With almost ninety years in the history books, the 89th Record Courier Portage County Amateur Championship was exciting as come-from-behind scores and birdies made the difference for the champions.
Going into the final day of competition, Evan Ferrara of Kent had a slim, one-stroke lead over Derek Miller of Garrettsville after 18 holes at Windmill Lakes Golf Club.
Derek, a varsity golfer for Youngstown State University was obviously happy to get to his home course, Sugar Bush. Having had a successful high school career as a member of the Garfield G-Men, he has taken his game to a new level.
But so has Ferrara who plays for the College of Wooster after competing for the Kent Roosevelt Rough Riders.
The two battled it out with identical 39s on the front nine and remained within one stroke of each other through the first six holes.
Then Miller got hot. He fired three straight birdies on holes seven through nine to win the championship by two strokes.
The final tally, a 149 for Miller with a round of 73 on Sunday and a 76 for second-day 18 for Ferrara who finished with a 151 two-day score.
The surprise of the County Division was Chris Sloe of Aurora who competed for John Carroll University the past four years.
Sloe struggled at Windmill, carding an 80 but on Sunday, he tied Miller for the best nine 18-hole round in the division, a 73 to move into third place with a final two-round total of 153.
Rounding out the top five was Ed Marsinek of Ravenna (78-76 154) and Dove Fall of Windham (80-78 158).
Most improved golfer in the County Division: Alex Avalon of Aurora who struggled at Windmill to a disappointing 93 but almost made it a 20-stroke swing over the two days by carding a 75 at Sugar Bush Golf Club.
It is difficult to overcome a nine-, ten-, or 11-stroke advantage that Darren Phipps enjoyed after carding a Portage County Amateur record-setting round of 65 at Windmill Lake.
But that is what Dean Austalosh of Campbell and Brian Smith of Oberlin tried to do as they each tallied one-under-par rounds of 71.
Mike Furey of Twinsburg also gave Phipps a run for the championship as he carded a 73 at Sugar Bush.
But that outstanding first-round was could not be bested as Phipps shot a solid 74 that included a one-under-par 35 on the front nine to grab the championship.
A former Lake High School and Malone University stand-out, Phipps walked his way around the two championship courses for a final 139 total, eight strokes better than his nearest competitor.
Phipps had the best caddie on the bag, his sister Ashley, the former Lake Center Christian varsity girls coach.
Austalosh of Campbell, headed to play with County Division champ Miller at Youngstown State University in the fall, used that 71 to bump up to second place.
Furey of Twinsburg finished third and Brian Smith, owner of multiple Portage County Amateur Open Division Championships, earned fourth place.
It was a celebration in the clubhouse as Furey lived with Sloe of Aurora, County Division top five, at John Carroll for four years.
Connor Gdovin of Highland Heights, a junior on the Mayfield High School golf team this fall rounded out the top five, totaling a 151.
Missy Gedeon of Hudson, the only woman in the tournament, followed her first round 83 with an 89 at Sugar Bush.
NEXT UP: SENIORS
The Portage County Senior Amateur is August 24-25th. Registration forms are available at host courses Sugar Bush, Windmill and Sunny Hill, or by calling Windmill Lakes to register using a credit/debit card.
89TH PORTAGE COUNTY AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP
Windmill Lakes Golf Club, Ravenna
Sugar Bush Golf Club, Garrettsville
Sat / Sun, July 27 – 28, 2019
Missy Gedeon, Hudson 83-89 172
Derek Miller, Garrettsville 76-73 149
Evan Ferrara, Kent 75-76 151
Chris Sloe, Aurora 80-73 153
Ed Marsinek, Ravenna 78-76 154
Dove Fall, Windham 80-78 158
Brett Beatty, Kent 82-77 159
Brady Adelman, Mogadore 78-82 160
Mike Avalon, Aurora 81-82 163
Chad Brazill, Streetsboro 80-85 165
Randy Wilburn, Deerfield 86-79 165
Alex Avalon, Aurora 93-75 168
Ben Jenior, Rootstown 83-90 173
Bill Avalon, Aurora 91-87 178
Evan Chapple, Rootstown 91-101 192
Mike Williams, Mogadore 94-88 182
Ryan Hostetler, Mogadore 95-88 183
Thomas Dailey, Ravenna 101-95 196
Jaret Gogolsky, Rootstown 103-93 196
Chris Plute, Streetsboro 81 NC
Darren Phipps, Stow 65-74 139
Dean Austalosh, Campbell 76-71 147
Mike Furey, Twinsburg 74-73 147
Brian Smith, Oberlin 76-71 147
Connor Gdovin, Highland Heights 75-76 151
Michael Klaric, Peninsula 79-73 152
Alex Mosteller, North Canton 77-76 153
Jon Wanders, Hudson 75-79 154
Alex Loftin, Macedonia 80-80 160
Zach Baker, Cleveland 85-77 162
Tom Jalbert, Akron 79-84 163
Will Ellison, Akron 81-82 163
Mark Brower, Stow 82-82 164
Jared Budner, Macedonia 84-86 170
Mike Benner, Macedonia 93-82 175
Eric Rush, Sagamore Hills 91-97 188