Mark Sierak and Mike Stone won titles on Tuesday during the final round of the Mitchell-Haskell Tour Championships at The Country Club.
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.
There is work.
And then there is extra work.
Mark Sierak and Mike Stone were rewarded for their extra efforts. Both efforts were work-related.
Here are their stories:
MARK SIERAK: Regular Division champion.
Sierak, the former long-time head professional at Barrington Golf Club, has been working three jobs for the last year. He opened and co-owns a new business – Optimus Golf in Solon – where he teaches, while also paying attention to the business of, well, running a business.
He also owns and operates a golf promotion endeavor, — 3 Peat Promotions – and has been the regional director for the Folds of Honor, an organization that provides educational scholarships for families of fallen and disabled veterans and first responders.
To top it off he is a relative newlywed, marrying Ashley Carr last April.
“Leaving Barrington, getting married and starting two businesses all at the same time was a big move,” he said.
Yet, he has found time to maintain a quality golf game and put it on display with back-to-back rounds of 1-under 71 for a 36-hole score of 2-under 142 and a come-from-behind, one-stroke victory in the Section’s final stroke-play event of 2023.
He admits that putting it all together has been a challenge.
“Very much so,” he said. “It hasn’t been easy. My weekdays are a lot busier than they were at Barrington but there isn’t much going on during the weekends. So, there is some balance. Playing and practicing has not been in the cards all that much, but I did hit some putts and chips and I putted well this week.”
While it was Sierak’s first victory of the season, he’s played well enough to earn a spot on the NOPGA Ohio Cup team, which goes against the Southern Ohio PGA next week at Worthington Hills Country Club.
“I’ve been playing well just not good enough to get it done,” he said. “So, this feels good to finally get it done, especially over two rounds.”
Sierak, 45, began the day in a tie for third place, three strokes behind first-round leader Michael Balcar, the assistant from Brandywine Country Club. Ten others were within four shots of the lead and the lead changed hands several times throughout the day as Sierak, Balcar, Beechwood Country Club head professional and former two-time MH champion Jaysen Hansen, GolfTEC co-owner Nick Paez and Willie’s Custom Golf Center teaching pro Blake Sattler took turns at the top.
Sierak, who birdied the first three holes by making short putts, was able to take control for good — when no one else could — during a sparkling three-hole stretch late in the round.
It began on the 414-yard 15th when he hit a marvelous chip shot from about 45 yards right of the green to about six feet and made a left-to-right par-saving putt. Birdies followed as he rolled in an 8-footer on the 540-yard 16th to get to 2-under. While Balcar and Moss both drove the 385-yard 17th, Sierak was wide right off the tee but knocked his second to 10 feet and converted again.
“I knew I had to make some birdies,” he said. “I just happened to birdie 16 and 17.”
Word came down that he had a two-shot lead as he stepped on the 397-yard 18th tee. Sattler (73-70) and Paez (72-71) were already in at 1-under. Balcar (68-75) stood at 1-under but only one birdie had been made on 18 all day. Sierak drove it to the middle of the fairway but his second found the greenside bunker. He left his third shot short and missed the par putt but a one-shot victory was in the bag. This is Sierak’s first time winning the Mitchell-Haskell. He did not take it lightly.
“It is pretty cool to have your name on that Mitchell-Haskell Trophy, that’s for sure,” he said. “To do it for two rounds, that’s pretty good. Winning an event is special. I’ve been around the lead a little bit but most of the time it’s gone against me. But this time I was able to grind through it and finish.”
Grinding through it. That’s something Sierak has grown accustomed to.
MIKE STONE: Senior Division Champion
It’s been a magical summer for the assistant professional from Belmont Country Club in Maumee and it continued on Tuesday when he rallied from a two-shot deficit at day’s onset to win his first Mitchell-Haskell title.
He had to work overtime but that is a small price to pay for victory.
Stone, 51, had rounds of 72-71 and finished regulation play tied with Club Walden Director of Golf Mitch Camp, both at one-under 143. A par on the first playoff hole gave him his second major title this month.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Stone, who won the Senior Division of the Toledo Open 15 days earlier and won the NOPGA Senior Professional Championship in early August.
The Senior Division was just as tight as the Regular Division. Stone, Camp, third-place finisher Tom Waitrovich all had a chance to win with three holes to play. Stone began the day two shots out of the lead but got himself into contention at 2-under with birdies on the 166-yard 14th and the 385-yard 17th, when he drove the green. A short approach and a lip-out par attempt on the closing hole forced him into the playoff with Camp, the recent inductee into the Ohio Golf Hall of Fame. A newer driver might have been Stone’s savior. He switched from a conventional 45-inch driver to the new Taylor-Made 43 14-inch driver. Not only shorter but it has an 11-degree loft, much steeper than most professional choices.
“For 10 years driving has been my bugaboo,” he said. “I started using this at Lima (PGA Professional Championship at Shawnee CC) and it has been great. I’m 10 yards shorter off the tee but 85 to 90 percent more accurate.”
It sure worked on the first playoff hole as Stone drove the ball dead straight and had 60 yards to the hole. A regulation par won it. Waitrovich, the 2010 co-champ with Gary Robison, had a good two days with rounds of 73-71 to finish third and Tony Adcock (73-72) was fourth. First-round leader Rob Moss struggled with his putter most of the day and stumbled to a 4-over 76 and a fifth-place finish at 2-over 146.