KARZMER: Favorite topics take spotlight on 19th hole

It’s hard to believe, but Greatest 9.0 is upon us. I swear just yesterday I was writing about the golf world going “home” to Augusta National for the Masters. Hard to believe that was already four months ago.

As we approach what is typically my last column of the season, I wanted to touch on a few of my favorite topics from the past year. And as normal, bring up some important stories I missed.

For me, locally, my favorite story was about Gianna Clemente, a world champion for the second time when she won the IMG Academy Junior World Championship this summer.

At age 10.

Having grown up with her father and uncle, I knew she came from a skilled golfing family. But world champion?

It was great catching up with her father, Patrick, via phone and text conversations for the first piece. Even better was getting this text a few weeks later:

“How about winning both world championships within 30 days!”

That’s correct, a few weeks ago Gia posted 67-63 in Pinehurst to win the “other” major championship for 10 year olds, the 2018 U.S. Kids World Championship. Watching Gia progress should be fun for our Valley for years to come.

On a national scene, and I feel really bad for Brooks Koepka for even saying this, but my two biggest memories will be ... Tiger and Phil.

No one moves the needle for our sport like Tiger. Golfers pay attention when Tiger’s not in contention. The world watches when Tiger’s there. It’s better for our sport when Big Cat is in it. And I never thought I’d say this again, but I think there’s an honest chance Tiger will win another Major. If that happens, golf could get really interesting again for 5-10 years as he chases down Jack Nicklaus’ magic number of 18.

And then there’s Phil. More of a side story than anything, I’ll remember Phil’s mindless “ball in motion” incident at the U.S. Open. And the golf world going nuts right after. He’s since apologized. And I never thought it was as “severe” of an infraction as others made it out to sound. But for good or bad, it was a story I’ll remember for a while.

On the “missed” front, I still feel like I need to do a better job highlighting real people and places within our Valley.

Brian Tolnar and his team at Mill Creek continue to impress the heck out of me and a lot of the people I talk to within the area.

Golf course improvements.

The AJGA event.

Increased activities for families and juniors.

Etc. Etc. Etc.

Brian, you guys deserve a full two weeks worth of columns. I promise to do better in 2019. But congrats on everything and keep up the great work!

And how about the younger golfers from our area?

Jacinta Pikunas, who I witness practice longer and harder than I ever did, had a phenomenal freshman year at Akron. Having played in the MAC while at Kent State, I remember how special the MAC Freshman Golfer of the Year Award was and is. Jacinta won that title this past year. Congrats Jacinta! And good luck this upcoming season.

This upcoming season sees a number of area high school golfers entering the college golf scene. Four of my fellow Boardman Spartans are about to start their college golf careers: Terlesky, Kordupel, Kreps and Vivo. I don’t have stats to back this up, but I don’t remember this many D1 players from our area since the 1997-2000 years back when I played. I didn’t do a good job getting out and highlighting these young men and women. Hopefully next year I’ll do better.

And of course, we have to touch on this weekend’s Greatest Golfer of the Valley — Version 9.0. I remember sitting at the table for “conversation 1” about 10 years ago. I thought it was a good idea. But I didn’t see what we have now as what it would become. Todd Franko and his team continue to impress. And I can say firsthand that their devotion to this event is unending.

This weekend proves to be another exciting event (series of events really) with over 275 players competing over 3 days. If you’re playing, good luck! If you’ve come out in the past to watch, come again. And if you’re on the fence, just get up and come watch some (hopefully) good golf from our area’s best golfers.

Greatest truly has become our area’s “major.” I’m so proud of my involvement, however limited, with the event. I’m proud to be a past champion of the Pete Mollica Open Division. And I’m as excited as ever to get out and play this weekend.

Lastly, I just want to say a final thank you to everyone who finds this column each Sunday. I can’t tell you how many comments/texts/emails I get throughout the year. Every. Single. One ... means so much to me. Thank you.

So here’s a final nod to the 2018 season and an optimistic look ahead for 2019. Good luck to the participants this weekend! Here’s to health and happiness over what’s hopefully a short offseason. And to appease some of my friends who give me a hard time for dropping this saying a few years ago ...

Until then, “Hit ‘em Straight!”

Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a Sunday golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at Jonah@thekarzmerinsurance.com.

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