By Brandon Judeh
A windy fall-like afternoon was the backdrop for Saturday's opening junior qualifier of the Greatest Golfer of the Valley presented by Farmers National Bank.
More than 40 players battled the breeze at Pine Lakes Golf Club in Hubbard, and it was Bill Colbert and Rachel Williamson taking top honors in the 15-17 age division, and Cole Christman and Hannah Keffler winning the 12-14 division.
They, and four second-placers, advance to the Greatest championship July 28 at Trumbull Country Club.
Colbert of Hermitage took the 15-17 top spot with a two-over par 74.
“I did a great job with my putting. My long game could have been better though,” said Colbert.
Despite the self-criticism, Colbert was three strokes better than Poland’s Jason McQuown, who needed to go down to the 18th hole to beat Donavan Ray.
McQuown’s 77 proved to be enough as Ray finished one shot behind him.
“I had to adjust a little because it was so windy and the ball wasn’t going as far, especially on the first few holes,” said McQuown. “I played a lot better on the back nine though.”
Things were even more exciting in the girls 15-17-year-old division as it had the most participants of any division, along with two previous Greatest champs.
Williamson was in the last group of the day as the tension built in the clubhouse.
Kerra Loomis and Christina Cooper, both of Canfield High School, were tied for the lead with 80s.
“It’s a little nerve-racking waiting to see if I’m going to qualify or not. But I just have to wait it out and see what happens,” said Cooper.
After Williamson’s card was counted, it revealed a 79, good enough for the top spot.
Cooper was awarded second over Loomis by way of a tiebreaker.
“I thought I was going to be done early on because I had a four-putt on seven,” said Williamson. “I was able to get back on track on the back nine though, and I hit a couple of birdies to gain some momentum back.”
The result was a career best 18-hole outing for Williamson.
“My goal at Trumbull Country Club is to do better than last year. I was very nervous during the event and shot a 100, which is pretty bad. So now I want to do better than 100,” added Williamson.
Past Greatest champs Jacinta Pikunas (2011) and Kaylee Neumeister (2012) finished behind Loomis with 82s.
In the 12-14 age divisions, Cole Christman bested Ken Keller by one stroke, 82 to 83, to take the first qualifier spot. Keller earns a bid to Trumbull, too.
In the 12-14 girls bracket, Hannah Keffler carded an 89 to win the division. Kaci Carpenter and Emily Koehler dueled for the second qualifier post. Carpenter’s 97 outlasted Koehler’s 100.
Greatest Golfer is in its fourth year. The next junior qualifying event will be June 8 at Mohawk Trails with four other events to follow in June and July.
For more information on this and the Adult divisions, which play in August, visit vindy.com/golf.
The next Greatest event is the Miller 64 Greatest Scramble team qualifier next Friday to benefit Help Hotline. Win that event, and you earn an invite to the Greatest Scramble finals Aug. 19 at The Lake Club hosted by PGA’er Jason Kokrak.
Below are the final scores for the Greatest Golfer of the Valley junior qualifier Saturday at Pine Lakes Golf Club. The “q” indicates they have qualified for the Greatest junior finals July 28 at Trumbull Country Club.
Greatest Golfer is presented by Farmers National Bank and The Vindicator.
BOYS 15 -17
q-Billy Colbert 74
q-Jason McQuown 77
Donavan ray 78
Nolan Snyder 83
Joe Shushok 85
Joseph Lucci 88
Brian Velasquez 91
Bryce Saunders 91
Charles Loomis 92
Matthew Daprile 94
Daniel Martin 99
Jacob Stefko 102
GIRLS 15 - 17
q-Rachel Williamson 79
q-Christina Cooper 80
Kerra Loomis 80
Jacinta Pikunas 82
Kaylee Neumeister 82
Michele Whiteleather 82
Melinda Hannon 83
Alexis Cadle 86
Cait Butler 88
Mary Hunt 95
Alexa Tringhese 96
Nadya Stratton 96
LeeAnn Maruna 100
Sarah Brindley 105
Christian Dama 112
Alexis Tribby 123
Hanna Senediak 140
GIRLS 12 - 14
q-Hannah Keffler 89
q-Kaci Carpenter 97
Emily Koehler 100
BOYS 12 - 14
q-Cole Christman 82
q-Ken Keller 83
Zach Jacobson 86
Joey Vitali 86
Keegan Butler 93
Bobby Jonda 96
Andrew Williamson 97
Joey Stefko 103
Max Franko 118
Christopher Economus 120
Anthony Lefoer 122
Zavier Bokan 126