By Greg Gulas
The Greatest Golfer
POLAND – Brandon Pluchinsky is no stranger to the Greatest Golfer winners circle.
Sunday, down the stretch, he was on the outside looking in.
YSU golfer Bryan Kordupel was heading a talented pack of Men’s Open golfers coming to the final hole Sunday of the 11th Annual Farmers National Bank Greatest Golfer tournament at The Lake Club.
At the last hole, Kordupel (70-74-69) bogeyed, opening the door for Pluchinsky (70-72-71) to tie the match and send it to overtime in front of a 150-person gallery.
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On the extra hole for the McCamon-Hunt Insurance Agency division title, Kordupel drew cheers with a tee shot on the par 3 No. 9 that landed 10 feet from the pin.
Pluchinsky followed that with a shot of his own that landed 3 feet from the pin — and led to a birdie win.
“I hit my first shot to the middle of the green but pulled it a little,” Pluchinsky said. “I wanted to get a little aggressive,” he said of his fourth title in the five years, and the second time that he has gone back-to-back, having previously done so in 2016 and again in 2017.
“It really feels good to win, especially with this field. This field had a lot of former champions and young guys like Bryan, who will win this championship in the future.”
Kordupel, a Boardman High School graduate who is heading into his junior year at YSU, shot a day’s best 69 to force the extra hole.
Past champion, Jonah Karzmer (72-73-69), also carded 69 and finished with 214, a shot back.
“I tried to play a draw up the middle on my tee shot,” Kordupel added. “The first time I came out of my shot a little short. On my putt, it was uphill so I wanted get enough speed on it, but misread the cup.”
Canfield’s Cynthia Stackhouse, who was playing in her first ever Greatest competition and was the leader heading into Sunday’s final round, carded 70 to win the Elias CPA Group Ladies net title, nine strokes ahead of runner-up Katie Rogner and third-place finisher Kathie Barratt, who carded 80.
“I pulled a muscle in my right arm at Avalon Lakes on Saturday and taped it before playing the front nine,” Stackhouse stated. “It bothered me, so I took it off for the back nine holes.
“I didn’t hit the ball as far as I normally do because of my shoulder. But my putting was good today. Holes No. 1 and 18 were bad. But the others were good to me. Hopefully I’ll be back next year to defend my championship.”
In the PARC Appliance Repair Seniors 60-plus open division, Ed Seeco (72-69-72) finished with 213 — two strokes ahead of runner-up Dick Marlowe and third-place finisher Geno Bellato.
For Seeco, who has played in all 11 Greatests, it was his first championship after finishing third in 2013.
“It was a combination of good shots and grinding it out,” noted Seeco. “This was a good threesome to play with. We each had our mishaps and good saves and stayed the course. It’s 18 holes, not just three or four.”
Bob Leonard (71-75-79) won his sixth Greatest championship – carding 225, eight strokes ahead of both Tim Porter (75-79-79) and Rocco Gennaro (76-82-75) to win the New York Life Insurance Legends 70-plus open division. Porter finished runner-up after a scorecard playoff.
“My game plan today was just to try and shoot good golf. But the greens were a real challenge,” Leonard said. “They were much faster than I thought.”
“I missed some short putts that lipped out, knowing that I had to keep any big numbers off the board and I was able to do that.”
In Stifel Nicolaus men’s 3-6 competition, Jimmy Linert, carded 70 to win his first crown after finishing third a year ago.
He finished two strokes ahead of Vinny Gala and four shots in front of Jordan Rogers.
“I was nervous starting off,” he added. “I was two strokes behind but registered an eagle on No. 7. That was a pretty emotional time for me. I was knocking in my five- and six-foot putts and while driving is usually my strength, it definitely helped because I was pretty much in play all day.”
Matt May’s 76 was two strokes better than runner-up Jon Saadey and three strokes ahead of Mark McDuff as he captured the Exodus Industrial men’s 7-9 division.
“I just tried my best to get over the nerves. I was shaking on every tee box,” stated May, who hails from New Waterford. “I was able to keep it together and just kept grinding. Sometimes bogeys aren’t that bad, especially on a challenging course like the Lake Club. My driving kept me in play, and I was hitting it deep today.”
In the Cole Valley Cadillac Legends 8+ division, Don Sicafuse’s 79 was a shot better than Chuck Montgomery and four strokes in front of Raymond Vershum.
For Sicafuse, who has also played in all 11 Greatest events, it was his first win.
“I had just one par at Mill Creek on Friday, but found my tempo on Saturday at Avalon Lakes to make the cut,” Sicafuse noted. “I’m elated, but I’m already a winner because I got to play the finals and with all of these great golfers.”
In the Ellen and Jim Tressel men’s 10-12 division crown, Cody Vocature’s 79 topped Matt DiLoretto by a stroke with Fred Fisher two strokes back, taking advantage of his first finals appearance to win.
“It’s a surreal feeling,” the Boardman High graduate said. “My irons and chipping bailed me out all day. Putting was tough because of the greens speed but I birdied 18 to give me 79 and the win.”
Corey Susany, also a BHS alum, fashioned an 83 to finish a stroke ahead of both Mark Brown, Jr. and Tom Couche as he took home the hardware in the 3-Sons Insurance Agency, Inc. men’s 13+ division. Brown, Jr. finished second after the scorecard playoff.
“My game plan was to try and shoot 85 because I haven’t shot under 90 at the Lake Club yet,” Susany added. “I was down five strokes after six holes but played solid after that. My putting was great. I had nine pars.”
Steve Sofocleous, a Campbell Memorial graduate who owns Plaza Auto Sales, carded 83 to win the BG Trucking Seniors 7-12 division.
It was his first Greatest title in eight tries with Dave Tabak and Joseph Bettura each carding 84 to tie for second-place. Tabak was awarded runner-up laurels after the scorecard play-off.
“My goal was to try and not fall apart,” Sofocleous stated. “I won the Senior Club Championship here last week so it’s special to be able to add another championship to my summer.
“I had seven pars on the front and shot a 37, which set the tone for me. After the turn, I had back-to-back double bogeys on No. 11 and 12 but was able to survive that.”
Reid Lamport authored an 88 to capture the Ed and Kim Nappi Seniors 13+ division, a stroke in front of Robert Chenet and 11 strokes ahead of William Taneri.
“There were just three of us so it became like match play,” noted Lamport, who won his first Greatest title. “I was down five after five holes, but battled back. I had a lot of fun and it was a real blast for a hacker like me. It’s a blessing to be playing on these great courses.”
A total of 290 golfers participated in this year’s tournament. All scores are on thegreatestgolfer.com.