AKRON: Call this one “Dancing In The Rain with Bob Sowards.”
That’s what the Dublin-based Sowards did during both rounds of the 36th Michelob Ultra Ohio Senior Championship on the Fazio Course of Firestone Country Club.
Call it whatever you like . . . a waltz, the Twist or the boogie-woogie . . .Sowards danced for two days on the way to winning the tournament for the third consecutive year with rounds of 65-68 for a two-day total of 7-under 133 and a 7-shot win over three players, the largest margin of victory in his three triumphs.
For most of rain-plagued Thursday Sowards had it on cruise control, especially after he made the turn in 2-under 33 while any and all possible contenders were swept away, not by the rushing water from a downpour that caused a 90-minute delay, but by Fazio’s greens that were harder to read than a James Joyce novel.
“The greens were just very hard to read,” said Sowards, who joined former Canton Brookside professional Jim Logue as the only men to win three consecutive Senior Open titles. “It’s an honor to be included with Jim Logue, he was a legend and one of the nicest men I’ve ever met.”
After Sowards recorded his only bogey of the two days on the 385-yard 10th hole, he reeled off seven routine pars and an exclamation point birdie with a marvelous chip shot to three feet from the front of the large and undulated, par-5 13th.
“I was finally able to get a good read,” said Sowards, who turns 53 next week.
Former three-time Ohio Open champion Rob Moss (72-68) and amateurs Dr. Jeff Mallette (72-68) and Michael Kelley (69-71) finished at even-140 on a day in which rain halted play for 90 minutes around 10:45 a.m. and turned the course sponge-like for the rest of the day.
Former Firestone and Brookside professional Gary Robison has won then event for players 50-and-over four times, but never in succession. Former Fonderlac professional Bryan Abbott also won three times.
Scott Spence, Director of Instruction at The Lakes Golf and Country Club in Westerville, made a 15-foot putt for birdie on the third playoff hole to win the Senior Plus Division for players 60-and-above. Spence, Steven Shaw (Seven Hills) and amateur Edward Steiber (Cincinnati) all finished the 36-holes at 2-over 142.
Sowards, who shot an opening 5-under 65, took a 3-shot lead into the final round. Painesville pro Gary Rusnak began the day in second place but tumbled to a tie for 12th with a second-round 77.
Sowards, fresh off a tie for fifth place in last week’s Senior PGA Championship at Southern Hills, earned $2,500 for his win on Thursday. Moss, Head Professional at the Pepper Pike Club in suburban Cleveland, began the day seven shots behind Sowards but posted a 2-under 68 to pull into a tie for second with Mallette, a dentist from North Canton.
Mallette, who has enjoyed solid success in qualifying for events such as the U.S, Senior Open and the U.S. Mid-Am, was not the lone amateur to post a high finish.
Kelley, from Westerville, finished in a tie for second while Kurt Peterson (Massillon), Tony Hejna (Cleveland), former Kent State assistant coach Rob Wakeling (Hudson), Dave Antill (Dublin), Robert Gerwin (Cincinnati) and Firestone member and last year’s runnerup in this event, Howard Clendenin all finished in the top 10.
None could catch Sowards, who played smartly and safely down the stretch. Following his birdie on 13 he purposely left his tee shot on the 138-yard 14th hole short and below the hole.
“At 13 I saw a scoreboard for the first time in a long time and saw I had a 6-shot lead,” he said. “The last thing I wanted to do on 14 was go over and into trouble. The only thing I could have done stupid was knock it over the green on that particular hole. I felt the worst I could do was make bogey on the last four. So, I played it a little safe there.”
It could also be called playing it smart. It went well with dancing in the rain.
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.