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Recent Norwalk grad Nunez tops field at Eagle Creek championships

By DON HOHLER • Jul 30, 2018 at 3:07 PM

NORWALK — The Most Valuable Player on Norwalk’s golf team last fall proved to be the best player at Eagle Creek over the weekend.

Eighteen-year-old Braden Nunez used a hole-in-one on Saturday to help him take a two-stroke lead into Sunday’s final 18 holes. He then closed the deal by adding an identical 74 on the second day to win the 2018 club championship.

Although he topped a field of 15 players, including three former champions, Nunez came close to letting the title slip away on the final hole of the tournament. Leading by four strokes on the 36th hole, he was asked to mark his ball one club-head to the left of the line his opponent hoped to use to make the putt.

But, in replacing his ball, he marked it one putter-head to the right, incurring a two-stroke penalty. The result was closing at a 74 rather than a one-over par 72.

“It was a mistake I will learn from,” the soon-to-be Ohio State freshman said. “I can’t recall ever doing that before. At least it was never brought to my attention with a penalty called."

After recording a 33 on a side that included that ace on No. 8 on Saturday, Nunez had problems in finishing on the back side Saturday. As he put it, “a lot of bad stuff happened."

“I was really proud though of the way I played down the stretch this afternoon (Sunday),” Nunez said. “Although I putted well all day, I was especially sharp on 16, 17 and 18 greens. My goal was to place little to no pressure on my having to make lengthy putts for pars.

"I knew where I stood and I wanted to keep that cushion," he added. "That was a dumb mistake I made on 18 — one I will never forget.”

Because his Professional Golf Management courses at Ohio State conflict with the OSU golf team schedule, Nunez will not be able to compete as a member of the Buckeye golf team. He will, however, play on a club team. He took up the game at an early age and lettered all four years at Norwalk under Wes Douglas. His low round at the Creek was a 67.

Willard’s Roger Tolley, the 2012 champion, finished runners-up with a two-day total of 150. His rounds were 76 and 74.His sides were a picture of consistency, 37, 39, 37 and 37. Craig Meyer — who was involved in the ball-marking error with Nunez on the final hole — and 2007 champion Bill Terry finished one stroke further back at 151.

Both won plaques, Tolley as the Seniors (over 50) champion, and Terry in fashioning the score for the oldest player in the field (age 66) as the Super Seniors winner. Terry’s numbers were 76-75. Meyer was tied with Nunez going into Sunday’s final 18 after both shot 74 on Saturday.

A flight winner John Ray carded the lowest round of any player on Saturday. His two-over par 73 led his closest contender, Eric Schneider (79-81) by six strokes going into Sunday’s 18 holes. But, as he put it, “I left a lot of puddles of oil” on Sunday, admitting the smooth-running engine was not firing on all cylinders as he closed the deal with an 80 for a two-day total of 153.

That was good for a six-shot win over Rob Myers (83-76) and Tim Nickoli (80-79). The latter two played off for second with Myers winning with par on the first extra hole.

Playing to a “7” handicap, the 56-year-old Ray was sharp as a tack on the back side on Saturday, recording four birdies in closing with a 34.

“I made a lot of putts for birdie and par on Saturday,” said Ray, who was in the winners circle for the first time. “But, I like it quiet when I am preparing to hit and that was not the case on Sunday. We must have had 10 carts following us. Noise had me backing away and re-setting several times.”

The B flight winner was Eric Bright, also on the podium for the first time. He was another player a picture of consistency, showing sides of 41, 41, 44 and 40 for rounds of 82 and 84 (two-day total of 166). He won by four strokes over always competitive Kevin McCrann (82-87—169).

“No three-putts for two days,” the 58-year-old pharmacist said. “I played my game for two days. Only one sign of having the wheels come off on Sunday. Took a big number on No. 11 and could have followed it with another on 12, but I holed out my bunker shot for birdie and just that quick, the ship was righted.”

Willard businessman Tom Sharpnack was far and wide the comeback player of the tournament. Playing in this flight (B), he skied to a 93 on Saturday, but then whipped around the course in 78 strokes on Sunday, a 15-shot difference. He and first-time player, Don Davis, shared third place with 173s.

Veteran player Larry Coe, coming off his second hole-in-one in three years on Thursday in the Senior’s League, took advantage of a second penalty snafu on Sunday to win C flight. Also a picture of consistency with sides of 43, 42, 42 and 42, the 75-year-old Coe won his flight for the second time, carding a 169 to win by two strokes over Mike Beveridge (83-89—172). Tavis Riley finished third with 93-86—179 numbers.

The 83 by Beveridge had him the leader in the clubhouse after the Saturday round. Paired with Coe on Sunday, the latter caught him on the 36th and final hole. Both hit second shot layups in front of the ditch on 18, with Beveridge’s ball going into the rough.

A search eventually located four balls, with Beveridge playing the one he thought to be his. It was deemed not his ball and a two-stroke penalty was invoked. He replayed the shot after a drop, hitting it into the water, eventually taking a 9 on the hole.

“I played 18 holes on five consecutive days,” Coe said. "We had neighbors visiting from Florida in the area this week for golf. I am really surprised I was this consistent because I am worn out.

"I just know I could have put some distance between myself and the field had I made a put over 12 feet," he added. "The putter was just not working.”

On Thursday, Coe used a 7-iron to ace No. 12. He had the shot dead-on-line as it hit six-foot short of the cup and rolled in. Duane Moore, Wayne Babcanec, Lester Bates and Larry Bartlett witnessed the shot. Two years ago he made his first ace of his career on No. 6.

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