Sullivan County Democrat
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Fred Stabbert III | Democrat

Two-time defending champs Mike Culclasure, left, and Joshua Goldstein, center, watch as Justin Armstrong lines up a putt on the practice green yesterday afternoon at the Villa Roma Country Club. The three men were preparing for the 29th Annual Democrat Golf Tournament, which begins at 8 a.m. today at the Villa Roma Golf Course in Callicoon.

Democrat Golf Tourney tees off today

By Fred Stabbert III
CALLICOON — July 23, 2010 — The practice rounds are complete, the entries are all in and the Villa Roma Golf and Country Club is in its best shape of the season.
Now it’s time to bring on the 29th Annual Sullivan County Democrat Two-Man Better Ball Golf Tourney.
With 120 players in this year’s field – representing 60 teams – the 2010 Democrat promises to be on par to become one of the best in history.
“There are legitimately 16 teams which could win it,” Villa Roma Golf Pro Matthew Kleiner said this week. “It will take four great rounds and expect four or more teams to break par in the qualifier.”
Today, the three-day tourney begins with a qualifying round over the 18-hole, par-71 layout.
Teams will then be flighted, with the Championship Flight taking the top 16 qualifiers and each flight after that consisting of eight teams.
“I’d be surprised if we didn’t have three or four teams in the ‘60s,” Kleiner said.
Fred Stabbert, tourney sponsor and publisher of the Sullivan County Democrat, agreed.
“This really is one of our best fields ever,” he said. “And with the receptive greens, I’m sure some of the better players will be hitting shots right at the pins.”
But the biggest question of the weekend will be can Joshua Goldstein and Mike Culclasure win their third straight Democrat title?
It’s a feat only three other teams ever had the chance to try.
The first-ever Democrat champions – Mark and Mitchell Etess – used their home course advantage to its fullest as they won the first two tournaments at The Big G in Liberty.
“I remember Mark even telling my father, ‘Fred, we’re going to win your tournament,’” Stabbert said. “They were certainly a powerhouse of a team.”
Nearly 20 years later, Gregg Semenetz Sr. and Billy Phillips used their home course knowledge and excellent play to win back-to-back championships at the Villa Roma in 2001 and 2002.
“It had to be one of the most dramatic finishes ever,” Stabbert said of Semenetz and Phillips’ first championship victory in 2001. “I can still see the crowd surrounding the No. 3 green – at least 50 players – and watching Gregg Semenetz drain a 25-foot, downhill impossible putt for the win.”
The team they beat, Jack Jordan and David Solomon, went down as runners-up, a footnote in history.
Both teams were given a standing ovation following the match, a tribute to the sportsmanship and respect which the championship flight players deserve.
The only other team to have a chance at threepeating – Sean Semenetz and Joe Winski – couldn’t play together in 2007.
“A lot of teams will be gunning to beat Joshua and Mike, that’s for sure,” Stabbert said. “It will be amazing if they can pull it off.”
One team which will definitely be looking to win the Democrat is Kort Wheeler and Rich Schmidt. The duo finished second last year, losing on the third hole of sudden death.
“I’m ready,” Rich Schmidt said Wednesday. “I’m back and I want to get into the finals.”
Schmidt led a foursome of himself, Gene Kelly, Jeff Nober and Brian Starr to a 14-under par win in last Sunday’s Catskill Cup at the Villa Roma.
“A lot really depends on how the teams qualify and what brackets you end up in,” Stabbert said. “We are really looking forward to this year’s tourney.”

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