A foursome from St. Clairsville emerged victorious Friday afternoon as the day-long Niekro Golf Classic came to a close at Belmont Hills Country Club in St. Clairsville.
Jason Balcar, Zach Hanson, Matt Lucki and Ryan Mellott carded a 54, which was two strokes better than the team comprised of Jay Davis, Frank Ferrell, Matt Golein and Eric Vernon.
"It was a great team effort. Everybody was a solid contributor," said team spokesman Zach Hanson. "We played great as a team, and that is what it takes in an event like this."
The team of former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Wagner, Ron Michau, Rob Yachini and Matt Klug finished third at 58. Joe Maroon, Dean Burke, Todd Schambach and Carson Schambach also broke 60 with a 59.
Shortly after the field of 36 teams teed off at 8:30 a.m., Mother Nature teed off on the spacious, but hilly, 18-hole course. However, there were few complaints from the competitors.
"The rain slowed us down right out of the gate," Hanson recalled. "I think that is why we got so hot on the back nine. If the weather would have cooperated on the front nine, then it could've been a record-setting day."
The winners fired an amazing 11-under-par on the final nine holes to secure the Open Division championship.
Balcar and Hanson were golfers during the scholastic days at St. Clairsville, while Lucki and Mellott were key performers for the Red Devils baseball squad that went to the state tournament some time ago.
Taking top honors in the all-Bridgeport Division was the group of Kelly Rine, Scott Lindsey, Craig Miller and Brian Stewart.
They fired a 65, as did the foursome of Larry Zink, Bill Glitch, Jim Dailer and Tom Kellas. Finishing third was the all-Tennant team of Jack, Jeff Sr., Jeff Jr. and Jim. They carded a 66.
However, after reviewing the scorecards, it went to the fifth hole before the winners were declared.
Tournament director Gordie Longshaw had nothing but praise for the entire event.
"Today was great. We had 36 teams and 144 golfers," he noted.
"We also had over 30 sponsors. It's a great day for the Bridgeport School District which benefits from the Niekro Classic.
"The rain gave us a damper, but now it's nice and sunny," he said.
Plans are already under way for the 15th annual event to be held next summer.
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org