By Rob Potter
CALLICOON Josh Goldstein and Mike Culclasure repeated as champions of the Sullivan County Democrat Two-Man, Better Ball Golf Tournament on Sunday evening at the Villa Roma Country Club in Callicoon.
But it was certainly not an easy task for the duo to win the 28th annual tournament, which featured 112 golfers 56 two-man teams vying for the title over three days of intense competition.
Goldstein and Culclasure defeated Kort Wheeler and Rich Schmidt 1-up in a six-hour match that needed two playoff holes to decide and included a 50-minute delay for a thunderstorm.
Wheeler and Schmidt forced the match into extra holes by evening the score on the 18th hole. Goldstein and Culclasure were 1-up as the players teed off on the par-4 hole. But Schmidt calmly drained a putt from about 30 feet away to allow him and Wheeler to earn a par on the hole.
Goldstein, a Liberty resident, then had a chance to win the match with a putt for par from about 7 feet away. But the ball lipped out of the cup, forcing the need for at least one extra hole.
Villa Roma Country Club PGA Professional and Tournament Director Matt Kleiner instructed the two teams to play the 18th hole again. Both teams bogeyed the hole and Kleiner directed the teams to the ninth hole.
On the ninth hole, Goldstein hit an excellent tee shot onto the green and the ball stopped about 4 feet in front of the hole. Goldstein putted for birdie, but the ball touched the edge of the cup and rolled past it.
Wheeler, who lives in Liberty, had a putt for par from about 8 feet away. But the ball lipped out of the hole, which sealed the victory for Goldstein and Culclasure.
Goldstein and Culclasure, who were seeded fourth in the Championship Flight, defeated No. 1 seed Gregg Semenetz Sr. and Billy Phillips, 3 and 2, in a semifinal match on Sunday morning. Wheeler and Schmidt, the seventh seed in the Championship Flight, defeated the third-seeded team of Ben Kleiner and Maxx Kleiner, 3 and 2, in the other semifinal match on Sunday morning.
After both teams birdied the first hole in Sunday’s title match, Goldstein and Culclasure went 1-up on hole No. 2 as Goldstein made a birdie putt.
The score remained that way until the sixth hole. Goldstein and Culclasure moved to 2-up as they parred the hole and Wheeler and Schmidt had a bogey.
But Goldstein and Culclasure’s advantage was reduced to 1-up on the seventh hole as Wheeler and Schmidt earned par thanks to Wheeler’s 4-foot putt.
Goldstein and Culclasure went 2-up by earning a par on the 10th hole.
Wheeler made a 10-foot putt on the 12th hole to again cut the Goldstein/Culclasure advantage to 1-up.
Wheeler and Schmidt evened the match by scoring a par on No. 13 thanks to Schmidt’s 10-foot putt.
But as the teams were teeing off on No. 14, a thunderstorm rolled in and all of the players retreated to the clubhouse. After 50 minutes, the players returned to the course.
Goldstein and Culclasure went 1-up on the 15th hole with a par.
The score remained 1-up in favor of Goldstein and Culclasure until Schmidt’s spectacular putt on the 18th hole.
“This was a tough match,” said 19-year-old Goldstein, who will be a sophomore this fall at Elon University, an NCAA Division I school in Burlington, N.C. He tried out for and made Elon’s men’s golf team last year and expects to make the team again this year.
“Those guys played a heck of a match,” Goldstein added. “It was close the entire way. Both teams made about six birdies.
“It feels great to win the tournament again,” he said.
Culclasure, who lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C., was also pleased to repeat as tourney champions. He gave Goldstein a great deal of credit for the victory.
“It was an honor to play with Josh,” Culclasure said. “He’s a great friend and a great player. He can flat out play golf.”
Both men said they plan to enter next year’s tournament.
“We had fun,” said Schmidt, who lives in Jeffersonville. “Both of those guys are great golfers.”
Wheeler won the Democrat tourney in 1993 with Robert Friedman. The duo finished second in the 1994 Democrat.
“This is the first time I have played competitive golf in a long time,” Wheeler said. “It was great to be out on the golf course and teeing it up. I had a phenomenal time.”
Wheeler and Schmidt dedicated their second place finish to Tournament Sponsor Fred Stabbert III, who is the Publisher of the Sullivan County Democrat.
After all of the teams completed their round, the awards dinner was held in the Villa Roma Clubhouse dining room.
Kleiner thanked everyone for participating in the tournament.
Hal Roeder, who has been Fred Stabbert III’s partner in the tournament for the past nine years, read a statement from Stabbert III, who could not attend the dinner.
“The Stabbert family and the Sullivan County Democrat family would like to thank everyone for coming to the tournament this year,” Roeder read from a piece of paper. “We know how much this tournament means to each and every one of you and the same is true for us.
“Thank you to everyone who helped to make this tournament a success, especially the Villa Roma, Matt Kleiner and all the volunteers who were involved. We hope to see you all again next year.
We appreciate all of your good thoughts and prayers for the health of my father, Fred. As he has always done, he is certainly giving it his all. He would appreciate it if you had a toast for him.”
Everyone raised their glasses as Roeder gave a toast to Fred Stabbert Jr., Publisher Emeritus of the Sullivan County Democrat.
Kleiner then presented the award for lowest qualifying score to Billy Phillips, who accepted on behalf of himself and partner Gregg Semenetz Sr. In Friday morning’s qualifying round, Semenetz and Phillips carded a 3-under-par 68.
Kleiner then presented awards to the top three teams in each flight.
Those teams were as follows:
1st place Tom Meyer/Joe Meyer; 2nd place Michael Mednick/Steve Proyect; 3rd place Frank Pisapia/John Shapiro
1st place Darren Kenney/Nolan Levine; 2nd place Stu Novick/Ryan Novick; 3rd place David Rosenberg/Pete Moglia
1st place Jay Shapiro/Chris DuBois; 2nd place Arthur Norden/Artie Norden; 3rd place Jeff Goldsmith/Steven Steiner
1st place Ben Gordon/Michael Goldstein; 2nd place Deno Sigelakis/Pete Sigelakis; 3rd place Tom Willi/Dave Fisk
1st place Justin Armstrong/Walter Herzog; 2nd place Wayne Pirnos/Wayne Novogrodsky; 3rd place Steve Luty/Brad Luty
1st place Bill Elliott/Richard Elliott; 2nd place Ken Cohen/Barry Winter; 3rd place Drew Suttie/Robert Kuhn
1st place Josh Goldstein/Mike Culclasure; 2nd place Kort Wheeler/Rich Schmidt; 3rd place Randy Armstrong/Pat Murtagh.