Rob Potter | Democrat
DEMOCRAT GOLF TOURNEY Champions Sean Semenetz, second from left, and Joe Winski, right, receive congratulations from Maxx Kleiner, left, and Ben Kleiner after winning the 2007 Democrat Two-Man, Better Ball Golf Tournament on Sunday at the Villa Roma.
Semenetz - Winski Defend Tourney Title
By Rob Potter
CALLICOON August 14, 2007 On Sunday afternoon, Sean Semenetz and Joe Winski became only the third team in the 26-year history of the Sullivan County Democrat Two-Man, Better Ball Golf Tournament to repeat as champions.
But it wasn’t easy. Fifty-six teams started the three-day tourney on a cold, wet Friday morning and by Sunday afternoon, bright sunshine had returned the Villa Roma Country Club in Callicoon to its patened fast greens and lush green fairways.
“We truly are blessed,” Fred Stabbert III, tournament sponsor, said. “The rain really made Friday’s round difficult, but we got it in and the 16 teams in the Championship Flight truly deserved to be there.
The premier match of the weekend came Sunday afternoon much like the Master’s as the two top teams slugged it out for the second year in a row.
Semenetz and Winski needed to win a playoff hole to defeat the team of cousins Ben and Maxx Kleiner in the championship match, 1-up.
After 17 holes of excellent golf, Semenetz and Winski were 1-up. But Maxx Kleiner drained a 25-foot, downhill birdie putt from the edge of the apron on the 18th hole to even the match and force a playoff.
Both teams carded identical 66s, 5-under par rounds.
The outstanding putt elicited a loud cheer from the gallery of about 24 fellow golfers, family and friends who closely watched the last few holes of the match.
Following Kleiner’s clutch putt, the two teams headed back to the 18th tee for the playoff.
Unfortunately, neither of the Kleiners made the fairway on the par-4 18th, while Semenetz and Winski both hit long, straight drives to within 100 yards of the pin.
Maxx was unable to get on the green on his third shot and Ben was some 40 feet away, just on the front of the green.
Winski and Semenetz, meanwhile, both hit approach shots to within 10 and 15 feet respectively, to give themselves birdie looks.
Sensing that a birdie 3 was needed to halve the hole, Ben gave his long putt a good run but it slipped 11 feet past, making his par try a white knuckler. When he missed that putt, Semenetz-Winski were almost assured the victory.
Winski clinched the win for his team when he calmly made a two-putt for par.
“This feels really good,” Winski said moments after the win. “Sean and I played as a team the whole weekend. Teamwork is the key in this tournament, one guy can’t do it by himself.”
Semenetz said that repeating as tournament champs is “excellent.”
“We stayed consistent the whole tournament,” Semenetz said.
One of the first people to congratulate the two-time titlists was Sean’s father, Gregg Semenetz Sr.
Semenetz Sr. and Bill Phillips won the Democrat tourney in 2001 and 2002 to become only the second team to repeat as champions. The first duo to win back-to-back Democrat tourneys was Mark Etess and Mitchell Etess. The Etess brothers won the first two Democrat events in 1982 and 1983 when it was played at Grossinger’s Country Club.
Both Sean Semenetz and Winski praised Ben and Maxx Kleiner for playing such an outstanding match.
“Maxx and Ben are great players,” said 20-year-old Winski, a junior-to-be at SUNY Cortland. “You can never count them out.”
“Maxx and Ben are an excellent team,” added 20-year-old Semenetz, who is a member of the golf team at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pa.
The Kleiners went 1-up on the par-5 third hole when Maxx made a 3-foot birdie putt.
But Semenetz and Winski evened the match on the fifth hole. The score remained tied until the ninth hole, when Semenetz and Winski went 1-up after Winski made a birdie putt from about 5 feet away.
On the short, par-4, 12th hole, Ben rolled in a 20-footer from off the green to even the match.
Semenetz returned the favor on the next hole, a dangerous 171-yard, downhill par-3 when his 10-foot birdie putt rolled in to put his team back up 1.
