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Golfers make final push

BOARDMAN — Dean Austalosh and Scott Porter each carded 68, two strokes ahead of Brandon Pluchinsky and Griffin Todd to share Friday’s opening round McCammon-Hunt Insurance Agency, Inc. men’s open division lead at the 11th annual Farmer’s National Bank Greatest Golfer tournament at Mill Creek Golf Course.

Geno Bellato and Ed Secco posted identical rounds of 72 to share the lead in the PARC Appliance Repair Seniors 60-plus open division while Bob Leonard, a five-time Greatest champion, is the leader in the New York Life Insurance Legends 70-plus open division after carding 71.

Austalosh, a redshirt freshman on the YSU golf team, was playing in his second Greatest event after finishing third on two separate occasions in Juniors play.

“I didn’t play well last year, so to have this type of round makes me feel like my practice is paying off,” Austalosh said. “Overall, driving was my best attribute today. The greens were tough, but I was able to drive my first and second shots to an area where I had a good look at the green.

“(Today), as long as I put my ball in the fairway and two-putt consistently, then I should be all right.”

Porter, who is playing in his 10th Greatest event and has finished third on two occasions, is no stranger to sharing the first-round lead, having done so with Joey Cilone in 2018 when each carded 69s in opening-round action.

“I had my putter working today with five birdies. It’s the three bogeys that kind of hurt as I look back on my round,” said Porter, who hails from Canfield and earned three letters as a member of the Kent State University golf team. “I thought that Mill Creek was in the best shape ever, and I’ve lived here my whole life.

“I just need to relax, keep my putter rolling and hope that’s enough to get me to the finals. Once you get to Sunday’s final round, anything can happen.”

Bellato, whose home course is Youngstown Country Club, is a two-time defending champion and three-time winner, having also won in 2016.

“The course was in great shape. They did a great job because the fairways and greens were beautiful today,” Bellato said. “I just played OK, made a double bogey on one and played par the rest of the way.

“I’ll probably need to shoot between 71-74 to get to Sunday. This age group grew up golfing, so it’s definitely going to be an excellent competition.”

For Seeco, who has played in all 11 Greatest events, it’s his first time in the lead heading to second-round action.

“Everything was working for me today, but my putting presented the biggest challenge,” Seeco said. “I didn’t three-putt any hole but had five putts that lipped out. I struck the ball well, irons were good, but I couldn’t get one to fall for birdie. I either misread the green or didn’t hit the ball hard enough.

“This is a great competition because after the Greatest, I go to the World Amateurs, which is held at the end of August in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I’ll always play this event because it’s good for the Valley, but it’s also my tune up for later this month.”

Leonard, who also has a runner-up finish on his Greatest resume, is another in the 290-player field who has played in all 11 tourneys.

“The greens were fairly decent, but the pin placement gave you some reason to think out your putting,” Leonard said. “My putting and driving were both good as I only got in trouble twice where it cost me a stroke.

“I had three birdies but should have had more. I just need to play good (today), so I can get to Sunday, and in order to do so, I must keep the high numbers off my scorecard.”

Katie Rogner, an industrial engineer with General Motors in Parma who played collegiately for head coach Roseann Schwartz at YSU, won Greatest titles in 2012, 2014 and 2017.

She carded 81, six strokes better than Jill Harmon to sit atop the Elias CPA Group Ladies net.

“It was great to be back and competing once again in the Greatest,” Rogner said. “I do this once a year, the ladies are great, highly competitive and the course was in perfect condition.

“After today, one thing I will need to do (today) is focus on my tempo. Today, I was a little antsy so I just need to take my time and relax because the scores are all right there. Everyone, I’m sure, will bring their ‘A’ game with the hope of advancing to Sunday’s final round.”

In Stifel Nicolaus men’s 3-6 action, Jimmy Linert and Jordan Rogers are the leaders after each shot 74 while in the Exodus Industrial men 7-9 division, Mark McDuff is the leader after authoring a 76 with Jack Ferreri one shot off the pace.

Nelson Toles and Carmine Petrillo both carded 78 to share the lead in the Jim and Ellen Tressel men’s 10-12 division while Jay Moore and Phil Eubank, who each carded 77, share the lead in the 3-Sons Insurance Agency, Inc. men’s 13+ division.

John Beard and Dave Tabak, each of whom carded 72, share the lead in the BG Trucking Seniors 7-12 division, Chuck Montgomery’s 75 is five strokes better than John Cullen and Raymond Vershum in Cole Valley Cadillac Legends 8+ action while Tim Russo, Joe Canann, Jr. and Robert Chenet each carded 84 to set the pace in then Ed and Kim Nappi Seniors 13+ division.

At age 59, Jim DiMuzio was arguably the feel-good story of the opening round.

DiMuzio, a 1979 Chaney High School graduate who is the owner of Koncrete Dezign, was diagnosed with two 90 percent blockages and had two stents inserted on Monday, yet was able to play in Friday’s opening round, carding a 42 on the front nine.

“I had back pain last week and thought that I had pulled a muscle,” DiMuzio noted. “I golfed last Saturday but dropped out after four holes then worked on Sunday. On Sunday night I went to the emergency room and that’s when I was diagnosed with the blockages.”

Finals are set for Sunday at the Lake Club in Poland.

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