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GOLF: Gradwell holds off Holuta to win 13th Indiana Country Club title

by ELI NELLIS on August 19, 2013 10:45 AM

Doug Gradwell, one of the best golfers at the Indiana Country Club over the last 30-plus years, was being challenged by the young phenom, Matt Holuta.

The veteran was clinging to a one-stroke lead going into hole No. 18 in Sunday’s final round of the club championship after an impressive charge by the youngster.

Gradwell found himself on the green, about 40 feet away for birdie, and Holuta was much closer, threatening to force a playoff.

But Gradwell’s putt was on line, and as the excitement from the gallery on the patio overlooking the final green slowly grew louder, the shot stayed true, all the way into the cup, and Gradwell clinched his 13th club championship — and added a fourth decade in which he had won a title.

“(The green) was level, but the last maybe 3, 4 feet were downhill,” Gradwell said of his 40-footer, “and if I would’ve missed the hole, it probably would’ve rolled off, maybe to the fringe. It was very difficult, and it was nice to see it go in the center of the hole.”

“He had a one-shot lead on 18,” the 17-year-old Holuta said. “And then he had about 40 feet for birdie and I had about 15 feet, so obviously I needed to make it and I needed him to miss, and he made it from far away. It was really awesome.”

Gradwell shot a 2-under-par 69 for the day, finishing at 3-under 139 for the tournament. Holuta fired a 67 on Sunday to pull into the competition and finished at 140. Don Erickson, the first-round leader, carded a 71 to finish third at 145, one stroke ahead of Frank Fairman.

“It was probably the best flight we’ve had,” Gradwell said.

Gradwell’s playing partners Sunday, Holuta and Erickson, had qualified for USGA events this summer — Holuta in the Junior Amateur Championship, Erickson the Senior Amateur Championship. Gradwell has played in his share of USGA tournaments in the past.

“They’re both very accomplished players,” Holuta said. “This was (Gradwell’s) 13th. I don’t know how many Mr. Erickson’s won, but it’s been a lot. So just to get to play with them, they were intense. It was really cool to watch and get to be a part of that.

“It’s nice to kind of watch them and learn what they do a little bit. It’s always good to play with some older guys that are really good.”

“And then we’ve got (14-year-old) C.J. (Hughes) coming up,” Gradwell said. “He’s going to be a really good player. I figured I’ve got to get it done now before I get too old. This was sort of special, because it’s four decades.”

Gradwell won his first ICC championship in 1982. He followed in ’84, ’85, ’92, ’93, ’98, 2001, ’02, ’05, ’06, ’08 and ’09.

Darlene Shea won her 10th title and second straight women’s championship. Her title last year gave her wins in five decades.

Shea shot a 92 on Sunday but had a first-round 79 in the bank and beat Sally Adamo by seven strokes, finishing at 171.

“I played great the first day,” Shea said. “I played over my head. The second day I was normal. I played very bad, but the way I played on Saturday kept me alive. … I’m going to play for fun from now on.”

Holuta drove much of the drama in the men’s championship flight Sunday with his 4-under-par performance.

“I started (the round) kind of a long shot,” he said. “I was six shots back of Mr. Erickson and three back of Mr. Gradwell, so I knew I had to play really well just to give myself a shot. I was just kind of playing through the front nine, trying not to worry about what they were doing, and after nine I was two back of Mr. Erickson and tied with Mr. Gradwell. So that changed everything, and I had to start thinking about it a little bit.”

“It was really hard to keep track of where we were, because Donnie had the three-shot lead to start the day, and then Matt came out really hot and he birdied 1 and, I think, 3, and I was just making pars, so we all got grouped pretty close together, and it was sort of a dogfight the rest of the way.”

Holuta pulled even with Gradwell on No. 16, while Erickson fell a little back. Holuta bogeyed 17, though, while Gradwell parred.

“Not until 17, Matt might’ve had his worst shot of the day, and it wasn’t even that bad,” Gradwell said. “He just sort of leaked probably a 5-iron into the bunker and he was sort of dead there, made bogey, and I two-putted. … Then 18 it played out where I had to make a real tough 40-footer to hold him off.”

It’s a little bit of a different game from when Gradwell first started making a name for himself at the country club.

“I was playing Persimmon (clubs) and you hit it shorter,” he said. The greens weren’t as fast. Because of the equipment, I think the kids get better faster. So you have C.J., he can compete with us. Matt played wonderful golf today. He really deserved to win.”

Erickson won the senior men’s gross title, seven shots ahead of Bill Lydick. Paul Rezk Sr. took the senior men’s net at 140, two ahead of Jerry Gillette and Don Fleming. Dave Mateer won the men’s low net at 151.

Gail Gerlach won the women’s net at 140, three ahead of Johnna Lear.

Other flight winners were: Thomas Todd (151), first; Greg Sipos (156), second; Jim Shea (164), third; Don Fleming (168), fourth; and Gillette (180), fifth.

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