By Rob Potter
CALLICOON The 2011 Sullivan County Democrat Two-Man, Better Ball Golf Tournament held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Villa Roma Country Club in Callicoon featured plenty of exciting competition.
The 56 two-man teams not only had to battle each other on the par-71 Villa Roma course, they had to battle Mother Nature. The golfers competed in rain showers on Saturday and had to leave the course for a few moments late Sunday afternoon while heavy rain and thunder passed through the area.
Once the rain moved away, however, the tournament ended in dramatic fashion. The two teams playing in the Championship Flight Final, Sean Semenetz and Joe Winski versus Gregg Semenetz Sr. and Bill Phillips, were even through 17 holes and prepared to play the par-4, 415-yard 18th hole.
After Sean Semenetz and Winski parred the hole, Gregg Semenetz Sr. was left with a short birdie putt to win the tournament. But he narrowly missed the putt to the left, sending the match to a playoff hole.
The 19th hole was the par-4, 365-yard first hole. Gregg Semenetz Sr. and Phillips both reached the green in two shots. But an excellent second shot by Sean Semenetz left him with a short 3 1/2-foot birdie try. As Gregg Semenetz Sr., Phillips, Winski and nearly two dozen spectators looked on, Sean Semenetz calmly drained the putt to capture the title.
The championship is the fourth for the team of Sean Semenetz and Winski, who also won the tourney in 2006, 2007 and 2010. The championship is the fifth overall for Sean Semenetz, who won the 2003 Democrat with partner Nick Yaun.
Sunday’s championship match was close throughout the entire round. After both teams parred the first two holes, Gregg Semenetz Sr. and Phillips recorded a birdie on the par-5 No. 3 and the par-4 No. 4 to go 2-up on Sean Semenetz and Winski.
The veteran team held that advantage through the front nine. On the 10th hole, however, Sean Semenetz and Winski cut their opponents’ lead to 1-up as Semenetz made a birdie putt from the edge of the green about 20 feet from the hole.
Sean Semenetz and Winski evened the match on the 12th hole as Semenetz converted a 7-foot birdie putt.
The two teams then parred the remaining holes to keep the score even at the end of the regulation 18 holes.
“It’s a little bittersweet,” Sean Semenetz said moments after the match ended. “I am happy that we won it, but my dad missed the putt on 18 that would have won it for them.”
Sean Semenetz noted that his father Gregg Semenetz Sr. and Phillips, who won the Democrat tournament in 2001 and 2002, are a great team.
“Billy made a lot of great shots today and my dad made a lot of great shots today,” Sean Semenetz commented.
The younger Semenetz was pleased to come home and play in the tournament. He lives in Philadelphia, Pa., where he sells computer software for Vintek. He also finds time to golf in the area, as two weeks ago he won the club championship at Burlington Country Club in south New Jersey.
Winning another Democrat title with Winski was special for Sean Semenetz.
“He’s an incredible player and golf partner,” Sean Semenetz said. “We just mesh. We have been friends for as long as I can remember and we’ll be friends forever.
“It’s just great to come home for three days of golf,” Semenetz added.
Winski noted that it was “fun to play Gregg and Bill in the final after we played them in the qualifying match on Friday.”
Winski credited Sean Semenetz for making two big shots on the 10th hole.
“He had a phenomenal second shot on number 10,” commented Winski, who is a Youngsville resident. “The biggest thing was making the putt after that to get us to one down. That was huge for us.”
Winski said that the tournament was “a fun time.”
“I really enjoy playing golf with the Semenetz family,” he said. “My family doesn’t golf and the Semenetz family introduced me to the game. I just want to thank the Semenetz family for bringing me along on their trips to the golf course.”
In addition to those two key shots on the 10th hole, Sean Semenetz recorded a hole-in-one on the par-3, 171-yard seventh hole in Sunday morning’s semifinals. The ace helped Semenetz and Winski defeat Tyler White and Michael Kaufman 3+2.
Gregg Semenetz Sr. noted that when they were at the seventh hole during Friday morning’s qualifying round, he, Phillips and Winski talked about how all three of them had aced the hole but Sean Semenetz had not. Approximately 48 hours later, Sean joined that hole-in-one club.
“I had a great time,” Gregg Semenetz Sr. said after Sunday’s Championship Flight Final. “I had fun playing with Sean, Joe and Billy. My goal on Friday was for Billy and I to be in the finals with Sean and Joe today and I achieved that goal.”
Gregg Semenetz Sr., who lives in Jeffersonville, noted that missed putts played a key role in the match’s outcome.
“I missed a putt on 18 that could have won it,” he said. “And Sean missed four or five putts today. He missed an eagle putt on 8 and an eagle putt on 15. If he had made some of those putts, we wouldn’t have even gone to the 18th hole.”
Phillips praised both teams for their efforts.
“We played well and they played well,” said Phillips, a Beach Lake, Pa. resident. “Both teams gave it their best.
“It’s a shame about the rain,” he added. “But everybody played well and had a good time.”
At Sunday evening’s awards buffet dinner, Sullivan County Democrat Publisher Fred Stabbert III thanked all of the golfers for participating in the event.
“You made this a great tournament,” he said. “I also want to thank the grounds crew for the incredible job they did this weekend. And [PGA Pro] Matt Kleiner and everyone else here at the Villa Roma did a great job. You should be thanked.”
The top three teams in each flight were as follows:
Championship Flight: first place Sean Semenetz/Joe Winski, second place Gregg Semenetz Sr./Bill Phillips, third place Rick Schmidt/Kort Wheeler
First Flight: first place John Meyer/Gregg Semenetz Jr., second place Jeff Jagid/Jeff Tynek, third place Mike Novogrodsky/Wayne Pirnos
Second Flight: first place Logan White/Ryan Sonnenschein, second place Alan Coombe/Scotty Hermann, third place Chris DuBois/Jay Shapiro
Third Flight: first place Ira Steingart/Nathan Steingart, second place Jon Etter/Andrew Etter, third place Randy Armstrong/Pat Murtagh
Fourth Flight: first place Stu Novick/Ryan Novick, second place Ted Kleiner/Maxx Kleiner, third place Sean Rieber/Blake Starner
Fifth Flight: first place Drew Billard/Will O’Brien, second place Brian Starr/Pete Selthafner, third place Frank Pisapia/John Shapiro
Sixth Flight: first place Jeff Nober/Brian Annabel, second place Paul Berens/Bob Whitaker, third place Ron Colla Jr./Chris James.