Greatest kickoff

Scramble teams prepare for inaugural golf showdown

By Ryan Buck



Softball finally passed Toni Notaro by. A standout for Kent State in the 1980s, her love for the game and for competition led her into a long stint with a semi-professional club in Conneaut Lake.

By 2000, her career was coming to an end, leaving a large void for someone so driven by any athletic endeavor she pursued.

Golf filled that, she said.

Days were spent at The Salem Golf Club, first learning just how to swing a club. Her softball swing, she said, did not translate to the golf course.

“He built my swing from the ground up,” Notaro said of club professional Mike Shulas.

By 2003, she was immersed in the game. Five years later, she entered her first tournament, then another, and more followed.

Notaro, an administrator with the Mahoning County Mental Health Board, even finished second in her division in last year’s The Vindicator’s Greatest Golfer of the Valley.

On Monday, her scramble foursome will take part in the inaugural Miller 64 Greatest Scramble Challenge benefitting the Animal Welfare Care and Education Center at The Lake Club.

The event features 29 teams who qualified by winning scramble competitions throughout the summer as well as a day with host, PGA pro and Warren native Jason Kokrak.

“Scrambles are a huge part of golf in the Valley,” said Notaro, whose team won the Help Hotline Crisis Center Scramble at Knoll Run Golf Course in June. “This is a neat avenue for a different type of golfer.”

The community’s many golf courses are destinations in the warmer months. Multiple scramble events take place every weekend in the Mahoning Valley.

Extending the Greatest Golfer tournament to add the team element was only natural.

“Folks are really excited,” Notaro said. “It’s one of the greatest things for the Valley. People talk about it.

“It opens up avenues for players who may not feel comfortable playing individual ball. It opens up for a lot more people to participate.”

Notaro’s partners include Larry McCall, Jill Harmon and Tom Korner.

Kokrak’s homecoming is another unique aspect of Monday’s festivities.

In the past two weeks, Kokrak has played in his first major tournament as a professional, the PGA Championship and the Wyndham Championship. After today, the Deutsche Bank Championship awaits him in Boston.

He returns home for a day of golf and socializing with area golfers and fans.

The Miller 64 Greatest Scramble also is paying forward. Champions will be crowned, but the local event has much more in mind.

Key sponsors Superior Beverage, Covelli Enterprises and Farmers National Bank, along with participants, will collectively donate more than $20,000 to each of the 31 charities who lent their name to the qualifying tournaments.

“This year is a continuation of four successful years of a community project,” said The Vindicator editor Todd Franko. “We grow it every year and everyone who has joined us has raised the bar every year.”

The players feel the same way.

“People are looking to play in these qualifiers to benefit the outings and the charities,” Notaro said.

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