Breitenstine’s Second Straight 64 gives him 3-shot lead in the Ohio Open

Westfield Center: We have a college graduate student and a college golf coach.

We have a PGA Head Golf Professional who also happens to be a former tournament champion and we have a long-time professional who also happens to be a former Big Ten champion.

If the top of the leaderboard of the 102nd Ohio Open conducted by the Northern Ohio Section of the PGA of America doesn’t reflect what an Open championship signifies – a championship open to all — then a golf ball doesn’t have dimples.

We even have a high school senior and don’t that beat all? Or does it? Let’s not forget that Jack Nicklaus won the 1956 Ohio Open when he was 16.

When the final round of the Open begins on Wednesday with 73 of the original 286 original starters still standing, Kent State graduate student Cade Breitenstine has a three-shot lead over Brandywine PGA Assistant Golf Professional Michael Balcar and Wittenberg University assistant coach Nick Carlson.

Breitenstine, from Green, shot a near-flawless second straight 6-under 64 and leads at 12-under 128, the lowest 36-hole score since the Open returned to Westfield in 2013.

Balcar, a Cleveland State graduate and winner of the NOPGA’s 2022 Assistants Championship, shares second place with Carlson, a Michigan grad who just completed his first year as right-hand man to head coach Dave Wetterich at Wittenberg.

Both men trail by three after posting identical rounds of 66-65 and a two-day total of 9-under 131.

Not to be outdone by his elders, Stow’s Jack Vojtko, who will be a senior at Archbishop Hoban in the fall, stands alone in fourth place at 7-under 133. The Ohio State commit added a 66 to an opening 67.

Tied for fifth are Kevin Hall (69-65) and 2017 Ohio Open champion Chase Wilson (66-68) at 6-under 134.
The next closest player sits at 3-under and there are seven players at 2-under.

Hall, from Cincinnati, is a great story. He is deaf and became the first Black to play at Ohio State. He won medalist honors in the 2004 Big Ten championship and was inducted into the African American Golfers Hall of Fame in 2022. And, a more personable person you’ll never meet. Wilson, who won the 2017 Open when it was played at Weymouth and Fox Meadow, and is a perennial contender.

Breitenstine, Balcar, Vojtko and Hall played their second rounds on the links-style North course. Carlson and Wilson played on the South.

Everyone returns to the South Course for today’s final round.

Breitenstine got off to a roaring start with birdies on two of his first three holes and four on his first seven.

“I think that was a big factor,” said Breitenstine, who is enrolled in an accelerated masters program in finance and has one more year of eligibility on the golf team. “I think getting off to a good start is always important, especially in the second round of a 54-hole event.”

He was never in serious trouble, keeping the ball in the fairway and out of the North’s penal fescue. He made birdie putts of 12 feet, eight feet and two from 10 feet and was in cruise control.

He bogeyed the 424-yard ninth to slip back to 9-under, only his second bogey in 36 holes but got it back three holes later with another 10-footer.

“On each 18 holes there are what we call green-yellow-red,” he said. “It’s a mental thing. Green means you can be a little more aggressive. Yellow means you have to use caution and red means you’d better stop and think about it.”

Birdies on two of the North’s three par-5s on the back nine got him to 12-under. On the 552-yard 14th he was in the middle of the fairway with 200 yards to the pin. He pulled his second shot but still was just 35 feet from the hole and two-putted.
On the 577-yard 16th he had 248 yards to the green and 3-iron second shot rolled off the back. He cozied a touchy putt to three feet and made it. He played the final two holes in regulation to set himself up for a possible win.

“Winning here would mean a lot,” he said. “I mean to win your state championship against a field like this would be a major accomplishment.”

Balcar, from Toledo, played his final nine holes in 4-under 32 to keep himself in contention, reeling off three birdies in a row on holes 13 through 15 and adding another on the 604-yard closing hole.

“I did a great job of keeping myself in the present,” he said. “That was my goal. No matter if you get excited or disappointed over a shot you have to keep yourself in the present.”

His back nine started by dropping a wedge from 106 yards to five feet on the 10th. An 18-footer on the 176-yard 13th game after playing partner Mike Auterson rolled in a 50-footer.

“Mike’s putt kind of got me going,” he said.

Balcar, 30, unleashed what he called a monster drive on the 552-yard 14th and a 6-iron from 200 yards reached the back fringe, from where he two-putted to get to 8-under. His birdie on the 192-yard 15th was a 5-iron to five feet and another big tee ball and a chip to 10 feet closed it out. He looks at winning the Open the way most people do.

“It’s an opportunity to do something great,” he said.

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.