By Ryan Buck
Sam Snead set the course record Fitch’s Shushok shoots 80 to win GGOV qualifierof 65 strokes there in 1949.
Before he was famous enough to win 95 professional golf tournaments and lend his name to a delicious summer refreshment, an 18-year-old Arnold Palmer was humbled by its infamous par-3 14th.
Tam O’Shanter of Pennsylvania has seen its share of history.
Friday morning, a small army of talented area golfers took their swings at the Western Pennsylvania institution in search of qualification for the finals of The Vindicator’s third annual Greatest Golfer of the Valley presented by Farmers National Bank.
Eight juniors navigated Tam O’Shanter’s narrow, tree-lined fairways and unforgiving green-side rough to earn top-two finishes and qualify for the July 28th final round.
Austintown Fitch sophomore Joseph Shushok narrowly cleared the Boys 15-17 year-old field with a score of 80 for a one-stroke win.
The number two-man on Fitch’s varsity squad, Shushok claimed a spot atop the leader board that had eluded him thus far this summer.
“I’ve come in third place the last few times so it feels pretty good to finally get in the top two,” said Shushok, who narrowly missed at the Mohawk and Salem events.
“It helps me in a situation where I need to make a putt or need to make a shot so I don’t get nervous or blow it.”
Shushok’s calculated risk-taking served him well once he felt confident with his driver.
“I got off the tee well today. If I get off the tee well, I shoot pretty well,” Shushok said. “The course is in good shape and I like the soft greens that I can attack more pins.”
United’s Bradley Miller and Western Reserve’s Nolan Snyder needed an extra hole to decide the second qualifier after both carded matching 81s.
Miller, the Inter Tri-County League champion last season, had experienced the pressure of a one-hole playoff before.
“I played in a playoff last year for our district championship and won that one, so it was kind of a neat experience,” Miller said.
On Tam O’Shanter’s 275-yard No. 1 hole, Miller and Snyder both pulled their drives into the left rough with difficult looks at the green.
“He [Snyder] tried to punch out, but didn’t quite get it out,” Miller said. “So we were both at about the same spot, but I had him by one stroke. I played it for the center of the green and we both had about 20 feet. I was putting for birdie and he was for par.”
Miller safely putted for bogey and took Snyder by one stroke to break the tie.
The Hanoverton native almost missed Friday’s qualifier, thinking the venue was another course of the same name. A fortunate family decision enabled him to make the trip across the Pennsylvania border instead.
“We thought it was a different course,” Miller laughed. “There’s one in Canton which is closer to my place. We called and found out it was here. We called Wednesday afternoon so it was kind of interesting.”
In the Girls 15-17 year-old group, Grove City’s Fontaine McFeaters joined previous qualifiers Kerra Loomis and Rachel Williamson in the Greatest Golfer final round with a trio of 85s. Abigail Hearns, younger sister of 2012 champion Rosy, captured the second spot with a score of 88.
Joey Vitali and Marshall Huddleston earned spots in the Boys 12-14 year-old group with a 91 and a 94, respectively.
Emily Koehler shot a 102 and Emily Marcavish shot a 115 to qualify in the Girls 12-14 year-old division.
The final round of the Greatest Golfer juniors competition will take place July 28th at Trumbull Country Club.
The next qualifying events will take place Monday July 1 for the girls and Tuesday July 2 for the boys groups. For all tournament information see the Vindicator’s daily print edition and at vindy.com/golf.