Colbert, Williamson among first group
of Greatest junior qualifiers
By Brandon judeh
A windy, fall-like afternoon was the backdrop for the opening junior qualifier of the Greatest Golfer of the Valley presented by Farmers National Bank.
Forty-four players battled the breeze Saturday at Pine Lakes Golf Club and it was Billy 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, along with four second-place finishers, advance to the Greatest championship July 28 at Trumbull Country Club in Warren.
Colbert of Hermitage, Pa., took the 15-17 top spot with a 2-over par 74.
“I did a great job with my putting. My long game could have been better though,” Colbert said.
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,” McQuown said. “I played a lot better on the back nine, though.”
Things were even more exciting in the girls 15-17 division as it had the most participants of any division, along with two previous Greatest champions.
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-wracking waiting to see if I’m going to qualify or not. But I just have to wait it out and see what happens,” Cooper said.
After Williamson’s scorecard was counted, it revealed a 79, good enough for the top spot.
Cooper was awarded second over Loomis in a scorecard tiebreaker.
“I thought I was going to be done early on because I had a four-putt on seven,” Williamson said. “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,” she said. “I was very nervous during the event and shot a 100, which is pretty bad. So now I want to do better than 100.”
Past Greatest winners 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.
The Vindicator’s 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 on 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 Tour player Jason Kokrak.