Ohio Valley Christian Soldiers Golf Classic: Buckeye fans get thrill of a lifetime

If you’re an Ohio State University football fan, what could be any sweeter than meeting Archie Griffin? That’s how a pair of Buckeye fans spent their Wednesday.

St. Clairsville High School Athletic Director Kelly Rine and Belmont County Commissioner Mark Thomas were paired with the two-time Heisman Trophy winner during the 10th – and final – Ohio Valley Christian Soldiers Golf Classic in memory of Jeffrey Showalter. The celebrity-packed event teed off in miserable conditions in the morning, but the skies cleared over the Belmont Hills Country Club course for the most part.

Although they didn’t finish in the money, it was a dream come true for Rine and Thomas.

“It was awesome and extra special,” Rine said of playing with the former Buckeye great. “He’s a first class individual and a true gentleman. He’s also a great representative of the university.”

Rine said he can still remember the first time he saw Griffin play in person.

“My first (college) game ever. I was in 7th grade at Bridgeport Junior High and I saw him play against Minnesota in the Horseshoe,” Rine recalled. “He was running behind Pete Johnson. I’ll never forget it.”

When asked how Griffin plays golf, Rine replied, “He hits it right down the middle of the fairway.”

Thomas, who has played with Griffin on more than half-a-dozen occasions, said it’s always fun.

“I’ve known Archie for some time,” Thomas said. “We serve on the same board in Worthington, so, this being the final Showalter, I asked him, as a friend, to come down and he obliged. It meant a lot to the Ohio Valley Christian Soldiers that he was here.

“No matter what Archie has done in his lifetime, he’s a down-to-earth person,” Thomas added. “He talks to everyone. He takes time to sign autographs and take pictures.”

Fifty-three was the magic number Wednesday, as it was the winning score in both flights.

The team of former Wheeling Thunderbird and Wheeling Nailer Brock Woods, Scott Korab, John Gallagher, Walt Ryan and Dan Shoemaker captured the ‘A’ Flight by shooting 19-under-par. They were closely followed by the fivesome of Lance Mehl, Jason Balcar, Sam Kelly, Alex Saseen and Joey Seabright who shot a 54. Finishing third at 55 was the team of former Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebacker Robin Cole, Chuck DeMatte, Gary Schrickel, John Becca and Eric Coe, which was the two-time defending champions.

“We finished third, but we had fun,” DeMatte said.

The Linsly School, with former Wheeling Thunderbird head coach Doug Sauter as its celebrity, captured the ‘B’ Flight by matching the ‘A’ Flight winners score. Also comprising the squad were Terry Depew, Mark Landini, Reno Diorio and Hoss Cartwright. They beat the team of former NFL assistant coach Kirk Mee, Mike Costanzo, Zac Costanzo, Joe Doerr and Jeff Thomas by three strokes. Taking third was the team of former Pittsburgh Pirates’ lefthander John Candelaria, Brian Brooks, Ty Medovic, Gary Madrid and Brandon Greiner. They carded a 60.

Cole, DeMatte, Schrickel, Becca and Coe also won the team putting contest, while former St. Clairsville three-sport standout Joel Giffin was awarded for having the shortest drive on hole No. 1. The longest drive on No. 18 went to former Pitt quarterback Sal Genilla. Union Local girls’ basketball coach and 2014 BHCC women’s club champion Kelly Hanlon had the straightest drive on No. 9 and Mike Saylor was closest to the pin on No. 2.

In addition to the aforementioned celebrities, also attending were former Pittsburgh Steelers Randy Grossman, Mel Blount, Jim Bradshaw and Marv Kellum; former Pittsburgh Pirates Jim Rooker, Frank Thomas and Sid Bream; former world champion kickboxer Bernard “Swiftkick” Robinson; former University of Cincinnati basketball standout “Big” George Wilson; Paul Failla; former Major League baseball player Todd Erdos; former NFL player Devon McDonald; Austin King; former OSU kicker Jeremy Uhlenhake; former OSU player Bob Bruney; OVAC Hall of Famer Don Sutherin; Les Chaney; Ed Breehl; Jamey Caleb; former NFL player John Stofa; former Pitt and Steelers quarterback Pete Gonzalez; Gerry Myers; Herman “Thunderfoot” Weaver; former OSU player Bob Butts; former Major League Baseball scout Claudio Reilsono; Frank Marchlewski; former N.Y. Jets assistant football coach Jay Fry and Todd Morris.