Democrat Photo by Rob Potter
THE WINNERS OF the 2006 Sullivan County Democrat Two-Man, Better Ball Golf Tournament, Joe Winski Jr., second from left, and Sean Semenetz, third from left, proudly hold up their championship plaques after receiving them from Democrat Publisher Fred Stabbert III, left, and Democrat Golf Tournament Director Matt Kleiner.
By Rob Potter
CALLICOON August 8, 2006 The 25th annual Sullivan County Democrat Two-Man, Better Ball Golf Tournament, which was held this past weekend at the Villa Roma Country Club in Callicoon, was filled with history.
For example, nine former Democrat champions were in the field of 112 amateur golfers. And each of those golfers received a commemorative golf cap with the logo The 25th Democrat: 1982-2006 stitched on the front.
By Sunday afternoon, another bit of history was added to the tournaments legacy as the team of Sean Semenetz and Joe Winski Jr. defeated cousins Ben and Maxx Kleiner in the championship flight final, 3 and 1. While Semenetz and Winski will forever be known as the champions of the silver anniversary Democrat tournament, the event will also be known for the fact that all four finalists were not even born when the tournament began back in 1982. Maxx Kleiner, Semenetz and Winski are all 19 years old, while Ben Kleiner is 17.
The teams used their youth and incredible golf talents to reach the title match. In Saturdays quarterfinals, the Kleiners defeated two-time Democrat tournament champions Gregg Semenetz Sr. and Bill Phillips 3 and 2, while Sean Semenetz and Winski beat 2004 Democrat champions Ken Cohen and Charlie Johnston 2 and 1.
In Sunday mornings semifinals, Kleiner and Kleiner went 19 holes to top Gregg Semenetz Jr. and Pete Selthafner, while Sean Semenetz and Winski defeated Pravin and John Singh 1-up.
The title match began with Semenetz recording a birdie on the par-4 first hole to put his team 1-up.
But Ben Kleiner responded with a birdie putt on the par-3 second hole to even the match.
Semenetz drained a 5-foot birdie putt on the third hole to give him and Winski a 1-up advantage.
Ben Kleiner again evened the score by making a 5-foot birdie putt on the fourth hole.
After both teams parred the fifth hole, Semenetz made a 15-foot birdie putt from the edge of the green on the sixth hole. The long putt again gave Semenetz and Winski a one-hole lead.
The match stayed 1-up as each team made par on the seventh hole.
On the eighth hole, Ben Kleiner and Winski knocked in short birdie putts for their respective teams.
Both twosomes then parred the ninth hole, which allowed Semenetz and Winski to stay 1-up heading to the back nine.
They extended their advantage to 2-up when Winski drained an 8-foot putt for birdie on the 10th hole.
The score remained at 2-up in favor of Semenetz and Winski until the 14th hole.
Ben Kleiner nearly drove the green on the par-4 hole. His ball ended up in a greenside bunker and his blast hit an overhanging tree and dropped down 10 feet from the cup. He then drained a 10-foot birdie putt to pull his team to within a stroke.
Semenetz and Winski responded with a birdie on number 15, again pushing their lead to 2-up.
Both teams parred number 16, meaning that the Kleiners would have to win both of the remaining holes to force a playoff.
There was no need for an extra session, however. After an outstanding tee shot on number 17 that left the ball about 6 feet from the pin, Semenetz calmly made the birdie putt to clinch the championship.
The title is the first for Winski and second for Semenetz, who teamed with Nick Yaun of Liberty to win the 2003 Democrat tournament.
That was a very tough match, Semenetz said. They are a tough team.
Semenetz, who will soon begin his sophomore year at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pa., noted that getting an early lead was a key to victory.
We wanted to get up early, he said. Thats the way we approached all of our matches, we didnt want to get down.
Winski, a soon-to-be sophomore at SUNY Cobleskill, said it felt great to make the birdie putt on the 10th hole to go 2-up.
When you go 2-up, it puts the pressure on the other team, he commented. At 2-up, it gives you some more confidence.
This was a really big win for us, said Semenetz, who teamed with Winski to capture first place in the first flight of last years Democrat tournament.
For Ben and Maxx Kleiner, this is the second straight year they were defeated in the championship flight final. Last August, they were tied with Ken Cohen and Barry Winter through 17 holes. But Cohen made a short birdie putt on the 18th hole to win the title.
I would rather lose like this than the way we did last year, said Ben Kleiner, alluding to the heart-breaking 2005 loss. Sean and Joe were just great today. They had birdies on eight of the 17 holes, thats amazing.
Ben played very well and I didnt play as well, said Maxx Kleiner, who lives in Queens and will be a sophomore at George Washington University this autumn. But even if we had played better, I dont know if we could have beaten them today. Sean played a great game and Joe made every birdie he saw.
At the awards banquet following the final round, Democrat Publisher Fred Stabbert III thanked everyone for making the 25th Democrat Tournament so successful. Among the people he singled out were his father, Sullivan County Democrat Publisher Emeritus Fred Stabbert Jr., who began the tournament back in 1982, Marvin Newberg, who has played in all 25 Democrat golf tournaments and Villa Roma Golf Pro Matt Kleiner, who served as tournament director.
Stabbert III also praised the entire staff at the Villa Roma for doing an outstanding job of hosting the event.
In addition to announcing the flight winners, Matt Kleiner and Stabbert III presented the qualifying medalist award to the father-and-son team of Pravin and John Singh. In Fridays qualifying round, the Singhs shot a 6-under-par 65.
Matt Kleiner also thanked the golfers for making the tournament such a great event. He praised Ben Kleiner and Maxx Kleiner who are his son and nephew, respectively and Semenetz and Winski for playing such a good final.
It was a like a boxing match, he said of the way the two teams traded birdie putts on the first few holes.
The top three teams in each flight were as follows:
Championship Flight: 1st Sean Semenetz/Joe Winski Jr.; 2nd Ben Kleiner/Maxx Kleiner; 3rd Pravin Singh/John Singh
First Flight: 1st Tyler White/Mike Kaufman; 2nd Randy Armstrong/Pat Murtagh; 3rd Brian Gordon/Michael Goldstein
Second Flight: 1st Marvin Newberg/Sam Hillman; 2nd Justin Armstrong/Walter Herzog; 3rd Robert Kuhn/Drew Suttie
Third Flight: 1st John Gillow/John Dyser; 2nd Pete Sigelakis/Arthur Norden; 3rd Troy Gregory/David Gordon
Fourth Flight: 1st Andrew Katz/Mike Negre; 2nd Michael Zager/John Garnett; 3rd Nolan Levine/Darren Kenny
Fifth Flight: 1st Marty Passante/Ron Colla; 2nd Daniel Hendrickson/Eric Hendrickson; 3rd Ronald Lewis/Frank Barrett
Sixth Flight: 1st Mike Cardo/Jeremy Levner; 2nd Craig Reimer/Mike Forsblom; 3rd Alex Etter/Allen Burkholder.