Brandon Pluchinsky overtakes Jonah Karzmer
for another Open title
By Greg Gulas
A humbled Brandon Pluchinsky started his final round two shots behind two-time open champion Jonah Karzmer — and not wanting to repeat his 2016 finals start.
Don’t bogey his first hole and stay in the hunt.
Stay in the hunt he did as he birdied the hole, setting the tone for the rest of his round as he carded 71 to capture his second consecutive Pete Mollica Open Division title in the eighth annual Farmers National Bank Greatest Golfer of the Valley tournament at The Lake Club.
“You knew that the course would play tough [Sunday],” the former Youngstown State links star said. “I was able to keep my ball in play the entire round and that was big.”
Karzmer (70-64-78–212), who won championships in 2013 and again in 2015, shot a 64 on Saturday at Oak Tree, one stroke off the course record to take a two-stroke lead over Pluchinsky (66-70-71–207) heading to the final round Sunday.
He finished runner-up after a registering 78 on the day.
“I just didn’t feel like I had my golf swing today,” Karzmer said. “I was up a couple with six holes to play, took a seven on No. 13 while he had a three. It was a four-shot swing and that was it. Brandon played well, never got in trouble and earned the win.”
Finishing third was Scotty Jones (68-72-73–213), a stroke behind Karzmer.
Like Pluchinsky, Katie Rogner (79-75-74–228) is a former YSU golf standout and with her win Sunday, is also a two-time champion, having won back in 2014.
Finishing runner-up was former YSU teammate Angela Molaskey (79-78-85–242)
“My putts weren’t falling for me the first two days. But [Sunday] they were. I have my dad [Jeff] to thank for that. He served as my caddie and helped me read the greens,” Rogner said. “I know what a great player Angela is so I knew that it would be tough. It just came down to putting for me.”
In Men’s 5-8 action, Vinny Gala (78-79-73–230) entered the final round two-strokes behind leader Dylan Todd (76-79-82–237), shooting 73 to win by eight strokes over Todd.
“This is my sixth Greatest event, but only the third time that I have made it to the final day. So to win it all is a very special feeling,” he said. “You hear over and over about what you have to do in order to stay in the hunt, well today I did that. There were a lot of excellent players in my group, so I couldn’t afford to let my guard down.”
The only playoff of the tournament took place in the Men’s 9-13 division with Mark Standohar’s (81-77-81–239) par on the first hole good enough to defeat James LaPolla (79-81-79–239) and Matt May (79-80-80– 239).
LaPolla took second over May in scorecard playoff.
“I had a double bogey to fall into a three-way playoff, so it meant a lot just be able to regroup and win,” Standohar said.
In the Ladies 9-plus division, Toni Notaro (77-72-86– 235) won by 15 strokes over Greatest veteran Joan Ash (85-86-79–250), who started the day six strokes behind runner-up Abby Cook (84-81-90–255).
Notaro, the 2013 Ladies Open Division champion, has had to weather two elbow surgeries, which shelved her for the last 20 months and had only been playing for 10 weeks heading into this year’s event.
“I owe my return to Dr. Leslie Schwendeman because he told me that he would get me back, and he did. He’s absolutely awesome,” Notaro said.
“I am blessed with friends and family who have supported me throughout this process. This trophy is for all of them.”
Hunter Todd (85-79-85–249) led by three strokes over Corey Susany entering the day in Men’s 13-16 action, and watched as John Rudolph (86-84-85– 252) cut his lead to two before holding on for a three-shot victory.
“I try not to look at the scoreboard and I just took everyone’s advice to stay relaxed and have fun,” he said. “I left my driver in the bag because I was more comfortable with my 3-wood.”
Paul Marovich (80-82-88– 250) was two shots better than Jay Moore (82-79-92–252) in the Men’s 17-plus division while Geno Bellatto (73-75-77–225) defended his title in the Men’s Senior Open division.
“I’ve played in all eight Greatest tournaments and made the finals that first year, but didn’t place,” Marovich said. “Today, I pitched really well and that probably saved me.”
Bellatto won by two strokes over Frank Santisi (71-73-83— 227), who entered the day with a one-stroke lead over third-place finisher Robert Gintert (71-74-83–228).
“I didn’t have my ‘A’ game today, but then nobody did,” Bellatto said. “The course played hard, the pins were in tough places and I actually played better yesterday. I didn’t make many putts today, struggled at times but didn’t have any double bogeys.”
The final two divisions had Donald Ferko Jr. (75-80-77–232) winning the Senior 10-plus by 17 strokes in his first Greatest event while Bob Leonard (72-70-72–214) won the Super Seniors division by 13 shots.
“I felt like I did everything well today,” Ferko Jr. said. “The greens were a challenge, but very true. The camaraderie among us today was awesome and my only regret is the fact that I didn’t play sooner.”
It was Leonard’s third championship. He also won the first Seniors event in 2010 and again in 2012.
“I’m playing good at the right time, plus I didn’t hit too many bad shots today,” Leonard said. “The greens were tricky and fast if above the hole, so you needed to stay below the hole, which I was able to do for the most part.”
A total of 306 golfers took part in this year’s competition, the second-largest field ever.
“It’s fun every year to celebrate at least one week of great golf in our area,” said Ed Muransky, president of The Lake Club. “There are so many great courses and golfers in the area, I’m just glad that The Lake Club has been in from day one and hosting the finals once again.”