ST. CLAIRSVILLE - The championship trophies hadn't even been in their hands for a minute, yet the winning team in the open division of Friday's 15th annual Phil Niekro Classic golf tournament was talking three-peat.
The foursome of Zach Hanson, Matt Lucki, Ryan Mellott and newcomer Dave Stack carded a 16-under-par 56. Hanson, Lucki and Mellott teamed with Jason Balcar to win last year's title.
"Back-to-back and looking for a three-peat," Hanson, the team spokesman, proclaimed. "This is a great event and we are pleased to be here for it. We played great again this year. We had to sub in Dave for Jason, but we still got it done.
WINNING THE Open Division of Friday’s event are pictured with
namesake Phil Niekro and
members Gordie Longshaw and Don Cash. From left are winning team members Dave Stack, Zach Hanson, Niekro, Longshaw, Matt Lucki, Ryan Mellott and Cash.
CAPTURING THE Bridgeport-only Division was the foursome of, from left, Zac Herink, Jonathan Kreiter, tournament namesake Phil Niekro, committee member Gordie Longshaw, team member Jeff Herink and committee member Don Cash. Not pictured is team member Bailey McGrath.
"There is no doubt we're going to three-peat," Hanson boldly stated. "We're happy to be back-to-back champs, and we'll definitely be back next year."
He said a pair of eagles on No. 4 and No. 6 helped the cause as they fired a sizzling 27 on the first nine holes. They followed it up with a 29 for their total, which was two strokes better than the quartet of Dave Reasbeck, Jack Becker, Ed Gavarkavich and Greg Harkness.
Finishing in a tie for third were the teams of Dave Hall, Hank Fleishour, Ron Yost and Dan Nadeja; and Dwayne Pielech, Jon Pielech, Jeff Pielech and Gary Schrickel. They both had 59s.
The fifth-place team was comprised of Chuck DeMatte, Rob Zitzelsberger, R.J. Zitzelsberger and Kevin Orban.
"The weather couldn't have been any better," Niekro Classic committee member Gordie Longshaw beamed. "We had a great turnout and a lot of good sponsors. Phil's glad to be here and we're glad to have him."
Longshaw said several groups of organizations will benefit from the golf tournament.
"We just gave a check to the football team. The Bridgeport Public Library will get some money for its summer reading program, and another reading program in the school."
Taking top honors in the Bridgeport-only Division was the team of Bailey McGrath, Jonathan Kreiter, Zac Herink and Jeff Herink. They shot a 59, which was two shots better than the foursome of Kelly Rine, Scott Lindsey, Brian Stewart and Red Ducker.
The team of Scott Frasnelly, Dean Burk, Mike Vargo and Jim Fisher finished third at 63. Tying for fourth were Jim Ducker, Al Ducker, John Piccin and Lou Piccin; and Bill Glitch, Larry Zink, Jim Dailer and Tom Kellas. They each carded 64s.
"Over the 15 years, we've probably given out close to $225,000," Bridgeport Educational Assistance Foundation committee member Don Cash said. "We support the Close Up project at Bridgeport High School. The school is getting ready to do a Million Minute Reading Program. We're going to support that in the fall.
"If somebody in the school has a worthy cause, they present their case to us, and we give them some money," he explained. "We make a donation of some kind to help them out."
BEAF was started by alumnus Al Scheid in the late 1990s, according to Cash.
Cash said it's also great to have Phil Niekro on hand.
"Anyone who knows Phil, he's a lot of fun," Cash noted.
"He's down to earth. He makes the tournament wonderful because he goes around and shakes everyone's hand. He makes everyone feel at home."
Longshaw was named the tournament's 'Man of the Year' during the post-tournament dinner and wards ceremony.
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org