By Frank Rizzo
CALLICOON August 7, 2001 A playoff round to end the championship flight of the Sullivan County Democrat Golf Tournament is rare.
A three-hole sudden-death playoff round observed by 50 to 60 people on dozens of carts is unprecedented.
The caravan of interested observers followed the championship flight finalists Gregg Semenetz Sr./Bill Phillips and Jack Jordan/Dave Solomon on Sunday after they finished 18 holes of match play at the Villa Roma CC in Callicoon tied.
After parring the first two playoff holes, the quartet moved to the toughest-rated hole, the 533-yard, uphill par-5 No. 3.
Three of the four landed their third shots on the green. Semenetz had the least promising lie, 25 feet away from the pin, inches from the edge of the fringe.
Phillips and Semenetz had a short discussion on whether to try for the chip or use the putter they decided on a putt attempt.
It was a matter of putting it through the fringe, Semenetz said afterwards.
As the crowd watched with increasing excitement, the ball curved downhill and sank into the cup as Semenetz yelled, Go in!Go in!Go in!
Solomon nearly saved the day for his team, as his 20-foot birdie attempt wound up at the edge of the lip, an inch past the cup. But it never dropped, and Semenetz/Phillips were the champs of the 20th annual Democrat Golf Tournament.
Ive made difficult putts like that before, but not under such pressure, Semenetz reflected. It was intense.
Ive never been in a golfing situation like that, with what, 50 or 60 people watching? That was tough, said Phillips.
The crowd, respective of the magnitude of the match, grew eerily quiet as each player hit. Loud applause broke the quiet following each swing, a show of respect for a great shot. But the loudest applause came after Semenetzs dramatci winner. It was followed by a long round of appause aftert the match for both teams.
It was the first tournament pairing for Semenetz and Phillips, who were brought together by Villa Roma pro Matt Kleiner. Both are Club members. The pair summer together with their families in Myrtle Beach, and the wives play golf as well.
Greggs laid back and positive, and it helps that hes a great player, praised Phillips.
Semenetz returned the kudos.
My partner held us through the first two playoff holes, he said. It was time I did something [on three].
Semenetzs wife, Bridget, had followed the leaders over the last seven regulation holes.
You dont know how tough these three-foot putts are, he told her.
Sixth Time for Team
Jordan/Solomon have been playing together for 14 years, the longest active partnership at the amateur tournament. They won in 1988 and have been runners-up five times.
It was a great match, said Solomon, of Woodbourne. We all played almost as well as we could.
It was a lot of fun, he added. None of us had played in front of so many people. It made me nervous at first, but then I got used to it. It was really cool playing in front of a crowd.
The Missed Opportunities
As always, golfers could look back on missed opportunities, chances to win a hole and increase their lead, or draw closer or knot the match.
Solomon, on the par-3 No. 2, landed his tee shot three feet from the cup, only to watch his birdie putt lip out.
He then birdied the next two holes to put his team two-up and matters so stood until No. 8, when Semenetz birdied to close the gap.
The eventual champs pulled even on 13. Solomon placed his birdie putt 21&Mac218;2 feet away.
I was this close to giving it to you (conceding par), Phillips told Solomon after the match. But I looked at Gregg and he shook his head.
Solomons par attempt entered the hole, then mysteriously jumped out. Consequently, Semenetz sank a two-footer for par.
Semenetz had a great second shot on the par-4 No. 14, landing it two feet from the pin and sinking the birdie putt to give his team the lead.
On the par-5 15th Semenetz made a four-foot birdie putt to put his team two-up.
But Jordan and Solomon came back as Semenetz and Phillips, in Semenetzs words, caved in under the pressure.
Jordan was the only one to make the green on 16th and two-putted for par.
Solomon then parred the 17th to even the match.
A pair of difficult putts by Phillips and Jordan saved par on 18 and sent the match into sudden death.
At the awards banquet, Villa Roma pro Matt Kleiner spoke for many when he stated, This was one of the most exciting tournaments Ive ever been involved with.