Pepper Pike’s Rob Moss Leads Both Divisions After the First Round of the Mitchell-Haskell Tour Championship

Pepper Pike: Can Pepper Pike Club’s Rob Moss pull off the Northern Ohio PGA’s version of the double play?

We will find out on Tuesday when the final round of the Mitchell-Haskell Tour Championship is played at The Country Club.

Moss, one of the Section’s most decorated players, shared the lead of the Regular Division and was the sole leader of the Senior Division after Monday’s first round was played under ideal conditions.

Moss, who celebrated his 53d birthday on Sunday, shot an opening 3-under 69 (37-32) over Country’s demanding 7,129 yards.

So, too, did defending champion Jim Troy (33-36) of Honma Golf, USA, Country Club Assistant Golf Professional Collin Slattery (35-34) and Shaker Heights Country Club Assistant Golf Professional Jordan Paolini (36-33) which produced a four-way tie at the top of the Regular Division.

That score was also good enough to put Moss on top of the Senior Division, holding a one-shot lead over former Kent State University teammate Steve Parker, Director of Golf Operations at Portage Country Club.

Parker, president of the Section, played marvelously and could have had the lead until a lost ball on the closing hole led to a double-bogey that took him from 4-under to 2-under.

Windmill Lakes Golf Course PGA Teaching Professional Randy Dietz, the 2019 winner of this event, was two shots behind the leaders and Brandywine Country Club Assistant Golf Professional Michael Balcar, winner of the NOPGA’s Assistants Championship two weeks ago, was three shots back.

PGA Lifetime Member Gary Trivisonno (38-31-71) was alone in third place in the Senior Division, one shot in front Salem Country Club Head Golf Professional and three-time winner Tom Atchison (34-38).

Moss, who last won this event in 2017, caught fire on the back nine thanks to a deadly putter. After making the turn at one-over, he birdied five of his last seven holes – including three in a row at one point — and saved par twice by making testy putts.

“I really made some putts on the back nine and that really changed the outlook of the day,” said Moss, a three-time winner of the Ohio Open and numerous other Section events.

After 3-putting the par-3 11th, Moss got himself into contention by making one putt of 20 feet and four others from at least 12 feet over his last six holes.

He also made a 3-footer to save par on the 215-yard 14th and had a slick up-and-down from a greenside bunker on the 451-yard closing hole after his drive landed well off the fairway on the left-hand side. His delicate 15-foot, left-to-right fader put a sparking finish on a comeback round.

“The 3-footer on 14 kind of kept me going,” said Moss, who also won here in 2013. “A lot of these (putts) you really can’t get too aggressive. You really just try to get it on line and hope the pace is pretty good because you don’t want to let it get away from you.”

NOPGA officials could not remember anyone ever leading – or winning — both divisions in the same year.

“There’s a long way to go but I feel good about the way I’m swinging the club and I feel like I’m playing well from tee to green,” he said. I’ve really worked on my game a little feel like if I can hit some shots at the right time you never know what can happen. We’ll see what happens.”

While Moss was ultra-efficient on the back nine his former teammate Parker was almost as close on the front with three birdies, including a 3 on the 452-yard sixth, the number one handicap hole.

Troy, who won last year with rounds of 68-75, also toured the front in 3-under.

Slattery, 28, bogeyed two of his first four holes but made up for it with a birdie on the aforementioned sixth and an eagle on the 569-yard eighth. After seven straight pars he birdied the 16th and 17th.

Paolini, who hit the opening tee shot, also got off to a fine start with birdies on two of his first four holes. He bounced back from three bogeys on during a five-hole stretch with four birdies over his final five holes.

Trivisonno, who once again will serve as captain for the NOPGA team in the upcoming North-South Cup, has a chance to better his Mitchell-Haskell runnerup finish in 2017. A back-nine round of 33 – with birdies on the two par-3 holes – soothed a two-over front nine.

The final round begins on Tuesday at 8:55 a.m. with the final groups expected to go off at 11 a.m. About five hours later we’ll know if Moss was able to execute the double play.

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.