Sowards Wins Ohio Senior Open


Tim Rogers
Northern Ohio PGA Contributor

AKRON: Dublin pro Bob Sowards blitzed the field and the West Course at Firestone Country Club on Thursday with a final-round 7-under 63 to win the 34th Michelob Ultra/1-888-OhioComp Ohio Senior Open by two shots.

Sowards, playing in the Senior Open for the first time, shaved six strokes off his opening 69 with six birdies and one eagle and finished with a 36-hole score of 8-under 132.

Sowards, 50, did not make a bogey until the 18th hole and had just four over the 36 holes. Solidifying his role as the best senior player in Ohio, Sowards made $2,500 for the victory while Milam earned $1,900.

By the time he bogeyed the last he had built a three-shot lead over first-round leader and eventual runnerup Tony Milam, of Chardon, who shot 68-66—134.

“I thought I had hit a perfect drive on 18 but it ended up in the rough on the side of the hill,” said Sowards. “If I had been one down I might have gone for it (the green) but I felt I could afford at bogey.”

Sowards, head pro at Kinsale Country Club, near Columbus, won by consistently getting the ball close to the hole. His longest putt was a beauty, however, as he rolled in an 18-footer for eagle on the 478-yard 13th hole.

“I really didn’t make any real long putts except for the one on 13,” Sowards said. “I got the ball pretty close all day. I drove the ball fantastically today and just played real solid.”

Sowards, who recently finished as the low club pro in the Senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill, hit 16 greens in regulation “and didn’t miss many fairways.”

At one stretch of holes 12 through 16 Sowards made five straight 3s. He made 3s on six of nine holes on the back, powering the way for a back-nine 31.

Tim Krapfel, from Dayton, shot a final-round 68 to finish third at 137 and defending champion Gary Robison, of Canton, was fourth at 71-68—139.


Clevelander Walt Robertson rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to win the Super Seniors Division for the second time since 2013.

Robertson’s putt gave him a victory over Silver Lake amateur Jim Durr after both had completed regulation play at 2-over 142 on the West Course. Durr, 62, shot a final-round 3-under 67 – the lowest score of the tournament regardless of age – to go with his opening 75, which left him as one of five players one shot behind the leaders.

Durr’s birdie attempt from 15 feet on the playoff hole slipped past the hole by less than one inch.

“I thought it was in,” said Durr. “But that’s golf. Overall, I was really happy with the way I played today.”

Robertson, 66, backed his opening 74 with a bogey-free final-round 2-under 68. Robertson, who said he will attempt to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week at Indiana Country Club, earned $900 for his victory while Durr took home a $500 gift certificate from Firestone’s pro shop.

Former Firestone pro and tournament founder Don Padgett II shot a final-round 70 for a two-day total of 145 and a third-place finish and amateurs Larry Lahnan (Walden) and Tom Baugh (Portage) finished fourth and fifth, respectively, with scores of 146 and 147.

Robertson, a native of Alabama but a Northeastern Ohioan for 30 years, credited a new – but old – driver for part of his success.

“I drove the ball well both days,” he said, praising a used TaylorMade R15 driver he picked up from a sporting goods store for $64 earlier this season.

Robertson missed several birdie putts on the front nine but had several birdie and/or par saves on the back. After nine straight pars he made his first birdie by draining a 25-foot downhill putt on the 385-yard 10th hole. His second birdie came on the par-5 17th with a three-footer.

(Posted May 29, 2019)
Recap of the first round of the 34th Ohio Senior Open played Wednesday on the West Course of Firestone Country Club.
Tim Rogers
Northern Ohio PGA Contributor

The last shall be first.Or, so it went on Wednesday in the first round of the 34th Ohio Senior Open on the West Course of Firestone Country Club. Chardon professional Tony Milam, playing in the final group to tee off, used a hot putter to help produce four birdies to grab the first round lead with a two-under 32-36–68. Most in the field of 101 had departed Firestone when Milam, the 2014 champion and the tournament director of the North Coast Junior Tour, turned in his scorecard that contained pars and birdies until the 13th hole. Milam, 59, had a one-shot lead over three players in the Main Division.

