Mother Nature has a day in golf outcome

ORE HILL – Area golf clubs annually produce outstanding two-man best-ball tournaments, but it’s going to be a long time before there’s a better finish than the one played at Iron Masters Country Club over the weekend.

Defending champions Artie Fink and Todd Homan of Altoona were tied with Bernie DiLoreto and Jordan Kirsch after the third round Sunday so they went to the first tee to break the deadlock. Five holes later, with darkness making it impossible to continue, play was stopped and co-champions were declared for the first time in the 38-year history of the event.

DiLoreto and Kirsch shot 66 Friday for a one-stroke lead, but Fink and Homan responded with a 64 Saturday to take a one-shot advantage (131 to 132) into Sunday’s final round.

Fink and Homan fired a 32 on the front nine Sunday and led by four, but DiLoreto and Kirsch finished strong and forced the playoff when both teams finished with totals of 198.

“We had a great start today,” said Fink. “We were four under through six holes and had a three or four-shot lead at that point. Then we kind of lulled ourselves to sleep.

“I made an atrocious bogey on 12 and they made birdie to get two shots back quickly,” Fink noted. “They birdied five in a row and we were even coming up 17. Jordan hit a great shot and Todd made one from 15 feet – both amazing birdies after the rain delay.

“Todd and I both had real good looks (on 18) to win, but we didn’t make them,” Fink said.

Homan was more adamant, noting: “I blew it on 18. I missed a 2-footer.”

The playoff, which actually is like match play, produced even more exciting golf. DiLoreto made birdie on No. 2 and Fink matched it. Kirsch canned a 20-foot bird on 3 and Fink halved the hole by sinking a 15-footer.

When both teams birdied No. 4, tourney chairman/Iron Masters pro Tom Koehle talked to the players.

“On 4, they agreed to go to No. 9 for a little extra light,” Koehle said. “I left it up to them and both agreed 9 would be the last hole no matter what happened.”

On No. 9, a par 3, DiLoreto drove the ball to within 20 feet of the cup while Kirsch overshot the green. Homan was also away while Fink was just off the green, approximately 60 feet away. DiLoreto missed the 20-footer, but tapped in for par. Fink again was equal, getting close enough to get down in two putts for the tie.

“It was getting to the point where you can’t see a whole lot and you were playing from memory,” Fink said. “I needed two putts to tie, that’s not what I wanted, but I was fortunate to get it down, and we’ll take the tie.”

His Altoona partner, Homan, agreed, saying: “You don’t want a tie, but it was a great day all around. There was some great play on both sides and it was neat having the playoff.”

Kirsch and DiLoreto also were happy with the outcome.

“It was a great day,” said Kirsch, 19, a Hollidaysburg native who plays at Messiah College. “We played our hearts out and did our best and played against some great players.

“On the extra holes, we all made some birdies and ended up co-winners.”

DiLoreto teamed with another young Hollidaysburg golfer, David DeGol, to win the Sinking Valley two-man best-ball earlier in the summer.

“David couldn’t play this weekend, so we figured we’d hook up, and we did well,” Kirsch added.

DiLoreto, who lives in Jeanette, said “it was a lot of fun.”

“Artie and Todd are great players,” DiLoretto said. “You just want to do your best and have as much fun as you can. If you do your best, you have nothing to be ashamed of.

“Jordan is a great player. He made some clutch putts. We teamed up well, and I’m three-times his age,” DiLoreto added, laughing.

Despite a late-day rain, which effected the last couple holes, Koehle was happy with the tournament.

“It was an awesome weekend,” he said. “The people, members and volunteers who support it … that’s what it’s all about. The championship flight gets the press, but it’s the guys who come from Mount Union and Bedford, Altoona and Hollidaysburg, and out of state, who make the tournament special.”

Tourney notes: Play was stopped at 8:50 p.m. … The teams of Chris Perry and Mike Macionsky and Ken Love and Larry Clapper tied for third place with 204s. … There were two holes-in-one by Brett Miller on No. 3 Friday and Larry Clapper on No. 13 Saturday. … Due to technical problems, the flight results were not available to be published.