News and Notes
Go Penguins: Youngstown State University golfer Anthony Conn wasn’t the only Penguin to win on Sunday. Katie Rogner, a four-year golfer for YSU, won the women’s division by shooting a 74 for a 218. She finished 18 strokes ahead of Joan Ash, the 2010 women’s winner. Today, Rogner begins her final semester for her industrial engineering degree. She’s happy that YSU faculty will be in the classrooms after a strike was called off on Thursday. “I was ecstatic,” said Rogner of how she felt when the strike threat ended. “I don’t want to have to go any longer [than necessary].”
Pipino remembered: Flags at The Lake Club were lowered to half-staff in honor of Donald Pipino, the former owner of the Fonderlac Country Club. Pipino, 83, died on Friday. Years ago, Pipino sold the course to club members. The course was renamed The Lake Club when Pipino’s son-in-law Ed Muransky purchased it.
Super repeat: Ed Antonelli, who repeated as super seniors winner, said the Lake Club is a “very, very tricky golf course to play when you have no knowledge of it. But this golf course is beautiful.” Antonelli trailed Ralph Roberts by five strokes before a surge. Roberts said he began pressing when his lead started evaporating.
Special shot: Scott Porter of Canfield finished with a 224, two strokes behind Conn and Josh Zarlenga. But he needed a special shot to finish fourth with his older brother, Mike, and Dick Marlowe. On his final hole, Scott Porter’s tee shot missed the green and hit a hazard. With the gallery watching, he chipped the ball into the hole. “I was just struggling all day long and to chip that in and get that reaction from everybody was nice.” Porter knew he had a lot of eyes on him as he swung. “But I thought they were more there for the guys who were leading. It was just nice to end the day on a good note.” Porter’s shot came just after Josh Zarlenga came close to aceing the Par 3 No. 9 hole. His one-foot putt for birdie forced the playoff. “It was close,” Zarlenga said. “It was a great birdie to tie — there’s nothing like that.”
Windy conditions: Greg Cook, who finished in third, said Sunday’s wind made a difference. “It was a lot tougher [but] I don’t think it mattered to me so much because I was punching out so much. But it was tougher.”