By Greg Gulas
Ryan Monahan might want to give serious thought about heading to his nearest Ohio Lottery kiosk and playing 324 for the next several days.
Felicia Ciotola-Drevna should probably look in her dream book as well to see what number best represents a back-to-back champion while Rocco Gennaro, who seems to be an ageless golfer, might want to consider using that same dream book just to see what number best represents an inaugural title.
A self-proclaimer basketball junkie who hails from Pittsburgh, Monahan moved to Boardman a year ago and was taking part in his first ever Panera Greatest Long Drive Championship.
Monahan delivered a 324-yard drive on his fifth and final shot in the semifinal round to earn the final qualifying spot in the men’s division. He followed that up a 324-yard laser on his third shot in the finals to earn top honors over Boardman’s Scott Hoff (321) and Columbiana’s Jared Wilson (315).
“This was the first time that I have ever participated in the longest drive competition and my goal was not to embarrass myself too much,” Monahan said. “There was so much pressure on everyone in the first-round, just making it to the finals kind of eased up on the pressure so we could actually enjoy the finals.
“It seems as though the magical number for me was 324, but I just look at it as a mark of consistency. Everyone seemed to be a lot looser during that final round. I know I was.”
In the preliminary round, Monahan started off with a 270-yard drive, failed to place his next three drives on the grid but on his final attempt cashed in with a 324-yard effort.
Hoff’s first three drives in the preliminary round failed to make the grid and so did his fifth and final attempt, but his 327-yard effort on his fourth try was all that was needed to win the qualifying round.
He also failed to place his first three finals attempts on the grid, but finished with a 321-yard effort on his fourth and final attempt to finish as runner-up.
“I thought that I hit my last ball on the screws, but that was not the case tonight,” Hoff stated. “I brought my oldest son, Caiden, with me because he is my good luck charm. I played in Monday’s scramble, will tee it up again on Friday and you see some of the same faces along the way. It really has been a fun time thus far.”
Wilson is a Columbiana High School product who will be heading to Wake Forest University on Tuesday where he will be a part of the Demon Deacons’ golf team.
“This is my last event before I leave for college on Tuesday and while I had never done this event before, it was a lot of fun,” Wilson said. “My second-round wasn’t as clean as I had hoped it would be, but despite coming up short I enjoyed the competition. I didn’t catch the ball like I had hoped to catch it.”
Wilson’s first and third shots in the finals failed to register, but his second effort was a 315-yard rocket and his final attempt came in at 310 yards.
Ciotola-Drevna and her partner, Lauren Martauz, won Wednesday’s Board Certified GI Ladies two-person low net championship and now, Ciotola-Drevna can call herself a back-to-back longest drive champion.
Her 240-yard effort was 10 yards better than Angela Molaskey’s 230-yard effort.
“I felt good out there today and was just hoping to put one in play,” said Ciotola-Drevna, a former Canfield High School and Youngstown State golfer. “After I was able to put one on the grid, it was just grip it and hit it from there. It was fun to be back and just as much fun to be able to defend last year’s championship.”
Molaskey is a Poland native who said her nerves also needed to be calmed.
“I was nervous and excited while just about every emotion was running through me since that first shot,” Molaskey noted. “I had a blast and was able to calm down once my nerves ran their course.”
In the inaugural senior’s event, Boardman’s Rocco Gennaro bested Canfield’s Bob Leonard, 269-266 yards.
Gennaro placed just one of his five drives on the grid, his fourth attempt but it proved to be enough as he captured his inaugural championship on his initial attempt.
“I tried to fade as the wind was blowing left to right,” Gennaro said. “The wind died down and everything was going left except for that last ball. I am blessed to be in good health and thankful to be able participate in such a beautiful event.”
Like Ciotola-Drevna, all Leonard wanted to do was place a couple drives on the grid.
“I was just concentrating on getting one or two balls on the grid and cannot thank Todd Franko enough for such a beautiful event,” Leonard said.
Franko, The Vindicator editor, played host to six seniors, two ladies participants and 20 men’s division hopefuls.
“Today was a big hit and we seem to grow it every year. It’s consistent with our players,” Franko said. “It was great to add Chris Carfangia, golf pro at Pine Lakes and his Trackman to this year’s event and we are pleased to be a part of this event.”
Michael Spiech has served as Tippecanoe Country Club golf pro for the past 15 years and will once again pay host to this year’s field on Saturday.
“This event just keeps growing every year and even our membership enjoys the competition,” Spiech added. “On Saturday we will host the open division, lower handicappers and ladies and this year we will have 80 golfers set to tee off. Kudos to superintendent Jerry Cox because he will have the greens in perfect, fast, smooth but most if all, fair condition.”
The 54-hole Farmers National Bank Greatest Golfer of the Valley tournament begins today with over 300 golfers set to tee off at Mill Creek Golf Course.