Sunday, April 22, 2018

Introducing three Greatest families

Published: 6/30/13 @ 12:00

By Todd Franko (Contact)

We’re halfway through our fourth summer of Greatest Golfer of the Valley presented by Farmers National Bank, and I’d like to introduce you to three examples of the most rewarding part of the program.

Over the four years, the vigor of competition has been fun.

And that’s been demonstrated yet again this summer with more juniors playing Greatest than last year, adult registrations outpacing last year’s 252 golfers, and the advent of the Miller 64 Greatest Scramble Challenge on Aug. 19 with its all-out team-stacking that is ongoing for that event.

Yes — the Valley comes out for a good scrap.

But additionally, the Valley comes out for good camaraderie.

The union of human spirit within competition has been a hallmark of four years of Greatest. I should count the calls we get from new players who share that one of the reasons they’re signing up is the great time had by their friends who played the year before.

Next week, we’ll showcase our third in a series of commercials and online videos that highlight that human part of Greatest.

The first commercial and video set highlighted Dom and Tony Vechiarelli, and Dom’s granddaughter, Christina Cooper. The second highlighted Dan Horacek, Youngstown teacher, Fitch grad and lifelong cerebral palsy citizen.

Our third will highlight the Cook family of Girard.

In all three sets, you get as good a measure of what Greatest is about when it’s not about scoring.

Dom and Tony are classic Valley Italian brothers: passionate about family, food and competition. To hear the two of them talk and see their eyes gleam over the old days, you can sense a West Federal Street packed outside McKelvey’s, a pot of sauce on a stove simmering and ready for the eight boys playing football on a South Side street.

Their earliest memories of year-round football games in the neighborhood parlayed into competitive years as YSU footballers. And after football, that competitive spirit carried over into golf, and also into their many children and now grandchildren, one of whom is Christina, who has qualified to win our third junior Greatest title July 28.

Already a Greatest champ is Horacek.

In sports, he was never a champ once in his life. Around the sixth grade, his pronounced limp pretty much took him out of real competition with the other kids. He accepted it, and it seeded a resilience that came full circle last year on his 18th hole at The Lake Club:

A champion 32 years in the making.

As he tells the story, he sank his final putt, placed the putter in his bag and cried. He gave the ball to his mom, and she cried, and Dad cried, as did the Dan entourage.

If Dom and Tony are classic, and Dan is cherished, the Cooks of Girard are just fun — and a handful.

The best golfer in the family is son, Greg — a scratch golfer whose attire is more for driving a jackhammer than driving balls. He’s joined on the links by dad Rod and sisters Abby and Christina.

It was Rod who claimed the family’s first Greatest title last year — and would not let the family address him any other way than “G-GOV.”

And that’s just a glimpse of life with the Cooks.

And it’s also a glimpse of what has made the Greatest a special way to spend the summer.

All of the above stories are on Check them out today.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes e-mails about stories and our newspaper. E-mail him at He blogs, too, on Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.

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