Brandon Pluchinsky has lead entering the finals

By Greg Gulas

While Brandon Pluchinsky continues his “sub-par” play in the Pete Mollica Men’s Open Division, Joan Ash has slowly and methodically asserted herself in the Ladies 9+ Division of the seventh annual Farmers National Bank Greatest Golfer of the Valley tournament.

Pluchinsky shot a 1-under 71 Saturday to forge a three-shot lead over Joey Cilone and an eight-stroke margin over Scott Porter. Ash’s 76 enabled her to open a 14-stroke lead over both Marilyn Woods and Patty Brant.

Both rounds were registered at Avalon Lakes Golf & Country Club. The finals are today at The Lake Club in Poland.

Pluchinsky, now 5-under for the tournament, had four birdies and three bogeys in the second round.

“I was hitting the ball pretty good on both the front and back nine, but got a bad break on No. 18,” he said. “I’m pleased overall, though, especially at being 5-under for the tournament.”

While this is Pluchinsky’s first time playing in the Open Division, he did play in the Junior event in 2011 and is excited to advance to today’s final.

“I’ve played The Lake Club on several occasions and it is a very challenging course,” he said. “It’s a quirkier, shorter course and you had better keep your ball in play. The goal remains the same though, and that is to hit the ball straight and make sure you hit the greens. If that happens, then I should be all right.”

Ash, a retired Latin teacher from Boardman High School, has advanced to the finals all seven years now, winning the Open Division in 2011 and the 9+ division last year.

“I hit more greens today, simply because it wasn’t as windy,” she said. “An extra 10 yards today with a roll meant the difference between me hitting a wood or an iron.”

Ash’s round included just 29 putts, noting that her short game was also working for her.

“My overall goal has always been to get to Sunday because that’s the payoff. You want it to be a fun, three-day event because everything else is gravy,” Ash said. “God willing, once a year I get to play The Lake Club and have now made it all seven years, so that’s a special feeling.”

YSU’s Mia Barchetti shot 76 for a 151 through 36 holes and now leads Ariel Witmer-Adams — she carded an 82 Saturday — by eight strokes in the Ladies Open Division.

In Seniors Open play, Geno Belatto holds a five-stroke lead over Jim Lessick. In Men’s Senior 10+ action, Pete Bennett’s 156 is two shots better than Friday’s leader, Don Newell Sr., and four shots on top of Steve Sofocleous.

Bellato, a former YSU letterwinner under the late Bill Carson, is no stranger to The Lake Club.

“I’ve been golfing since I was 12 years old and have played The Lake Club dating back to when I was 16 years old and it was Fonderlac Country Club, so I’m really excited about advancing to Sunday,” he said.

This is Belatto’s first Greatest competition.

“I’ve been putting well and keeping the ball in the fairway,” he said. “The No. 10 hole is a par-4 and a very hard hole, so posting an eagle there really helped.”

In Men’s 5-8 play, Brad Barringer (72-78—150) continues to lead Andy Demofonte (73-79—152) and Daniel LaPolla (73-80—153). In Men’s 9-12 action, Matt May and Carmine Petrillo are tied at 159 for the top spot with Peter Margiotta two strokes off the pace and Allan Pavalko three shots back.

John Scarsella continues to blaze a trail in the Super Seniors, shooting 72 for 146 total through 36 holes which leads Gary Woods by seven strokes and Dominic Vecchiarelli by 10 shots.

Fred Fisher carries an eight-stroke lead into today’s final in the Men’s 13-16 Division. John Elias (84-85—169) carrying a seven-stroke advantage over Lance Price (86-90—176) in Men’s 17+ play.

Nick Dinsmore, Avalon Lakes’ general manager of golf, was pleased to be hosting a Greatest Golfer of the Valley adult round.

“We’ve hosted the Juniors on three separate occasions, but this turned into an absolutely fantastic first time for us and we want very much this relationship to continue,” Dinsmore said.

“It’s nice to get such quality players from the area and Mahoning Valley at Avalon.”

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