By Frank Rizzo
MONROE May 29, 2001 It is a measure of how much betters golfers in Section IX have gotten that when Gregg Semenetz of Jeff-Youngsville qualified for the state golf championship two years ago, he did it with a 166.
Last Wednesday, Semenetz, now a senior, sneaked in by qualifying with a two-round score of 158. The two golfers one stroke behind him had to have a playoff to determine the ninth and last state qualifier.
Nick Yaun of Liberty will be joining Semenetz among Sullivan County golfers who will be playing this coming weekend at Cornell University.
Jeff-Youngsville coach Rick Ellison related that Monticello coach and Section IX golf chairman Dick ONeill told the select golfers that this is the strongest group hes ever taken to Cornell.
Im really proud of Gregg, Ellison said. He understands now how really difficult it is to qualify for the states. I dont think he understood this as a soph. Hes done it twice, so nobody can say hes lucky hes good.
After being just good enough in the OCIAA championship to advance to sectionals, the two friends had strong opening rounds last Monday at Grossingers Yaun shot a four-over-par 75 while Semenetz was two strokes back.
Greggs 77 gave him some breathing room, Ellison pointed out. He definitely knew the importance of putting up a big score. You still have to play two good rounds, but it takes the pressure off. Last year he gave himself no margin for error in the second round.
Playing the first round at Grossingers, where he works, had additional meaning for Yaun.
I felt so confident, Yaun said. I know all the employees and they know me and were cheering for me. It felt so special.
Ironically, this was the first time he played the fabled course in tournament competition.
The day before the second round, Yaun and Semenetz drove down together to Monroe to play at the Jack Nicklaus-designed course.
Both that day and the day of competition it rained, making the difficult par-72 course even more arduous.
The course was playing long there was no roll at all, said Yaun. I didnt play very well, but I have been working on the mental part of my game and it really helped me through. I shot one of the better scores on the back nine.
Yaun shot an 82 and Semenetz an 81 to finish with respective scores of 157 and 158. Dan Gabel of Spackenkill (72-78150) was the Section IX champ.
As soon as I found out I qualified, I went to see if Gregg had made it, and it was awesome when he did, said Yaun, who asked to room in the same dormitory as Semenetz at Cornell.
Yaun, a senior, recalled how he qualified for sectionals as a freshman and has done so ever since. But he has never advanced past the first round.
I said to myself, Oh, man, if I can get to sectionals as a freshman, maybe I can get to states, Yaun related. Its very difficult, and Ive had so much heartbreak. So many good players didnt make it.
Greggs brother, eighth-grader Sean, was one of those. For the second straight year he missed out on the second day of sectionals competition by one stroke.
Sean shot an 84 at Grossingers which should have gotten him in, Ellison remarked. I told him, You didnt play bad golf, its just that the other kids played good.