By Tim Rogers
WESTFIELD CENTER: If Day II of the first Junior Ohio Cup goes as well as Day I, Northern Ohio PGA captain Drew Pierson might be tempted to ask for a Day III.
You know, when you are playing well you want to play as much as possible, right?
So it was on Saturday when Pierson’s NOPGA team stormed to a 6.5 to 1.5 lead by winning six of eight Four Ball matches in the Ryder Cup-like competition against their counterparts from the Southern Ohio Section of the Professional Golfers Association of America.
And who, besides Barstool Sports, says Saturdays Are for The Boys?
Not this Saturday.
This Saturday on Westfield’s South Course was for the NOPGA girls, who swept all four of their matches, some in decisive form, to give their team its comfortable lead heading into Sunday’s 16 singles matches.
While the girls pitched a shutout, the boys went a respectable 2-1-1.
With 24 total points available the NOPGA needs only to win six of the 16 matches to gain possession of the Cup for the next 12 months. Before the first ball was hit on this cold and damp day – they played preferred lies (lift, clean and place) but the course was in terrific shape thanks to superintendent Kyle Smith & Crew – Pierson said he would be happy with five wins.
“I’d be comfortable with five wins and six would make me pretty happy,” he said.
So, how did he feel with 6.5?
“That puts us in great shape heading into the singles. To come away with a 6.5 to 1.5 lead, well, I’m ecstatic with that.”
We thought so.
However, like many people in charge, Pierson was quick to point out that 16 points were still to be had.
“We still need 12.5 to win,” he said. “There’s 16 out there.”
While the boys’ four matches were the first to go off it was the NOPGA girls who provided the early salvos.
Serena Wu (Solon) and Annelise Stencel (Akron) won going away, 6-and-5. Gracyn Vidovic (Aurora) and Kristina Chill (Columbia Station) were almost as dominant, winning 6-and-4.
Brooklyn Millard (Aurora) and Julia Van Bokkelen (Hudson) were 5-and-4 winners. While Emily Burling (Hudson) and Alex Vardon (Akron) came in with a 2-and-1 victory in the final match of the day they were up 3 at one point , and held on to win when Burling closed out the match on the 17th hole with a stylish approach to 15 feet and a 2-putt par.
The SOPGA claimed the historic first win of the event as the team of Cameron Phillips (McDermott) and Lucas Massa (Howard) defeated Sion Park (Westlake) and Ryan Czenszak (Twinsburg), 3-and-2, as the second match out on the day.
A short time later the NOPGA evened things when Ryan Dinan (Akron) and Aryan Ahlawat (Broadview Heights) edged Andy Steed (Wilmington) and Griff Turner (Enon), 1-up. Dinan and Ahlawat had a 1-up up lead on the 18th hole, but Dinan chipped in for birdie from behind the hole to seal it.
The NOPGA never trailed from that point on.
“It’s kind of funny,” said Dinan, who attends Coventry High. “I told my partner that I had a good feeling of making it from where I was.”
The SOPGA team of Zach Hartley (Dayton) and Owen White (Tipp City) rallied from a 2-down deficit after 11 holes to halve their match with Daniel Gambone (North Canton) and Nathan Menapace (New Philadelphia) by winning two of the final four holes with birdies and halving the other two with pars.
Pierson pointed to the Dinan-Ahlawat match and the Burling-Vardon match as the two key wins of the day.
“Every win is key, but those two stood out,” he said.
Trey Lautenschleger (Dover) and 14-year-old Dexter James (Hudson) had the other NOPGA victory with a cozy 3-and-2 win in the last boys match to tee off.
The teams attended a post-game dinner and were treated to a greeting from two special guests. Rickie Fowler and Viktor Hovland sent their congratulations and best wishes via video to both teams with Hovland delivering the best message.
“Play for your team, not just for yourself,” the former U.S. Amateur champ and European Ryder Cup hero from Oklahoma State advised.
“I ate with some of our kids and asked them who their favorite players were,” said Pierson. “I got two Rickies, three Hovlands, a Tiger, a Rory and a Koepka. I think their jaws dropped open when they saw the video.”
All in all it was a great day for the kids from the NOPGA Junior Tour. A repeat performance could make Sunday an even better day.”