Greatest-best 67 gives Ridge junior third straight title
By Greg Gulas
Jake Sylak of Mineral Ridge is literally on fire.
The Rams’ junior carded a personal and Greatest Golfer of the Valley Junior-best 67 for his third consecutive 17-U win, beating runner-up Kaiden Sykes (34-35—69) by two strokes Tuesday at Salem County Club.
Sylak’s round included five birdies and 13 pars as he became a back-to-back-to-back winner in qualifying events this summer.
“I am playing the best golf of my career right now,” Sylak said. “Everything with my game is clicking right now. I’m working very hard to fix whatever needs fixed. I feel very capable of putting up good numbers, just needing to work hard on the little things because today was a testament of the hard work that I have put in.”
Jayne Bernard (40-39) won her second girls 17-U qualifying event with a 79, seven strokes ahead of Leah Benson (45-41) who carded 86.
Hubbard’s Jackie Adler earned the day’s finals pass by carding an 87 (44-43). Bernard and Benson has already qualified.
Caleb Domitrovich carded 71 (35-36) to qualify in boys 14-U action, eight strokes ahead of previous qualifiers Bryce Daggett (38-41) and Rocco Turner (39-40).
In 14-U girls, Alexandra Petrochko’s 75 (35-40) was four strokes ahead of McKenzie Gustas (35-44), a qualifier at Pine Lakes Golf Course in the opening week.
A sophomore at South Range High School, Sykes’ 69 marks the second time in as many weeks that he has produced a career-best round.
“I shot 69 at Geneva last week and feel like I am playing a lot better overall the past few weeks,” Sykes said. “I carded 79 at Mill Creek’s North Course the last time out so I’ll gladly take a 10-stroke improvement. “I had no three-putts and hit 14 or 15 greens, which was the key to my round today. I was pleased with my drives, my irons were good and I was satisfied with my putting.”
Brookfield’s Jake Shingledecker (36-36) finished third by shooting a par 72 to finish five strokes off the pace.
“Despite the challenging weather we’ve had recently, the course was in great shape,” he said. “My entire game was on, I just wish that I would have been better off the tee and made a few more putts.”
Bernard (40-39), who will be a junior at Cardinal Mooney in the fall, was the only 17-U girl to crack 80.
“I was pleased with my drives on both the front and back nine and really kicked it up a notch with my putting on the back nine,” Bernard said. “Winning two of this year’s four qualifiers is a special feeling.”
But Adler earned a finals bid.
“I cannot tell you how excited I am because today was a good day for me.” Adler said. “I was pleased with my drives off the tee and happy that I was able to par four consecutive holes on the back nine.”
Madison Horvath (45-44) finished fourth by posting 89.
In 14-U boys action, McDonald freshman Domitrovich shot a career-best 71,
“I was pleased with my ball striking and consistency,” he said. “Solid putting was also key and while I feel like I am peaking at the right time, I can still work on some areas so that I can get better.”
With 14-U girls runner-up Gustas (79) and fourth-place finisher Chloe Leskovac (112) already qualified, Petrochko (35-40) took advantage of a solid front nine to punch her finals ticket with a 75.
“This was arguably my best round of golf and that’s the reason I am pleased with not just today’s round, but to have qualified for the finals,” Petrochko said. “My irons, chipping and putting got better and the round progressed so I was very happy with my play today.”
Salem Hills golf pro Ben Broderick is in his 20th season with the course.
“We’ve played host to the Greatest Juniors the past four years and I hope this can continue for years to come,” Broderick said. “We were blessed today with good weather and we’re just excited to be a part of something so very special for the youth of the Mahoning Valley. This is a great promotion for the course, the area and our youths who have come to really enjoy the game.”
The fifth junior qualifier is set for 9 a.m. Thursday at Tam O’Shanter Golf Course in Hermitage, Pa.