Pennsylvania’s Swan siblings
at home at Mill Creek Golf Course
By Greg Gulas
Sisters Lydia and Anna Swan of North East, Pa., seem to have a stranglehold on their respective divisions at the annual Drive, Chip and Putt local qualifying event.
Six-year-old Elijah Stewart of East Liverpool is hoping he can forge his own legacy after winning his division on his inaugural attempt.
A total of 51 entries — 31 boys and 20 girls — took part Monday in the fifth annual event at Mill Creek Park’s North Course with 24 players now set to advance to sub-regional action at the Westfield Country Club in Westfield Center on Aug. 5.
Lydia Swan advanced to her fourth consecutive sub-regional after capturing the girls 14-15 division, posting 121 points which was 33 points better than Sophia Yurich (88 points) of Poland and 36 points ahead of third-place qualifier Hailey Logan (85 points) of Austintown.
Lydia Swan was tops in chipping (50 points), tied for second in putting (55 points) and finished runner-up in the drive (16 points) competition.
“Chipping was definitely the best part of my game today,” she said. “It was slow uphill and straight. Scores don’t lie and chipping scores for everyone today in my division were all very good.”
Dominic Kapics of Austintown was tops in the boys 14-15 division with 150 points, edging runner-up Charlie Mort of Alliance (146 points) and East Liverpool’s Nathan Kelly, who placed third with 123 points.
Kapics was tops in the drive (53 points) while tying for second in both the chip (50 points) and putt (47 points) competitions.
Swan’s sister, Anna, copped girls 12-13 division honors with 143 points while Alexandra Petrochko of Hermitage, Pa., was runner-up (120 points) and Alliance’s Zoe Mort the third-place qualifier with 111 points.
Swan, a seventh grader who is home schooled like her sister, captured the chip (60 points) and putt (55 points) competitions, finishing second in the drive (28 points).
“I was a little nervous with my putting because the greens were slower than usual uphill. I had to hit my ball harder than normal,” she said. “It was the same with chipping.”
Rocco Turner, who will enter seventh grade this fall at St. Charles School, captured top honors in the boys 12-13 division with 105 points, outdistancing runner-up Landen Cameron (92 points) of East Liverpool and third-place qualifier Michael Garwacki (54 points) of North Lima.
Turner captured the drive (34 points) and putt (45 points), but finished second (26 points) in chipping.
It was his fourth competition and the second time that he has advanced to sub-regional play, also qualifying in 2016.
“I play about 10 tournaments in the summer and enjoy every single one, but this is one of my favorites because it is so competitive,” Turner said.
Alex Eckstein, a fifth-grader at Holy Family, won the boys 10-11 division while Katie Pregibon, a fifth-grader at St. Charles School was the girl’s 10-11 champion.
Eckstein’s 109 points — he was tops with 65 points in putting, second in the drive with 18 points and finished third in the chip with 26 points — was 22 points better than runner-up Angelo Rinaldi of Poland and 28 points ahead of third-place qualifier Braeden Sallee of Youngstown.
“My goal was to place every putt as close as possible to the cup,” Eckstein said. “I wanted to be consistent and with my 30 foot attempt, I was just trying to get it on the grid.”
Pregibon’s 99 points included top scores in the drive (21 points), chip (28 points) and putt (50 points) while Ava Lewandowski of Chagrin Falls finished runner-up with 33 points and will also advance to sub-regional action.
This marks the third consecutive year that Pregibon has advanced out of the local qualifying event.
“I did my best today with the putting portion,” Pregibon said. “The greens were wet and I like them dry, so I had to make an adjustment and it worked out for me.”
Stewart’s 92 points easily outdistanced Ambrose Sergi of Niles and Youngstown’s Camryn Sallee, each of whom registered 59 points with the tie-breaker going to Sergi.
“I love to play and practice and am really excited to move on to the next competition,” said Stewart, who produced top efforts in both the chip (40 points) and drive (16 points) in the boys 7-9 division.
Stewart recently won the Cleveland U.S. Kids Golf Tour championship and qualified for the Junior World Championships in August in Pinehurst, N.C.
Francesca Buchmann, a fourth grader at Boardman’s West Boulevard Elementary School, captured the drive (2 points), chip (40 points) and putt (31 points) competitions.
“On a scale of 10 in terms of excitement, I’m a 10 right now,” Buchmann said. “It was a lot easier to read the greens than I originally thought.”
Jim Wise is the Northern Ohio Drive, Chip and Putt director.
“Mill Creek Park is the best host site that we have and it’s because of their staff and volunteers,” he said. “They welcome juniors and help them enjoy the game of golf. This is a great program because it is sponsored by the USGA, Masters and PGA. The kids get excited and it is no cost to them. It’s incredible seeing their faces and how happy they are when they compete.”