Pepper Pike: It takes 36 holes of solid golf to win the Mitchell-Haskell Tour Championship.
First, there is very little wiggle room on a demanding course like The Country Club.
“You can shoot 78 out there real quick,” said one veteran Section player.
Second, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are too many players in the field – such as former champions Jim Troy, Randy Dietz and Jaysen Hansen just to name a few — capable of producing an epic round, the round that demolishes the leaderboard and busts open a tight race or turns a tight race into a tighter race.
No one knows this better than Pepper Pike Club head professional and Northern Ohio PGA icon Rob Moss.
Moss, 55, is in a unique position after Monday’s opening round of the 22d version of the event named after the men – long-time Country Club member Coburn Haskell and long-time head professional Joe Mitchell – credited with inventing the modern golf ball.
Moss, one of the most decorated players in the Northern Ohio Section, won the Regular Division of this event in 2012 and 2017. He has never won the Senior Division. He led both after the first round in 2021 but was unable to finish. He is again entered in both divisions. He can become the first player to win both divisions in the same year if he is able to put another sub-par round on the board during Tuesday’s final 18 holes and those around him falter.
Moss’s round, which was bogey-free until the par-5 16th hole, also left him just two shots behind Regular Division leader Michael Balcar, an assistant at Brandywine Country Club.
“I am not even thinking of winning both divisions,” Moss said after his 34-36-70 was 2-under and gave him a one-shot Senior Division lead over Club Walden Director of Golf Mitch Camp (37-34-71) and a 2-shot advantage over Belmont Country Club assistant professional Mike Stone (36-36-72). “When you start thinking like that you’re liable to end up 10th. I never think in those terms.”
PGA of America Life Members Gary Trivisonno (36-37) and Tom Waitrovich (38-35) and 1899 Indoor Golf instructor Tony Adcock (35-38) are three shots behind Moss.
Balcar, the reigning Ohio Open champ and arguably the hottest player in the Section in 2023, leads at 34-34-68.
Optimus Golf co-owner and former Barrington head professional Mark Sierak and Jim Troy, teaching and fitting professional at the Golf Dome and the only three-time winner (2018, 2020, 2021) of this event, are tied for third both at one-under 71.
A whopping six players, including two-time winner and Beechmont head professional Jaysen Hansen, share fifth place in the Regular Division at even-72.
Balcar, fourth in the Toledo Open and runner-up in the Assistant’s Championship to Pepper Pike’s Sean McGuire earlier this month, suffered his only bogey of the day on the 335-yard third hole. He quickly made up for it with the first of his five birdies on the 375-yard fourth.
Successful long-range putts resulted in birdies on the 418-yard sixth and 540-yard 16th highlighted his round.
He made a left-to-right “curling dripper” from 24 feet on six and a 30-foot, right-to-left downhiller that broke five feet on the 16th.
“The putt on six really got my round going,” said Balcar, a Cleveland State graduate. “And the putt on 16 came after a terrible bunker shot.”
While acknowledging that the tournament is anyone’s to win, Balcar was not afraid to speculate what a win would mean to his sparking 2023 season.
“To win the Mitchell-Haskell would cap a great year, no doubt,” he said. “And it would put me with some of the great players that have won it.”
Tuesday’s final round is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. with the leaders scheduled to go off at 11:20 and 11:30. Click here for complete list of Round 2 pairings.
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.