MEDINA, Ohio: For Michael Balcar it was a blistering first round.
For Darin de Lelys is was a sterling second.
That was the formula those players used over 36 holes to prevail in the Northern Ohio PGA Assistant Professional Championship at a windy Weymouth Club on Tuesday.
Balcar opened with a sizzling 6-under 66. de Lelys closed with a tidy 2-under 70 topping the field of 25 and earning trips to the 45th National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship, to be held on the Wanamaker Course at the PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla., in November.
Bowling Green State University Head Golf Coach John Powers (73-71—144), The Country Club Assistant Golf Professional Collin Slattery (72-73—145) and Sean McGuire (76-71—147) Assistant Golf Professional at The Pepper Pike Club earned alternate spots.
Balcar, a Toledo native and Assistant Golf Professional at Brandywine Country Club, finished tied for second in this event last year but made sure he was going to improve on that in the morning round.
The 28-year-old birdied two of his first three holes and six of his first 11 and added seven consecutive pars to close while playing bogey-free for a 6-under 66 and a 5-shot lead after the first 18.
“I’ve been putting in a lot of work lately,” said Balcar, who played on three Division I regional qualifying teams before graduating from Cleveland State in 2016. “I struggled earlier in the year so it was good to see results coming from all the work.”
Balcar credited caddie and long-time friend Justin Crotin for part of success.
“He gave me good reads all day long,” Balcar said. “I think I didn’t listen to him three times and I missed every one of them. So, I took his advice highly today.”
Balcar’s great start began on the first hole when he made a five-footer for birdie.
“Hit it right in the heart and it set to tone for a good rest of the day,” he said. He followed with seven-footer two holes later.
“The first two got me into a good rhythm,” said Balcar.
A six-footer and a two-putt from 10 feet, including a must-make comebacker, on the 514-yard eighth hole got him to four-under.
The binge continued on the back when he nearly holed his second shot on the 555-yard 10th.
“It skimmed the left edge,” he said of his 3-wood. He completed his birdie binge on the 11th by making a 20-footer.
“Again, I took Justin’s read and from 23 feet it went right in the back of the hole,” he said.
With a five-shot lead at the half-way point, Balcar’s game plan became fairways and greens.
“At first I didn’t want to look at the leaderboard,” he said after posting a one-over 73 for a 5-under 139 total. “I just wanted to play my own game. I assumed I would be close to the top if not leading. There were some good players out there. But with a five-shot lead we decided to just play for the middle of the green and let the putter do the work and we did that real well. I just made a couple goof-ups on the second 18.”
That included a bogey/double-bogey finish, offset with two earlier birdies coming out of the break.
“I tried to do something special and hook a pitching wedge and I think I looked up even before I stopped my backswing,” he explained.
de Lelys, a Florida native and Assistant Golf Professional at Westfield Country Club, opened with a one-over 73 but knocked three shots off his second round to post the best round of the second 18 and the second-best round of the tournament.
His second round was solidified by 11 consecutive pars after a birdie/bogey start. It was highlighted by a 20-foot birdie putt on the closing hole.
His opening round began with great promise as he made three straight birdies on holes 6-7-8 to get to 4-under. He cruised into the second nine before a round-changing two holes saw his red numbers turn to black.
He bogeyed the par-3 12th and followed with a triple-bogey on the 13th.
“I hit the ball well in both rounds,” said de Lelys, a Florida Gulf Coast graduate. “Two bad swings cost me a bunch of strokes.”
Not enough to cost him a trip to his native state in November and a national event.
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.