Last week I wrote a column about doing more to help grow the Youngstown State University men’s and women’s golf programs.
I can tell you from the number and the quality of the responses that I received that Valley golfers are ready to do more. I don’t yet know the first step of the process, but I do know that once the “ball gets rolling,” there will be local support.
So with last week’s thought wrapped up, it’s now that time of year to take one week and actually recognize what has led to this increased golf coverage over the last several years — this week is year four for The Vindicator’s Greatest Golfer of the Valley Tournament.
Yes, I know we hear about it throughout the year. But do we really take the time to actually think about just how far this concept has come in only four years?
Three years ago, I remember Vindicator editor Todd Franko being ecstatic about the 90-plus players who came out and competed in Greatest 1.0.
Greatest has been Todd’s baby from day one, but there were a handful of others around the original roundtable: Dennis Miller from Mill Creek; myself; Ted Suffolk from The Vindicator; John Diana from Trumbull Country Club; and Michael Ferranti (head professional) and Ed Muransky (owner) from The Lake Club.
From the beginning, the goal was simple — with a title like “Greatest,” the tournament had to be the best amateur tournament in the Valley.
Now don’t get me wrong — there really weren’t a lot of other tournaments available for amateur Valley golfers.
But that didn’t automatically mean Greatest was going to be a success.
First off, the tournament needed to make sense financially for The Vindicator. I don’t really have anything to do with that side of things, so I’ll just say that from the initial sponsors to the sponsors today, Todd and his team at the Vindy have done a great job working with Muransky and The Lake Club, Farmers National Bank, Superior Beverage, Covelli Enterprises and a number of other sponsors to make sure the tournament continues to make “financial sense.”
More so than financials, Todd really leaned on us at the roundtable for operational suggestions. What needed to happen to make the players want to compete year after year?
I don’t know that we ever actually put things down on paper, but there were three key points;
1.The tournament had to be competitive; we needed to specifically reach out to the area’s best golfers.
2. The tournament had to be professionally run; we needed those best golfers to feel like they were playing in something professionally run and worth wanting to win.
3. The tournament had to be a good value for all participants.
Over the course of that first summer, I don’t even know how many e-mails and phone calls, and meetings there were trying to make sure everything went perfectly.
In the end, we had 90-plus players compete.
It was a great value for the $100 entry fee.
The tournament was well run.
And when Michael Porter edged Dick Marlowe for the inaugural open division title, it was evident this tournament would grow moving forward.
Now let’s fast forward just three short years. This year saw more than 400 junior rounds over six qualifying tournaments and a final championship event.
This year will see the addition of the Miller 64 scramble: — a four-person event that actually brought together 30 local charities, 30 different winning foursomes, a number of additional sponsors and local PGA Tour player Jason Kokrak.
And Greatest 4.0 will culminate next weekend when 300-plus golfers compete across eight divisions for the chance to call themselves The Valley’s Greatest Golfer.
It’s been quite a thing to watch the tournament grow over the last three years.
I’m proud to have been involved with the tournament in my own small way.
I’m proud to get to talk about it throughout the year.
I’m proud to be a competitor this week.
And just like everyone else in the field, if I happen to play my best and sneak past a few of the heavy favorites out there (Morrow, Porter, Porter, Marlowe, Marlowe, Milton, Allen, Zarlenga), I’d be very proud to be the champion of a tournament like “The Greatest.”
So to all the competitors, thank you for playing this week and good luck!
Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a Sunday golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance for Huntington Insurance and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at firstname.lastname@example.org