AURORA: For three of the winners in the 39th annual Kenny Novak/Northern Ohio Junior Tour Championship, the first time was the charm. For Aurora’s Chris Pollak, the second time was even more charming.
A stellar opening round gave Pollak plenty of breathing room he really didn’t need but paved the way to his second straight victory in the weather-delayed 39th Kenny Novak/Northern Ohio PGA Championship on Wednesday at Club Walden.
Pollak, a sophomore at Archbishop Hoban, shot the lowest round of the tournament when he opened with a 5-under 67 on Tuesday, good for a 6-shot lead in the Boys 15-18 age group.
That enabled the 15-year-old to win with a closing uncharacteristic 76 for a two-day total of 1-under 143 and an eventual 7-stroke victory.
“I just tried to stick to my own game plan, not worry about the results and stay in the present,” Pollak said about playing with such a comfortable lead. “You still have to go out and play, regardless.”
Pollak won the 11-15 age-group last year but decided to compete against the older group this time around.
Dover’s Carter Bogue (80-70) and Westlake’s Sion Park (73-77) shared second place at 6-over 150 and Akron’s Braden Herstitch finished fourth at 79-72–151.
An integral part of Hoban’s runner-up finish in last fall’s Division I state tournament – he was eighth in the individual scoring – Pollak not only beat the field. He also beat a strong case of an extra dose of adrenalin and the rain storm that suspended play for 70 minutes around 3 p.m.
The final group had not been off the course for more than five minutes when a torrential downpour pelted Walden. The Boys 11-15 and Girls 16-19 groups were in the opening stages of their final rounds when the rains hit.
“I would say the biggest difference between the two rounds is that on Tuesday I was more carefree and today I just had a lot more adrenalin,” Pollock said. “On the second hole I had a little 6-footer (for birdie) and blasted it way past. A lot more adrenalin today.”
He calmed down on the 491-yard, par-5 with a PGA Tour-like drive of 316 yards and went on to two-putt from about 30 feet for a tap-in birdie.
That was his lone birdie of the day but no one able to mount any threat and he was home free.
“To win here for the second time really feels great,” he said. ‘It’s very special to go back-to-back. I love Walden and I have been working extremely hard to play well and it’s nice see the hard work paying off. To win back-to-back means a lot.”
Three others won Kenny Novak titles in their first attempts, as Ajay Morris, of Cortland cruised to the Boys 11-15 title, Siena Maschke, of Cleveland, rallied to win the Girls 16-19 title and Dixon Hill, of Waite Hill rolled to a 10-stroke win in the Girls 11-15 group.
Morris, 15, turned a two-shot lead into a 9-shot victory with a second-round 4-under 68 for a 36-hole total of 6-under 138 with a scorching closing nine that included five birdies, including three straight to start his final nine holes.
The Morris family owns homes in Cortland – his father is a Warren native – and Avondale, Az. He said the family spends the winters in Arizona but returns to Ohio every summer.
After opening with seven pars through his first nine holes — he began on the 10th hole – Morris got as hot as the Arizona sun over his final 10 holes and won by nine shots.
A birdie on the 18th kick-started a stretch in which he birdied four holes in a five-hole stretch. He made an 8-footer on the second, two-putted from 20 feet on the par-5 third and drilled in a 25-footer on the fourth.
Following his only bogey on his inward nine on the 435-yard fifth, Morris closed his round with birdies on the seventh and ninth with putts of five and six feet.
Charlie Pollock, of Moreland Hills, finished second with rounds of 72-75 and Shaker Heights’ Ethan Roberts was third at 73-75. The 75s were the lowest rounds on the day in that age group.
Maschke, a junior at Laurel School, was two shots behind to start the day at 4-over 76, but shot 79 while those in front of her struggled. Her 155 (11-over) total, highlighted by six consecutive pars to finish the day, was enough to edge Solon’s Kaitlin Kormuth (78-78) by one shot. Hill, a sophomore at Hathaway Brown, also was impressive with rounds of 71-72 for a one-under 143 and a 10-shot victory over Alyssa Zhang, of Allison Park, Pa., (76-77).
Tim is a Contributing Writer for the Northern Ohio PGA. Award-winning golf writer and sports reporter for the Plain Dealer, now retired. Contributor to the Akron Beacon Journal, Canton Repository, AP, other national publications.