Nadya Stratton of Boardman tries to make a putt on the 16th hole at a Greatest Junior Golfer of the Valley qualifier on June 9 at Mohawk Trails in New Castle. Diamond Backs will host the girls in another qualifier this morning.
By Ryan Buck
After previous stops in four surrounding counties in Ohio and Pennsylvania, The Vindicator’s Greatest Golfer of the Valley juniors competition presented by Farmers National Bank will finally tee it up in Mahoning County this week.
Diamond Back Golf Course will host the girls event today and the boys will compete Thursday.
This marks the fifth of six qualifying events for the athletes. Each are vying for one of the top two scores in their respective age groups to earn invitations to the July 21st final round at Trumbull Country Club.
Diamond Back owner and golf director Brian Snyder, a Canfield-Ellsworth native and veteran golf coach, is looking forward to staging the family-oriented event again.
“I think the biggest things are, number one, you’re bringing new players into the game, potential customers hopefully down the road and, two, you’re bringing the family with them,” he said. “People are excited to come and watch their juniors play. Give them a nice tournament format, which this tournament provides, and it stirs a lot of interest.”
Since Snyder’s family bought and expanded the facility on Leffingwell Road in 1994, the course has become a community golf destination.
“It’s an enjoyable business,” he explained. “It’s nice that we’ve got a great clientele with our leagues and a lot of familiar faces that come in weekly and support us and we’re very grateful for that.”
Snyder oversees everything from course maintenance to restaurant operations, but it’s the time he spent with his youth golfers that he enjoys most.
“At this point we’ve really tried to take some strides here the last couple years and grow the game, get new players interested and get golf back as good family recreation time,” he said.
In addition to his youth clinics, the facility also hosts the Diamond Back High School Invitational every August which sees upwards of 100 golfers take on the course’s unique, rural setting.
Golfers won’t find a course layout quite like the 53-year-old Diamondback in the area, much to Snyder’s approval.
“We’ve got a lot of natural terrain, natural changes in elevation,” Snyder says of the former farmland. “It’s a little unique. The front nine has its own character; you’re out around where it’s a little more open. The middle part of the course combines a mixture of challenging shots with the water hazards. The beginning and the end are tree-lined.
“Then you go to the back nine where you get a lot of change in elevation, especially the finishing holes 14 through 18. You just don’t see, right in the area, that natural change in elevation in the shots.”
All golfers in the 12-14 and 15-17 year-old age groups in The Vindicator’s five-county coverage area are eligible to compete. Play begins at 8 a.m. Call Diamond Back Golf Course may be reached at (330) 533-0350.
Boys’ registrations go through Tuesday. For tournament information and coverage, check out vindy.com/golf and on Twitter @vindygreatest.