Pepper Pike: Par is a good. No doubt.
Jim Troy and Steve Parker showed Tuesday that beating par is better. A lot better.
Troy and Parker were in select company as the only players in the field of 44 to beat par at The Country Club and it led to winning their respective divisions in the Northern Ohio PGA Section’s Mitchell-Haskell Tour Championship.
Troy, Territory Sales Manager for Honma Golf USA, used a birdie blitz to start his final 11 holes and won the Regular Division with two-under 70 to go with his opening 69 on Monday for a 36-hole score of 5-under 139.
It marked his third victory in this event in the last four years but his 139 is his lowest winning total.
Parker, the Director of Golf Operations at Portage Country Club and President of the Northern Ohio PGA Section, won the Senior Division with a final-round one-under 71 for a two-day total of 3-under 141 and a 3-shot victory.
The victory ended a small stretch of frustration for Parker, who finished second in each of the last two years.
“Anytime you get your name on a trophy it’s a good thing,” said Parker, who edged his former Kent State teammate and Pepper Pike Head Professional Rob Moss (69-75) and Salem Head Professional Tom Atchison (72-72). “I was able to keep the ball in play and really didn’t get myself out of position.”
Troy had a more comfortable margin of victory as Randy Dietz – another KSU alum – was second at 71-73-144, five shots back and tied with Moss, who was entered in both divisions.
Collin Slattery (69-76) and Michael Balcar (72-73) shared fourth place as Slattery, The Country Club Assistant Golf Professional, and Balcar, an Assistant Golf Professional at Brandywine Country Club, continued their recent strong play. Balcar won the NOPGA Assistants Championship and Slattery was fourth earlier this month at the Weymouth Country Club.
Troy credited his victory to a putter that came alive on Tuesday and the fact that Country is his favorite course in Ohio.
“When you putt well it takes some of the pressure off,” said Troy, who estimated he rolled in putts totaling 120 feet. “I’m usually not a guy who makes a ton of putts. I’m more of a ball-striker. As tricky as the greens are, I view them well. Everything looks correct to me.”
Swirling, bursting and nearly unpredictable winds made Country’s demanding 7,129 yards and slick greens even more demanding and even slicker.
“It made for a tricky day for everyone,” said Troy.
Troy was one of four players tied for the lead at 3-under after Monday’s first round. The reigning NOPGA Player-of-the-Year birdied the second hole and made a nifty up-and-down out of a greenside bunker on the third.
“That save was a good for the momentum,” said Troy, who added another save on the par-3 ninth.
A birdie on the 569-yard eighth ignited a streak in which he beat par on four of five holes, including three straight birdies to start the back nine. He did so with putts of 30 feet on 10, 40 feet on 11 and 15 feet on 12.
Troy finished with nine birdies over the 36 holes.
Parker also got off to a smooth start with birdies on two of his first three holes. But, it was two par-saving putts and a birdie on two of his final three holes that signaled the engraver.
The first par-saver came on the 215-yard 14th, where he rolled in a testy, downhill, left-to-right putt. The second par-preserver came on the 387-yard 17th when a pitching wedge from 141 yards in the right rough flew over the pin and came to rest on the back edge some 45 feet away. He two-putted from there.
“That was one of the few times I left the ball above the hole,” he said.
In between was a birdie on the par-5 16th when he wedged his third shot to three feet and made the putt to get to 3-under. Parker’s adrenalin was pumping and he pumped his drive far down the fairway on 18, leaving himself a routine two-putt finish.
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.