Dramatic finishes are not uncommon in the Davey Tree/Minute Men Ohio Open.
The 98th version of the event — presented by Pyramid Testing & Meritech – was one for the ages, however, as 43-year-old Stephen Gangluff roared from behind to win in a 3-man playoff on Wednesday at The Weymouth Club.
Gangluff, of Delaware, shot a final-round 5-under 67 to join fast-closing Alex Weiss, of Pickerington, and Barberton’s Chase Johnson in a first-place tie with 54-hole scores of 16-under-par 200.
He birdied the first playoff hole by making a 6-foot putt to pocket the first-place check of $9,000 and become the first back-to-back winner since Bob Wynn won three straight in 1970, 1971 and 1972. Only eight others have won consecutive titles and Gangluff becomes the 15th player to win more than once, joining the likes of Denny Shute, Byron Nelson, Bob Shave Jr., Herman Keiser and Frank Stranahan.
Johnson and Weiss set tournament scoring records during the three days but it was Gangluff, a teaching pro at The Club of Tartan Fields in Dublin who hoisted the Commodore Perry Hotel Trophy. On a day when nearly half the field of 51 broke par-72, no one was as electrifying as Weiss, a native of Pickerington and Marshall University graduate.
Weiss, 23, set a competitive course record with an 11-under 61 and had tourney officials on the “59 watch” until the 16th hole. To that point Weiss, who has competed on the Latinoamerica Tour, had made seven birdies and an eagle to vault himself into contention after starting the day 10 shots out of the lead. Pars at 15 and 16, with a lip-out of a birdie attempt at 15, eliminated his chance at 59, but kept him to within one or two strokes of 36-hole leader Johnson, whose driver and wedge foiled his bid to win what essentially is the state championship.
Weiss made putts from every spot other than the cart barn, pro shop and clubhouse. There was a 25-footer at the second, a 12-foot uphiller on three, a 20-footer on four, another uphiller, this time from 18 feet on five, and an 8-footer on eight. He capped his front nine 29 by chipping in from 30 feet on the last. He duplicated the chip-in on 18 after making three other birdies en route to a 4-under 32 on the closing nine.
“I guess you could say I got into one of those zones, where everything made sense,” said Weiss. “I mean, it’s almost like you black out. Everything you do or try goes just the way you envisioned it. Every read is the right one, every stroke, every club. Everything just seems perfect.”
Johnson, the Barberton native and former Kent State star, had taken the drama out of the tournament with rounds of 10-under 62 and 5-under 67 and had a 4-shot lead over Gangluff and Kirtland’s Alex Andrews when play began. His opening 62 at Fox Meadow was a course record. Johnson reached 18-under par and seemingly was in great shape after closing the front with birdies on the final two holes. However, he fought his driver most of the day and it finally caught up to him on the back nine. Errant tee shots led to bogeys on three of the final nine holes. It also prevented him from his bread-and-butter of making birdie on the par-5s.
Back-breaking bogeys came on the 420-yard 16th and 470-yard 18th, when accuracy was paramount to success. He found the fairway bunker on 16, which left him with an awkward stance. His second came up about 10 yards short of the green and he then left his chip 10 feet short and missed the par putt.
Johnson, who is caddying at Barrington before returning to the Latinoamerica Tour, found trouble on 18 when he pushed his drive into a tree in the right rough and had a low-hanging branch partially obstructing his path to the green. He was forced to lay up, hit a poor pitch and missed a 12-foot putt for par, forcing a playoff.
Gangluff, who edged Nathan Tarter by one shot in winning last year, wasted no time in gaining an edge on the playoff hole. His drive went to the right side of the fairway and his second came to rest about six feet to the left of the hole.
“I had 180-some yards to the hole and I was just trying to get it on the green,” he said. “When I hit it I thought it had gone long but then I heard the fans clapping and figured it was pretty good.”
After opening the tournament with a 3-under 69 at Weymouth he zoomed into contention with an 8-under 64 at Fox Meadow on Tuesday. He has gone 63-64-64 in his last three rounds at Fox.
“This is awesome for me to win here again,” said Gangluff, who played for coach Jim Brown at Ohio State. “I wanted to win and felt like I could. I’ve been playing solidly all year.”
Nothing was more solid than his charge on the back nine, where he made three straight birdies and four in a five-hole stretch to get to 16-under through 52 holes. A wedge shot from 121 yards led to a birdie on the 16th and gave him a lift.
“That was the first time I really felt like I had a chance,” he said. “I mean, when I was standing on the ninth tee and was down six shots and you would have told me I had a chance to win I wouldn’t have believed you.”
The guy ultimately made believers of us all.
By: Tim Rogers, Northern Ohio PGA Contributor