AKRON: Randy Dietz won by closing with a flourish.
Gary Robison won with a mid-round surge.
John Powers won by holding steady over the final five holes.
Different divisions, different paths, same finishes.
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That’s how it went Wednesday in the Denny Shute Memorial Match Play Championship at Portage Country Club in the season’s final event on the schedule of the Northern Ohio Section of the Professional Golfers Association of America.
Dietz defeated Joe Meglen, 4-and-2, in the 36-hole final to win the Regular Division. Robison defeated Tony Adcock, 5-and-4, in the 18-hole finale to win the Senior Division and Powers defeated Kyle Kellogg, 1-up, also over 36 holes, to win the Associate Division.
Here is the breakdown:
With his victory over Meglen, Dietz, a Teaching Professional at Windmill Golf Center, became the first repeat winner of the Shute since 2017 and only the fifth player in the event’s history to put together back-to-back championships.
“They were both just as tough,” said Dietz, the NOPGA Player-of-the-Year in 2019. “I never felt in total control today. Joe just wouldn’t go away. It was never easy winning either time.”
The top-seeded Dietz had as much as a 4-hole lead in the morning round but Meglen, despite a balky driver, hung in and eventually got to within striking distance at 2-down heading into the final 18 holes on a wet day in which the temperatures dropped and rose several times.
The deficit even got to one when Dietz bogeyed the par-3 third hole but back-to-back Meglen bogeys gave Dietz some comfort room. A 13-foot putt for birdie on the 377-yard eighth hole got Meglen, in the finals for the first time, back to just 2-down at the turn.
The two men halved the next five holes before Dietz made a slippery 10-foot, left-to-right putt for birdie on the 396-yard 15th to go to 3-up and closed out the match with another birdie on the 16th.
“Joe was a little short to the right and had a tough putt on 15 so I felt if I could just stuff it in there and make birdie that would be tough for him to come back,” Dietz said. “I hit a good wedge in there to about 10 feet behind the hole and the putt just kind of trickled in.”
The championship came as a surprise to the former Kent State standout.
“I had no expectations coming in,” said Dietz, who was seven-under for 32 holes during Tuesday’s wins over Nick Paez and Adam Lewicki. “The last four or five weeks I just haven’t been able to get much out of my game. Thankfully, I felt that I putted very well this week, but I surprised myself by playing this well. It was a good week, a very good week.”
Despite Wednesday’s result, it was a good week for Meglen, as well. Seeded sixth, Meglen knocked off two of the NOPGA giants – third-seeded and two-time champ Jaysen Hansen and second-seeded and 2018 champion Jim Troy – to reach the finals.
In the NOPGA’s four “major” championships not involving separate divisions, Dietz has three wins and three other top-five finishes since 2017.
What can you say about Robison? The most highly-decorated player in Section history added another title with his victory over Adcock, who was playing with a heavy heart.
“I felt sorry for Tony, I really did,” said Robison, forever the sportsman.
Adcock’s mother, Lois, passed away six days ago. Yet, he pressed on. In attempt to win his second Shute title since 2003, Adcock defeated Scott Pollack, Tom Waitrovich and two-time champion Mitch Camp to reach the finals.
So, the show went on and when the show goes on few perform as efficiently and effectively as Robison, who has hinted at retirement.
Robison, who used 1-up victories over host professional Steve Parker and Salem Country Club Head Professional Tom Atchison to reach the 18-hole final, took an early 1-up lead when Adcock bogeyed the second hole to Robison’s par. Adcock’s made two bogeys on the day.
“Tony played super,” said Robison. “I just happened to get hot with the putter.”
Robison, who has won practically every event the NOPGA has offered in his 41 years as a Section member, stepped on the gas. Starting with the sixth hole he made four birdies (to Adcock’s five pars and one bogey) over the next six holes to take a commanding 6-hole lead.
The Indiana native, who worked at Firestone Country Club for 27 years before becoming the Director of Golf at Brookside Country Club in Canton, made birdie putts of 10, 15, 2 and 30 feet to take command. A par on the 179-yard 14th hole negated a harmless bogey one hole earlier.
“I have mixed emotions because of Tony’s situation but to win the (Senior) Stroke play and to win this . . . this could be the last tournament,” he said, taking time to congratulate Meglen for his first appearance in the finals and Powers for his first Section title.
The Section will soon announce its annual awards and it is safe to say Robison will be mentioned many times. If he is going out, he will go out as a winner.
Powers and Kellogg put on a display of back-and-forth golf over the 36-hole final before Powers, the Head Golf Coach at Bowling Green, made a birdie on the 12th hole of the second round to go 2-up. He followed with six straight pars to close out Kellogg, an assistant at Mt. Vernon Country Club.
“This is great because I haven’t won anything all season,” said Powers, who eliminated two of the Section’s rising stars in Pepper Pike’s Zac Cork and Sean McGuire en route to the finals. “I’ve had a couple seconds and thirds but I didn’t win.”
He can’t say that any longer. He led from start to finish and closed out the first 18 with three straight birdies. A bogey on the 18th left him with a 3-hole lead.
Kellogg rebounded from a shaky start and three straight birdies on 10 through 12 cut his deficit to one.
His lead alternated between two and three holes but Kellogg got to within one with a birdie on the par-5 11th but Powers retaliated with a birdie on the 12th. Again Kellogg fought back with a birdie on the 13th but Powers finished with five consecutive pars.
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.