That’s what it took to win the Northern Ohio Section’s Senior Professional Championship and that’s what Gary Rusnak delivered.
Rusnak, of Painesville, turned in a final-round 69 on Thursday at Lakewood Country Club for a two-day total of 7-under 135 and a two shot victory.
The wire-to-wire win – Rusnak took an early lead with birdies on two of his first six holes during Wednesday’s opening round – was worth $1,200 and a spot in the Senior PGA Professional National Championship at the PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla. in October.
“Two days, no bogeys,” said Rusnak, a Teaching Professional at 1899 Golf Cleveland East. “That’s something. I’ve had a lot of bogey-free rounds, but back-to-back, I don’t think I’ve done that too many times.”
Rusnak, 58, will lead a 4-player qualifying contingent to Port St. Lucie as he will be joined by Pepper Pike Club Head Professional Rob Moss, Club Walden Head Professional Mitch Camp and Salem Country Club Head Professional Tom Atchison, who gained the fourth and final qualifying spot in a one-hole playoff with McDivot’s Driving Range Teaching Professional Steve Stone.
Moss, 52, joined Rusnak as the only men in the 27-player field to shoot two rounds in the 60s. The 3-time NOPGA Player of the Year finished second at 69-68—137. Camp, winner of this event in 2014, finished third with rounds of 68-70—138. Atchison and Stone, a teaching professional from Maumee’s McDivots Driving Range, finished tied for fourth at 140. Alternate spots went to Stone and PGA Life Member Gary Trivisonno (73-68—141), Seven Hills Teaching Professional Tony Adcock (69-73—142) and Scott Pollack (69-73—142), the Managing Partner of 1899 Golf Cleveland East.
Rusnak, who won the Senior Division of the Mitchell-Haskell Tour Championship in 2020 and has two wins in the NOPGA weekly stroke play events series this season, began the day with a three-shot lead after an opening 5-under 66. He quickly extended that lead and got to 6-under with a birdie from five feet on the 161-yard third hole.What came next was a study in steady. Rusnak reeled off 13 consecutive pars to keep Moss in his rear-view mirror.
Moss, who began the day three shots behind and playing in the group in front of Rusnak, Camp and Toledo’s Nick Szymanski, birdied two of his first six holes to get to 4-under. A birdie from a green-side bunker on the 15th got him to five-under but that was as close as he would get with a lip-out birdie attempt on the 127-yard 16th serving as a cruel teaser.
Rusnak had a one-shot lead when he stepped on the 17th tee. A 3-wood off the tee and a 9-iron left him 20 feet from the hole. He made the putt to get to 7-under and seal the deal.
“Made a good putt there, finally,” Rusnak said. “I had a lot of 20-footers there and that was the first one that kind of went.”
The victory also enabled Rusnak to increase his lead in the Rolex Senior Player of the Year race. He entered the week with 284.67 points. Camp was second at 245.00 and Moss was third at 226.00.
While raised in Painesville Rusnak spent 30 years in Florida and still spends his winters there. He rejoined the NOPGA Section about three years ago. His performance so far proves there’s no place like home.
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.