Dave Sotka of Chardon played a spectacular round of golf under the gun on Saturday at Manakiki in the Cleveland Metropark’s Tour Championship, getting the job done exactly when he needed to get it done.
In truly challenging conditions, he posted a 1-under par score of 71 to win both the 2012 Cleveland Metroparks Golf Tour Championship and the first-ever Player of the Year honors, all in one fell swoop.
But a crucial missed putt on the final green by Steve Blackburn Jr. could have made for an entirely different story.
Sotka and Blackburn both headed into the final hole of the day at 1-under par for their rounds, which was truly amazing considering the temperature of 39 degrees at the start of play, the cold swirling winds that hit 25 mph, and the greens that were still sandy and bouncy from recent aerification.
How good was that score? The pair was a full seven shots in front of their nearest challengers at the time.
Sotka had overcome two sixes — a double-bogey 6 on the tough par-4 8th hole and a bogey-6 on the easy par-5 12th — by making birdies at holes 4, 6, 13 and 14.
Blackburn Jr. had also fashioned a four-birdie round — birdies at three of the four par-5s plus the tricky ninth hole — offset by bogeys at holes 2, 7 and 11.
Playing in the group ahead of Sotka, it looked to be ‘advantage Junior’ as he blistered his tee shot on the 18th hole and had just 75 yards to the front pin location. But a second shot that flew further than he wanted led to a tough downhill birdie putt and a subsequent 3-putt bogey, and a miffed Blackburn finished at even par 72 for the round.
Sotka took advantage of the opening: he hit the green from the fairway on the 18th, secured a two-putt par, and took the victory.
If Blackburn had secured par at the last, the tournament would gone into a playoff.
Just a week earlier, Sotka and Blackburn Jr. partnered for victory at the Barbour Cup at Sleepy Hollow. And Blackburn also won with Ryan Stefanski at the Big Met 2-Man Scramble the week prior to that, so Junior was going for the “Fall Triple Crown” in an effort match the three-wins-in-a-row feat Derek Duda accomplished in 2011.
But with Blackburn’s final hole bogey, it was not to be.
Sotka sat in second position in the Player of the Year race heading into the final tournament, so to perform under the gun was exceptional. A.J. Borisa had the points lead after the Barbour Cup, but had a tough day at Manakiki. Players like Scott Heran, Mark Borlin and Dave Stover also had a chance to nab the POY honors with a victory, but none of them could keep pace with the performances of Sotka and Blackburn.
Clearly, the new Player of the Year points concept was a complete success, as it built greater interest in the Cleveland Metroparks Golf events all the way through the fall. But one consideration going forward might be greater attention to the greens conditions for these final tournaments of the year, as the putting surfaces at both Big Met and Manakiki were not anywhere near ‘tournament condition’ after the fall aeration. (Sleepy Hollow fared better in this regard this year.) The putting conditions for the Course Championships and the Cleveland Amateur at these same courses have been solid for a number of years now, so some additional efforts to get acceptable tournament conditions would go a long way to building even more interest in these season-ending events down the line.
Special thanks to pros John Fiander of Sleepy Hollow, Mike Raby of Big Met, and Tom Kochensparger of Manakiki for all of their professional tournament management efforts throughout the 2012 season. The tournament players of Greater Cleveland look forward to competing again in 2013! Complete results from the Tour Championship and the 2012 Cleveland Metroparks Golf Player of the Year points follow…
Cleveland Metroparks Golf
2012 Tour Championship
Manakiki Golf Course, Willoughby Hills, Ohio
Saturday, October 14th
Dave Sotka 71 – $200
Steve Blackburn Jr. 72 – $125
Kory Oslie 78 – $75
Dave Stover 78 – $60
Warren Cohen 79 – $45
Allen Freeman 80
Phil Bojc 82
Mark Foss 82
Ryan Stefanski 82
Dan Metzendorf 82
Scott Heran 83
Mark Borlin 85
Mark Hubert 85
Michael Mintz 85
Kevin Richardson 85
A.J. Borisa 87
Cary Slabaugh 89
Bobby Harmon 91
A.J. Grabowski 92
Drew Thompson NC
Derek Duda NC
Russ Rybka NC
Patrick Tyrell DNS
SKINS: 12 @ $36 ea
Dave Stover – Birdie #2
Steve Blackburn Jr. – Birdie #3, #9
Dave Sotka – Birdie #4, #6
Scott Heran – Birdie #5, Eagle #13
Warren Cohen – Birdie #7
Dan Metzendorf – Birdie #8
Cary Slabaugh – Birdie #15
Mark Hubert – Birdie #17
Kevin Richardson – Birdie #18
2012 CLEVELAND METROPARKS GOLF ‘PLAYER OF THE YEAR’
|Player Name||Points||Gift Card|
|Steve Blackburn Jr.||76||$200|
|Steve Blackburn Sr.||70||$170|
|Frank Whites III||20|