Sylak earns another first-place finish; Richard qualifies on third try
By Greg Gulas
Hoping to prove that his personal best round in last Thursday’s Greatest Golfer of the Valley Juniors was no fluke, Jake Sylak of Mineral Ridge decided that duplication might be the best validation of his game.
After settling for runner-up laurels in her first two qualifying events, Blackhawk senior Sierra Richard decided that the third time had better be her charm.
Sylak (36-37) carded a personal and event-best 73 for the second consecutive time out to sit atop the 17U boy’s field, three shots ahead of qualifier Michael Porter (76) of McDonald while Richard (42-37) punched her ticket to the championship round by shooting 79, four shots ahead of Cardinal Mooney’s Jayne Bernard (39-44) during Tuesday’s third GGOV Junior qualifier at Mill Creek Metroparks’ North course.
Rocco Turner of Tippecanoe Country Club fashioned a 77 to earn his spot in the 14U boys’ division while Chloe Leskovac (109) relied on the knowledge of her home course to qualify in 14U girl’s action.
“The key for me the past two times out is my confidence,” Sylak said. “After carding 73 last Thursday at Reserve Run, I finally understood that I can reach the number that I want to. Back-to-back rounds of 73 are my best two back-to-back rounds ever and it’s special because they came in this year’s GGOV qualifiers.
“My ball-striking and short game has been dialed in lately and my putting phenomenal. I take a lot of pride in my putting, knowing that if I can get on the green in regulation then my putting will get me a par or better.”
Porter (38-38), a sophomore at McDonald High School, finished two strokes ahead of Boardman’s Ryan Sam (38-40) with South Range High’s Kaiden Sykes (41-38) and Jake Shingledecker (39-40) of Brookfield tied for fourth at 79.
Porter, who qualified on Tuesday because Sylak previously qualified, posted 11 pars and two birdies during his round.
“My irons were consistent as I was able to hit most of the greens in regulation on the front nine,” said Porter, who said his mindset from the moment he arrived at the course was to qualify. “On the back nine, my irons remained on fire. I got the ball close to the hole and putted extremely well.”
Richard has been a mark of consistency in her three qualifying events, posting a personal best 37 on the back nine where she finished off her round with an eagle. It was the first time that she ever played Mill Creek’s North course.
“I wasn’t hitting the greens on the front nine as I was either short or long,” Richard said. “I putted well on the back nine and hit more greens. For not knowing the course, I was happy with my round.
“Each week, I’ve improved. I’m hitting crisp irons and putting well right now.”
Bernard’s 39 on the front nine tied Madison Horvath — she posted a 39 on the back nine — for the second best nine-hole round on the day.
“My putting was my strong suit today,” Bernard said. “I feel like I could have hit more greens in regulation, but I’m happy with my score.”
Leah Benson (41-44) of Hickory High School was six shots off the lead, having already qualified this past Thursday when she carded 79 at Reserve Run.
“I had too many lip outs for par and too many three-putts, so my putting wasn’t very good today,” Benson said. “For all the rain we’ve had, the course was in tremendous shape, so I’m alright with my score.”
Brian Tolnar, Mill Creek PGA Director of Golf, is pleased to once again be hosting the Greatest juniors.
“Weather-wise, Mother Nature was kind to us today,” Tolnar said. “We’re always happy to be a part of events that give juniors recreational opportunities. Junior golf is definitely on the upswing and we’re happy at Mill Creek to be a part of that resurrection.”
Todd Franko, Vindicator editor, took note of the galleries following today’s field.
“For our third qualifier, I was proud to see scores stay steady and some others come down,” he said. “Especially nice to witness were the galleries, sometimes eight to 12 people strong following the golfers.”
The fourth junior qualifier is set for July 9 at Salem Hills Golf and Country Club.
Tee-off is 11 a.m.