IN THE BOOKS!
Randy Dietz and Emily Heikkila Are Early Leaders in NOPGA Section Championships at Tippecanoe
By: Tim Rogers, Northern Ohio PGA Contributor
Canfield, Ohio: Randy Dietz has been here before. It is uncharted territory for Emily Heikkila. That is what came out of the opening rounds of the Northern Ohio PGA’s Professional Championships on Monday at Tippecanoe Golf Club.
Dietz, a Coaching & Teaching Professional at Windmill Golf Center, duplicated his start in this event last year, when he took the first-round lead in the 73d edition of the 54-hole event on Monday with a round of 2-under 70 (34-36).
Heikkila, Assistant Professional at Trumbull Country Club, never led in finishing second in this event last year but has the first-round lead in the third Ladies Professional Championship after a round of 41-37=78 on Monday.
Dietz, the current leader in the Player-of-the-Year standings, opened with a 67 last year at Westfield and eventually finished second by two shots to Jim Troy, who went on to win the title for the second straight year.
Heikkila, a former Northern Ohio PGA Works Fellow, shot rounds of 78-76 and finished seven shots behind winner Mary Suitca, Head Professional at Tannenhauf Golf Club.
Dietz leads by one over Moss, Hansen and Carbone. Former champions Rob Moss and Jaysen Hansen and relative newcomer Jason Carbone are tied for second, one shot behind Dietz and Jon Jones (Youngstown Country Club) and Dennis Miller (PGA Lifetime Member) are two shots back.
Those six were the only players in the field of 61 able to break par over Tippecanoe’s 6,693 yards. Pepper Pike Head Professional Moss, the all-time leader with five wins in this event, went 35-36. Hansen, the Head Professional at Beechmont Country Club and the 2020 winner, went 35-36 and Carbone, Head Professional at Canterbury Golf Club, finished 34-37.
Carbone’s 2-under 34 on the front shared low-nine honors with Dietz.
Dietz led the field with six birdies and was 4-under after his last birdie on the par-3 16th. Consecutive bogeys on the final two holes enabled Moss, Hansen and Carbone to remain close.
Carbone, in his third season at Canterbury, birdied the closing hole to pick up a stroke and a double-bogey by Hansen on the penultimate hole probably cost him a share of the lead.
The winner and four other top finishers qualify for the 56th PGA Professional Championship next spring at Fields Ranch at PGA Frisco in Frisco, Texas. Finishers 5 through 8 will serve as alternates. Dietz currently leads the POTY standings with 726 points. Moss is third at 599, Hansen is fourth at 500 and Portage Country Club head professional Adam Lewicki is fifth at 484.
Jim Troy, Coaching & Teaching professional at the Golf Dome and the winner of the last two Section championships, is second in the POTY race and is four shots back after an opening 74.
The field will be cut to the low 27 scores and ties after Tuesday’s second round. Needless to say it is anyone’s tournament to win.
“There is still a lot of golf to play,” warned Dietz. “And Tippecanoe is a good test. You have to keep the ball below the hole. The greens are fast and there is a lot of slope. You have to position yourself.”
Still, Dietz made some magical putts, starting on the first hole when he rolled in a 30-footer for birdie. Three holes later he made an 18-footer for another birdie. However, the bonanza came on the 139-yard 16th. Dietz estimated his birdie putt traveled “about 60 feet.”
“I made a lot of putts I normally don’t make,” he said. “But then again, I missed some I should have made. That evens things out.”
The exhilaration of the 60-footer was doused on the final two holes, which Dietz bogeyed. A missed two-footer on 18 was especially depressing.
“Those two bogeys kind of put a damper on the whole day but all in all I am happy with the 2-under,” he said.
Play resumes Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.
Heikkila leads by 2 over Hanna; Suitca is 3 back Heikkila will take a 2-shot lead into Tuesday’s final 18 holes after shooting a 6-over 78 in Monday’s first round.
Heikkila, a Tiffin University graduate and former Northern Ohio PGA Works Fellow, shot 1-over 37 on the back nine and leads Westfield Country Club Assistant Professional Averi Hanna (43-37) by two shots and has a 3-shot edge on two-time champion Mary Suitca (40-41), Head Professional at Tannenhauf Golf Club.
Heikkila, runner-up in this event last year when it was played at Westfield Country Club, built her lead during a six-hole stretch that began with birdies on the ninth and 10th holes. She followed with three consecutive pars and another birdie on the par-5 14th.
The final round begins Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.
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.