AKRON: Bob Sowards is feeling comfortable and that should be enough to make everyone else uncomfortable.
Sowards, the PGA Director of Instruction at Kinsale Golf and Country Club in Powell, shot an opening 3-under par 67 (35-32) on Wednesday and will take a two-stroke lead into Thursday’s final round of the 37th Michelob Ultra Ohio Senior Open at Firestone Country Club with an opportunity to make history.
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The soon-to-be 54-year-old can become the first man to win four consecutive Senior Open titles in the event conducted by the Northern Ohio Section of the Professional Golfers Association of America.
NOPGA Hall-of-Famer Gary Robison, now retired and living in Indiana, also has won the event four times (2004, 2010, 2015 and 2018) but not in consecutive years.
Sowards, who played his final six holes in 4-under, is two-up on eight others, including 2009 champion Mitch Camp,PGA Rob Moss, PGA and amateur Howard Clendenin all at one-under 69.
Camp, PGA Director of Golf at Club Walden in Aurora, went 35-34 and was at 2-under after a birdie on the par-5 17th, but fell back with a bogey on the final.
Moss, one of three runners-up to Sowards last year and the PGA Head Professional at the Pepper Pike Club, rallied over his final eight holes with three birdies and five pars and finished at 37-32.
Clendenin, a Firestone member, began his round on the 10th hole and went 36-33 with three birdies over his last five holes. Also in at 1-under is former Ohio Open champ Dennis Miller,PGA of Youngstown, who went 36-33.
Ed Stieber, an amateur from Cincinnati, leads the Senior Plus Division, for players 60-and-older, after an opening 2-under 68. Scott Perry, an amateur from Lowell, and Brad Zeitner, PGA Head Professional at Brookside Country Club in Columbus, are tied for second at 1-over 71 and Mark Borlin, an amateur from Stow, is along in fourth place at 2-over 72.
But, once again, the day belonged to Sowards, whose round was kick-started with an eagle on the 478-yard 13th hole, thanks to a 50-foot putt.
A solid drive left the three-time winner with a 6-iron to the green from where he rolled in one of the few eagles on the day.
“I have good vibes on that green,” said Sowards, who will enter the Ohio Golf Hall-of-Fame this fall. “I have had great success on that hole over the years.”
Obviously, his success in this event has not been limited to the 13th hole.
“I am really comfortable here,” he said. “I love the golf course. I hit the ball well today and felt I had birdie chances on a number of holes. I burned the edges on a couple of them.”
Sowards was one-over when he reached the 13th tee with playing partners Nick Lambos, the last amateur to win the Senior Open in 2016, and two-time champion Gary Trivisonno, PGA (2008, 2011).
“I hit a great drive there but it ended up just in the left rough,” Sowards said. “I had a good lie and was able to get a 6-iron on it.”
Three straight pars followed before he closed with birdies on the final two holes, using two putts on the 506-yard 17th and making a 10-footer on the tough closing hole.
Three NOPGA members — Scott Pollack, PGA, managing partner of 1899 Cle East in Chagrin Falls, Tony Adcock, a PGA Teaching Professional out of Seven Hills and Daniel Terry, PGA Head Professional at Chippewa Golf Club, are part of the eight-man logjam at one-under.
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.