It is hats off time.
It is time to publicly acknowledge the people involved in running a significant golf event.
The bottom line is that everyone connected with the first Junior Ohio Cup that concluded Sunday on the South Course at Westfield Country Club, deserves some kind of commendation.
A routine attaboy or attagirl? Not sufficient enough.
A pat on the back? Still not sufficient enough.
A round of applause? A standing ovation would be more in order. Maybe two. Or three.
A medal? Nice thought but still inadequate.
It was that kind of week.
Where to start?
How about Westfield Country Club and Director of Golf Chad Kitzmiller for stepping up and hosting an event in its first year of existence? Hosting an event of this nature requires an enormous commitment. Westfield and Kitzmiller – and the entire Westfield staff — made that devotion, and the event was all the better for it.
Along that same vein, how about Superintendent Kyle Smith and his crew? It didn’t rain for 40 days and 40 nights. Closer to 40 hours. It only seemed like 40 days and nights and the South Course absorbed moisture like the world’s largest sponge. It rained before and during the event and leaves fell faster than the temperature.
Yes, lift, clean and place rules were the call of the day, but you would have been hard-pressed to find a leaf – or standing water — on the fairways. Given the circumstances the course was in tremendous shape. Noah would have been proud.
The Northern Ohio Section, led by Executive Director David Griffith and his staff of Matt Rutland, Danielle Monas, Lynne Plaisance, Hayleigh Gray and Hastha Rajendran – not to mention the volunteers – conduct an event with clockwork efficiency and cannot be left off this list.
I have covered events from the U.S. Open to the PGA Championship to regular Tour events – as well as the World Series, the NBA playoffs and NCAA tournament games. Griffith & Co. take a backseat to no one when it comes to organization, staging and accommodation. It’s what they do on a regular basis and they do it superbly. The first Junior Ohio Cup set the bar pretty high.
Events of this magnitude do not come gratis. It takes cash to put one of these on and Cobra Puma Golf stepped up to provide sponsorship that helped defray costs.
The same goes for NOPGA Hall-of-Famer Gary Trivisonno and wife Kelly. They approached Griffith weeks ago and said they wanted to help. They made a significant donation that went directly to the players in terms of equipment, etc.
PGA Tour superstars Rickie Fowler and Victor Hovland took time to make a video applauding the efforts of all the players and wishing them luck in the Junior Ohio Cup. Hovland’s message of “Play for your teammates, not just yourself” was perfect advice. It was classic. I hope the message was ingested and will be put to use going forward.
The idea for the video and all that went into making it happen had Griffith’s signature all over it. Great touch.
Of course, there are players and their parents. Worthy all.
The parents and other supporters, with their scarves and gloves and hats and umbrellas and boots, braved the cold and damp weather that was a Northeastern Ohio October. Some walked, some rode but they all toughed it out under tough conditions.
Dave and Nicole Dinan were two of those parents. They treaded 36 holes while watching son Ryan.
“It was great being a parent here,” said Dave Dinan. “It was great to see all the kids come together as teammates and compete. The whole weekend was fantastic. These are memories you love as a parent. I am sure Ryan will remember this for the rest of his life.”
The players were subjected to the abhorrent weather conditions, and it was expected they would perform with a degree of excellence in an historic event.
Golf is a hard game under the most ideal conditions. Playing it under the conditions of the last two days bordered on the heroic. Burdened with rain gear, extra towels, handwarmers and gloves, the players played on.
Things did not go as well as everyone had hoped but not one of the 32 players quit. They had made a commitment to participate in this event and they did. Playing the game and playing it well under the conditions of the last two days bordered on heroic.
Finally, the coaches. NOPGA’s Drew Pierson and SOPGA’s Ben Chandler volunteered their time away from their families and guided players — some they hardly knew or didn’t know at all until Friday – through two days of intense competition. Match play, especially in the Fourball segment, was a new beast for most of the players. Yet, Pierson and Chandler got them through it.
“I am going to beg to come back next year,” said Pierson. “This was amazing. I had a great time. There were a lot of young players here and I’d love the chance to stay a couple of years and help develop a team culture.”
So, the inaugural Junior Ohio Open is in the books and by all accounts it was a rousing success. It was a rousing success thanks to everyone listed above.
Take a bow, folks.
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.