Semenetz and Winski extended their advantage to 2-up when Semenetz made an eagle putt on the par-five, 15th hole.
Two holes down with only three holes to play, the Kleiners needed some big shots.
Ben stuck a 160-yard approach on 16 to within 5 feet and then rolled in the birdie.
His double fist pump meant game on and both teams went to 17.
The teams halved the hole as Maxx just missed making his bird.
That set up the dramatic finishing hole and Maxx’s unbelievable putt.
“When it was about two-thirds of the way there, I thought, ‘Wow, I hit that really good,’” Maxx Kleiner said of his clutch putt.
Maxx noted that on Saturday morning, he and Ben were down two holes with only three to play against the team of Marvin Newberg and Charlie Johnston. The Kleiner cousins rallied to defeat Newberg and Johnston 1-up.
“Coming back to win that match in the last three holes against Marvin and Charlie gave us confidence,” commented Maxx , a 20-year-old Queens resident who will begin his junior year at George Washington University in a couple of weeks. “And when Ben made that putt on 16, we felt we could come back.”
But it wasn’t to be for the Kleiners, who also finished second to Semenetz and Winski last year and were runners-up to Ken Cohen and Barry Winter in the 2005 Democrat tournament.
“Sean Semenetz is unbelievable, he’s probably the best player in this tournament,” Maxx said. “Joe Winski is great as well. He’s a really solid player.”
While understandably disappointed with a third consecutive second-place finish, the Kleiners are great competitors who are already looking forward to the 2008 Democrat tournament.
When asked about playing in next year’s event, Ben Kleiner had a one-word answer.
“Definitely,” he said.
“These runner-up finishes are getting old,” added the 18-year-old Kleiner, who will begin his freshman year at New York University later this month.
“I know how disappointed the Kleiners must be but they truly put on a show and are really remarkable competitors and sportsmen,” Stabbert said. “I also have to congratulate Sean and Joe on another outstanding year. This marks the third championship for Sean and right now I think he could win a few and maybe even catch Kenny (Cohen) some day.”
Ken Cohen of Jeffersonville has eight Democrat titles dating back to 1984.
At the awards banquet, Villa Roma Director of Golf Matt Kleiner thanked Villa Roma owner Marty Passante, Golf Course Superintendent Jeff Coccodrilli and the entire Villa Roma staff for “a great job” of hosting the tournament. Kleiner also thanked Democrat Publisher Emeritus Fred Stabbert Jr. and Democrat Publisher Fred Stabbert III for all of their work to make the tournament successful once again.
Stabbert thanked all the players for making the 2007 tournament such a great event. He especially noted the efforts of Passante, Matt Kleiner and everyone at the Villa Roma for doing such a wonderful job the entire weekend.
The top three teams in each of the flights were as follows:
Championship Flight: 1st Sean Semenetz/Joe Winski; 2nd Ben Kleiner/Maxx Kleiner; 3rd Gregg Semenetz Sr./Bill Phillips
1st Flight: 1st Walter Herzog/Justin Armstrong; 2nd Mike Kaufman/Tyler White; 3rd Terry Wolcott/Bob Simpson
2nd Flight: 1st Bob Sipos/Tom Drobysh; 2nd Mike Goldstein/Brian Gordon; 3rd Andrew Goldstein/Joel Klaiman
3rd Flight: 1st Alex Etter/Michael Sass; 2nd Adam Platin/Andrew Sunshine; 3rd David Gordon/Troy Gregory
4th Flight: 1st Lou Siegel/Charlie Siegel; 2nd Mednick/Proyect; 3rd Mike Cardo/Jeremy Levner
5th Flight: 1st Craig Fleishman/Michael Lofaro; 2nd Joe Naidrich/Jeff Goldsmith; 3rd Tom Meyer/John Meyer
6th Flight: 1st Paul Berens/ Bob Whitaker; 2nd Marty Passante/Ron Colla; 3rd Henry Kubenik/Gary Erlwein.