By Fred Stabbert III
CALLICOON July 14, 2006 The Villa Roma Country Club will be a hot ticket come August 4.
Thats when the 25th Annual Sullivan County Democrat Two-Man, Better Ball Golf Tourney tees off from the black tees.
So far, 50 of the 56 open slots have been filled for the three-day event and the field is filled with outstanding young talent.
Last years cinderella team Maxx and Ben Kleiner will again be vying for their first Democrat championship after losing the coveted title on the last hole of the championship match.
Standing in their way will be eight-time winner Ken Cohen of Jeffersonville, who will compete with Shandelee swinger Charles Johnston.
Cohen who won last year with Barry Winter and in 2004 with Johnston has won with five different partners over the span of 20 years, a testament to his ability to keep his game in shape both physically and mentally.
His latest Democrat victory included a remarkable finishing shot in which Cohen knocked a low iron to within a foot of the cup to seal the deal.
If Cohen and Johnston reach the championship match on Sunday afternoon, watch out. In his ten finals appearances, Cohen has brought home the gold eight times, a Democrat record and Johnston has two championships in his two trips to the plate, 1989 and 2004.
But Cohens run for a ninth Democrat title wont be easy.
The father-son duo of Pravin and John Singh of Neversink are sure to be a formidable challenge in the championship flight.
And another father-son duo, Mike and Doug Novogrodsky of Woodridge, can also post a low score and contend for the title.
The field is also littered with past champions just waiting to add another title to the trophy case.
Two-time champions Billy Phillips and Gregg Semenetz Sr. lead the list and are always a tough out on their home course. Great under pressure, Phillips and Semenetz have the distinction of winning the longest championship match in Democrat history when they won on the 21st hole in 2002 over David Solomon and Jack Jordan.
And while Sean Semenetz has yet to name his partner, one year of collegiate golf at Drexel University has certainly helped him to hone his game. The youngest Semenetz won the Democrat in 2003 at the age of 16 and would like nothing better than to put himself into position for another title. He was recently the medalist at the Metropolitan Public Links qualifier with a 69. He also was medalist in the Met Qualifier for the IKE Tournament with a 70. And on Tuesday night he shot a low round of 29 on the front nine at the Villa Roma which included a par 5 on the eighth hole and a narrow miss for eagle on the par 5, third hole.
The one Semenetz without a championship Gregg Jr. may also make some noise as he teams up with Pete Selthafner, a Villa Roma regular who knows the course as well as anyone.
1998 winner Pat Murtagh will again join partner Randy Armstrong as they try to climb up the Championship Flight ladder.
Also, 2000 winner Chris DuBois will play with Ryan Novick as they go after some championship flight glory.
And Tom Drobysh, who won in 1986, when the tourney was held at Grossingers C.C., will join Bob Sipos of Forestburgh. This duo turned some heads last year with a championship flight victory and are getting the feel for more to come.
Ones to Watch
With 16 teams qualifying for the championship flight there is sure to be plenty of low scores on Friday, weather permitting.
Teams that could post low scores and qualify for the championship flight include Rick Lake and Wayne Pirnos, Mark Thatcher and Sean McDonald, Marvin Newberg and Sam Hillman, Robert Kuhn and Drew Suttie and Troy Gregory and David Gordon.
Whoever comes away with the Silver Anniversary Democrat Title will certainly know they earned their championship against one of the best fields in tourney history.