Pluchinsky, Klekner-Alt repeat as Greatest Golfer champs
POLAND — Mother Nature attempted to impose her will on this year’s Greatest Golfer tournament.
But despite rain and storms that interrupted the first two days of play, the spirit of competition won out in the 14th year of the annual Mahoning Valley celebration of golf and community.
“Mother Nature decided to join Greatest and it really tested us,” organizer Todd Franko said. “The amount of golfers we take on is always a test and other things always bump in, so it was definitely a test on Saturday, as well as Friday a little bit.
“But I think the perseverance of the community has shown for decades. I think when you see an event like this happen, the way it finished today, it just shows that we want to do things special for ourselves and shine when we do and today we shined.”
Despite trailing by three shots entering Sunday’s final round at The Lake Club, Youngstown State product Brandon Pluchinsky showed why he’s definitively become the king of Greatest Golfer. The North Lima native closed out the tournament with a 4-under 66 to come from behind and claim his fifth straight Greatest Golfer crown and seventh overall in the Men’s Open division.
“I think it’s one of the best tournaments of the year that I look forward to playing,” Pluchinsky said. “There’s no better place than Youngstown to play golf. You don’t really realize it. We’re just in Ohio and nobody thinks anything of Youngstown, but we have some of the best golfers in and around Ohio. So it’s awesome to come out here and play every year. I look forward to it and I think that’s why guys come out and look forward to it, because it’s just fun to be out here.”
With three holes to play on Sunday, YSU junior Jake Sylak had maintained his lead and led Pluchinsky and Jonah Karzmer by three shots. Pluchinsky was in the second-to-last group, while Sylak and Karzmer were in the final group.
Sylak and Pluchinsky went back-and-forth for most of the back-nine, but Pluchinsky finished birdie-par-birdie and was the clubhouse leader, putting the pressure on Sylak heading to the par-3 ninth hole, which was playing as the 18th hole.
“I was going bogey-birdie for about eight holes in a row, which was pretty frustrating,” Pluchinsky said. “Jake was telling me he kept looking at the scores and saw it bouncing back-and-forth. I was like, trust me, I wasn’t trying to make it bounce. But I came in and birdied four of the last five.”
Pluchinsky drilled his tee shot on the par-3 to about six feet from the cup, and then capped off his round by making the ensuing birdie putt, which drew an animated fist pump from the seven-time Greatest Golfer champion.
“(On the last), I thought I stuck it pretty close, but nobody cheered up (near the green), so I was nervous it went in the water,” Pluchinsky said. “We got up there and it was like six feet. It wasn’t an easy putt, so it kind of swung in there and ended up making it. I really wanted to make that one.”
On the same hole a few minutes later, Sylak stuck his tee shot to the near fringe and ended up three-putting for bogey, which all but handed Pluchinsky the trophy.
Kiersten Klekner-Alt also pulled out a repeat performance in the Ladies Open division, successfully defending her title from last year.
“Todd and his staff do a great job and I’m obviously really happy that the dates worked out and I could play again this year,” Klekner-Alt said. “I was a little surprised to make the cut. I was really expecting some low scores yesterday at Trumbull (Country Club). But that’s kind of how golf goes sometimes, and I’m glad I could just come out and play my home course (Sunday) and put up a good number.”
Heading into the final round, Klekner-Alt led Katie Rogner by a single shot and through the front-nine on Sunday, maintained a slim advantage over Rogner and Taylor Ross.
But on the back-nine, Klekner-Alt pulled away, shooting a final round 73 to defeat second-place Ross by seven shots.
“(On Saturday), I just went out and took it one stroke at a time,” Klekner-Alt said. “I knew I was four down going in (after Friday), but not being in that group with (first-round leader) Matilyn (Zines), I didn’t know how her day was going. So if anything, it just helped me focus on my own game.
“Then (Sunday) playing with Katie and Taylor, both of them had some really good golf shots, but not a lot of putts were dropping for all of us in the group. But we had a good time, and I just feel fortunate that we were paired up.”
WINNERS (numbers indicate handicap range)
Men’s Open division: Brandon Pluchinsky
Ladies Open division: Kiersten Klekner-Alt
Seniors Open division: Richard Marlowe
Men’s 3-6 division: Victor Daprile II
Men’s 7-9 division: Ryan Dogan
Men’s 10-12 division: Joshua Marsh
Men’s 13-15 division: Jay Moore
Men’s 16-19 division: Matt Giovanini
Men’s 20+ division: Frank Iellio
Seniors 3-6 division: Pat Alcorn
Seniors 7-9 division: Rocco Gennaro
Seniors 10-12 division: Joe Bellino
Seniors 13+ division: Russell Ensley