Four players shared the lead in the Super Seniors Division, for players 60-and-over as both leaderboards were as crowded as a traffic jam on nearby I-77. Westerville amateurs Michael Kelley, Bellwood Country Club pro Tim Krapfel and three-time Ohio Open winner Bob Sowards, of Dublin, were tied for second at 69. Youngstown Country Club pro Jon Jones stood alone in fifth place with an up-and-down round of even-par 70. His round included four birdies, an eagle, three bogeys and one triple bogey when he incurred a penalty shot on the 594-yard, par-5 ninth hole.

Nothing like a hole-in-one to add spice to a round of golf. Kelley, 54, did that on Wednesday to add spice to his one-under 69 (36-33) and share of second place.

Both divisions are wide open as 11 players are within four shots of the lead in the Main Division and seven players are within two shots of the lead in the Super Seniors. Persistent, swirling winds and the West Course’s lightning-fast greens contributed mightily to just three players in the total field of 101 breaking par-70. However, there are nine players within three strokes of the lead in the Main Division.

In the Main Division, four-time winner Gary Robison (Canton Brookside) and amateur Dr. Jeff Mallette, a member at Brookside, tied for sixth at 1-over 71.

Defending Super Seniors champion and tournament founder Don Padgett II is one shot out of the lead after an opening 75.

“It’s like coming home,” said Padgett, the former pro at Firestone and former president at Pinehurst. “I am really proud of the event and what it has become. I think it’s the premier Senior event in Ohio.”

Kelley, 54, was one-over when he stepped onto the 166-yard seventh hole with a 7-iron in his hand. One swing later he was one-under following his fourth career ace.

“The wind was right-to-left and it caught it,” said Kelley, who made birdie on the 208-yard 16th hole and 506-yard, par-5 17th to get into red numbers.

Sowards, a teaching pro at Kinsale Golf and Fitness Club in Cincinnati, was the low club pro with a 72-hole score of 289 at last week’s PGA Senior at Oak Hill. The fine showing carried over to his first appearance at Firestone West and the Ohio Senior. Sowards, winner of the Ohio Open in 2002, 2004 and 2010, got off to a quick start with a birdie on the 373-yard second following a lob wedge to three feet. He gave the shot back with the first of three bogeys on the sixth hole but more than made up for it by making eagle on the short (478-yard), par-5 13th. The eagle came when Sowards poured in a 35-foot putt that got him to one-under on the day. A birdie on the 506-yard 17th countered a bogey on the par-3 16th to keep him in red numbers.

(Posted May 28, 2019)
Ohio’s premier senior event is currently underway at Firestone Country Club. The 34th Michelob Ultra/1-888-OhioComp Ohio Senior Open is being contested May 29-30. Admission is free and open to the public. Approximately 100 players are expected, including four-time champion Gary Robison (Canton Brookside) and former Brookside pro Jim Logue, who owns the distinction of winning six times, three in the Main Division (1993-1995) and three as a Super Senior (2011, 2015, 2017). The Super Senior division began in 2011. Other Main Division multiple winners expected to compete include Cincinnati’s Larry King (2003, 2012) and Aurora’s Gary Trivisonno, who won in 2008 and 2011 in the Main Division and now competes as a Super Senior.

Defending champions: Gary Robison (Main Division); Don Padgett II (Super Seniors).

The Ohio Senior Open is an event steeped with tradition. Current sponsor Tom LaRose (House of LaRose) and Don Padgett II (2018 Super Senior Division Champion & Former Director of Golf and General Manager of Firestone Country Club) brought the Senior Ohio Open to Firestone Country Club in 1996 while Padgett was the Director of Golf. This will be the 22nd year that Firestone will host the prestigious senior state championship with the first event being held in 1996 with only a two year break (2001 & 2002) due to club renovations.