One Indiana pairing pulled off the comeback in the Indiana Country Club Invitational semifinal round, and one fell just short, as the final-round teams from last year were defeated in back-and-forth matches in the better-ball match-play tournament Saturday.
Indiana players T.R. Gatti and Sean Sweithelm came back to beat Greensburg’s Ronald and David DeNunzio in 20 holes, while Punxsutawney’s Sam Levy and Justin Cameron held off local players and defending champions Doug Gradwell and David Smith, 1-up. Gatti and Sweithelm will battle Levy and Cameron in the Championship Flight title match today.
The DeNunzio brothers were in good shape to advance to the title match for the second straight year, leading Gatti and Sweithelm by four strokes after nine holes, while the Punxsutawney duo held a three-hole lead after 10 before squeaking out a victory.
“It’s one of those things, that’s what you play golf for,” Cameron said. “You play to be in the heat, to be in the pressure cooker, to have to make something, to have to hit that crucial shot. It was a lot of fun. That’s why we do it.”
“It wasn’t fun for us after the first eight holes,” Sweithelm said, “but it got fun. We managed to keep in it, step by step.”
Gatti and Sweithelm, both ICC members, fell behind by four after eight holes and slowly climbed back to force extra holes.
“Once you come back from four down just to even get it to even, it’s such an emotional lift,” Gatti said.
“Once we got one, we just wanted to get one more, one more,” Sweithelm said. “Take it one hole at a time. We finally got it to 17 — we were one down and birdied it for extra holes. … We were happy to get to 18, honestly.”
Levy and Cameron knew their edge wasn’t necessarily secure against the defending champions. Smith has won seven invitationals, most recently with Gradwell last year, when the two defeated the DeNunzio brothers, 1-up. Gradwell has won 12 ICC club championships.
“Doug is a fantastic player,” Cameron said. “Today is the first time I’ve ever played with him, but I’ve heard about him and I know what kind of player he is just from the other players that I play with. It was a real treat.”
Gradwell and Smith tied the match on No. 15, making up a three-hole deficit in a span of four holes. The Punxsutawney duo took No. 17, then Smith had a shot at a birdie putt on No. 18 to tie the match again, but missed just short.
“It’s a big deal. Since I’ve been a kid, I’ve been hearing about this tournament from members everywhere,” said Cameron, who, with Levy, is a Punxsutawney Country Club member.
“This is actually my first year here. My partner normally plays with his brother, and he had some elbow injuries, so I came over with him. … I’ve always been antsy to get over here, so when Sam asked me this year, I jumped at the chance to come over here and play in this. It’s a fantastic event. I couldn’t be happier. The course is in great shape, the meals, the people, everybody’s great. I’m just happy to be here.”
Other championship matchups today are: Tony Bertini and Gabe Bertini vs. Don Erickson and Bill Lydick (first flight); John McMurdy Jr. and John McMurdy III vs. Ryan Del Baggio and Jim Bierly (second); Bryan Force and Matt Keith vs. Brian Little and Mark Steffey (third); Barry McKnight and Fred Bowser vs. C.J. Spadafora and Steve Heverly (fourth); and Jerry Gillette and Scott Winters vs. Tim Horkay and Jim Horkay (fifth).
The consolation matches are: Dave Myers and Jonathan Previte vs. Frank Fairman and Rick Fairman (championship); Barre Bell and Bob Plish vs. Roger Dean and Mike Miller (second); Joe Silveri and Shawn McMillan vs. Brad Martineau and Rickey Miller (second); Jim Shea and Norm Neill vs. Scott Cook and Luke Vislosky (third); Bob Faye and Mike Dinatti vs. Skip Yakopec and John Newell (fourth); and Dan Prushnok and Cedric Tyger vs. Kevin Kubica and Jeff Wood (fifth).
AT MEADOW LANE: John Lowmaster, Carl Kologie and Chris Frank won second-round Nicklaus Bracket matches in the ConeyIsland Meadow Lane Match-Play Tournament since the last report, beating Tony DeLoretto, Seth Tassos and Marty Obush, respectively.
Colton Wiggins beat Tim Lipniskis in the Hogan Bracket, and Bob Volk beat Todd Redinger, and Tony Super defeated Kaleb Byler in the Snead Bracket.
Paula Witherow defeated Elaine Berringer, and Joanne Payson topped Lois Gerber in the double-elimination Ladies’ Bracket.
• Scott Cunningham, of Indiana, shot a hole-in-one on the 181-yard, par-3 No. 12 on Wednesday. He used a 6-iron.
The witnesses were Alan Kuckuck, Jeff Sisko and Scott Rice.
• Ann Poliziani, Charlene Hornfeck and Barb Peterson won the play of the day in the Ladies’ 18-Hole League on Wednesday. Hornfeck and Poliziani also won special events.
AT INDIAN SPRINGS: Diane Daskivich won the Tuesday Morning Ladies’ League’s event, recording the low putts with 15. She also had a chip-in.