CANTON: A few members of the Northern Ohio Section watched from the 18th green at stoic Brookside Country Club on Thursday as host pro Gary Robison put the finishing touches on another victory.
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“He’s tough to beat here,” said one, referring to the presumed home-course advantage Robison might have had by playing on the course he knows better than Rand-McNally knows maps.
“No,” another corrected, “he’s tough to beat anywhere.”
And, therein lies the prolific career of Robison, whose final-round three-under 68 earned him a five-shot victory with a two-day total of even-par 142 in the NOPGA Senior Professional Championship.
It marked Robison’s sixth victory and second in the last three years in the event and will send him and three other NOPGA members to the Senior PGA Professional National Championship to be held Oct. 15-18, at the PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
First-round leader Dan Sutton, Director of Golf at Heather Downs Country Club in Toledo, finished second at 73-74-147 after matching Robison hole-for-hole until only four remained.
Robison, 66, and Sutton, 52, will be joined by third-place finisher and defending champion Steve Stone (77-71) and Tony Adcock (75-73) who tied for third at 148.
Shawnee Country Club’s Steve Mulcahy (75-74), Pepper Pike Club’s Rob Moss (77-74), Club Walden’s Mitch Camp (77-74) and Brecksville GolfTec’s Kevin Sullivan (75-76) earned alternate spots, in the event one of the top four finishers decline to play in Florida.
Brookside did not play as ornery as Wednesday but Robison’s 68 was the only sub-par round produced over two days by the field of 30.
Robison, the most accomplished player in the modern history of the NOPGA, finished strong by making birdies on three of the final four holes to pull away.
The biggest swing came on the 411-yard 15th hole. Sutton and Robison were tied at 3-over to that point. Both hit solid drives but Robison’s second shot from about 115 yards stopped about six feet to the right of the hole while Sutton left his second shot just short of the green. A poor chip led to a bogey while Robison rolled in his birdie putt.The two-shot swing gave Robison some breathing room down the stretch.
“It was a big hole, for sure,” said Robison. “I had hit a lot of good shots up to that point, but the thing here is that you can hit it close but if you get it on the wrong side of the hole you have to be real careful. You can’t fool with it. The shot into 15 was a really good shot, a satisfying shot.”
(Example: Robison missed just two greens during an opening round 74 but had 36 putts, including a 3-putt and a 4-putt. He had one 3-putt on Thursday.)
With his lead at two shots entering Brookside’s back-to-back, par-5 finishing holes, Robison showed why he is the pro that he is. He hit a safe driver on the 600-yard 17th and an even safer 3-wood on the 529-yard 18th. Both led to birdies and a close-out finish.
Robison’s acknowledges the fact that many people feel he should win anytime he plays at Brookside.
“People say, ‘Sure, you should win at your own place’ and yes, I know where to go and everything when I play here,” he said. “But . . . I always feel it is hard playing at home. There is additional pressure that comes with playing at home. Plus, I felt the 74 made it even tougher because I felt it should have been better.”
Robison will try to win a second Professional Championship of the season next week when the NOPGA Professional Championship is held at Westbrook Country Club in Mansfield on Monday through Wednesday.
It is safe to say that most players in the field at Westbrook will be younger than Robison. But, you get the feeling that matters little.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.