Smeraglio, Donatoni Claim Senior Titles
PITTSBURGH, Pa. - The 58th Pennsylvania Senior Amateur Championship, presented by LECOM, was contested at St. Clair Country Club over 36 holes of stroke play. But for the final groups in both the senior and super-senior divisions, the event had more of a match play feel, as two groups of players separated themselves a bit from the field. And in the end, Lu Lu Country Club's Glenn Smeraglio edged by David Brown in a playoff after both players finished at 142 (-2) to win the senior title, while Don Donatoni of White Manor Country Club outlasted Robin McCool to win the super-senior championship.
Smeraglio (opening round 73) and Brown (opening round 74) were playing in the day's next to last group, and quickly moved up to the top of the leaderboard, as Brown birdied each of the first two holes while Smeraglio made a birdie on No. 2. Another pair of back to back birdies for Brown on No. 7 and No. 8 moved him into a tie for the lead for the championship on his home course at 1-under par. Smeraglio lost a shot with a bogey on the par-3 7th hole, but managed to get it back with a birdie on the 8th (par-5, 510 yards).
Brown continued his strong round with a birdie on No. 12, giving him a one-shot lead. That set the stage for the final five holes of regulation play, which featured a combined five birdies. On the par-5 14th, both players converted birdie opportunities. And then on No. 15, Smeraglio made bogey, giving Brown a two-shot lead with three to play.
"I was down the hill and hit the wrong club and carried the bunker," Smeraglio said. "That was not a good shot. I was kind of mad at myself."
The 16th hole was the key, according to Brown. A two-shot swing occurred as Brown bogeyed and Smeraglio sank a birdie putt.
"That was a tremendous three," Brown said of Smeraglio's birdie on No. 17.
For Smeraglio, that birdie came down to earlier struggles on the putting green, as he'd left quite a few putts short over the previous 33 holes.
"I was determined to hit that one a little harder," Smeraglio said. "It just stayed on line and went in."
Another two-shot swing nearly happened on the next hole, as Brown struggled to save par and Smeraglio had a close birdie attempt, though he could not convert.
That meant that the two players were tied heading into the 36th hole of the championship, the par-5 18th (542 yards). Smeraglio's second shot was just over the green on the back fringe, leaving him with a downhill look at eagle. Brown, meanwhile, was safely on the green, about 30 feet away. Brown went first, and his eagle try was nearly converted and he tapped in for a birdie for a score of 68. Smeraglio's putt for eagle and the win then stayed just on the lip of the cup but wouldn't fall. He tapped in for his birdie and 69 and the players then moved to a playoff to decide the championship.
The duo played the 18th again, just a short time after they had both made birdie to force the playoff. Brown teed off first and pulled his drive into the left rough. Smeraglio then hit a perfect drive that caught the slope and ran down the left side of the fairway. Just a little while earlier, he hit 7-iron for his second shot on No. 18. But in the playoff, the drive went long enough that Smeraglio had a 9-iron in his hand for the approach shot.
Brown, facing a tough lie, tried to play his shot to the right side of the fairway, short of the green. From there, he pitched up to 10 feet where he had a birdie putt. Smeraglio then hit that 9-iron on the green to 25 feet short and right of the pin. With a chance at eagle on No. 18 and the championship in the balance for the second time in the afternoon, Smeraglio's putt dropped in the hole, giving him his first Pennsylvania Senior Championship.
"It was great to win here," Smeraglio said. "The golf course was in great shape and is such a fantastic place and I'm thrilled to win here."
Brown echoed Smeraglio's thoughts on St. Clair CC, his home club.
"The course was in fantastic condition," Brown said. "Glenn played great. He played better than I did and he deserved to win."
Brown's 68 in round two was the low round of the tournament. Jim Markovitz, Sr., of The Club at Nevillewood, shot a second round 71 to finish in third place at even par overall while playing with Brown and Smeraglio on Tuesday. First round leader Ed Podufal finished fourth at +1.
The final pairing in the Super-Senior division had a decidedly eastern Pennsylvania feel, as Donatoni, McCool (Saucon Valley Country Club) and Ed Chylinski (Chester Valley Country Club) all shot opening round scores of 71 to tie for the lead. Chylinski struggled on Tuesday with a 41 on the front nine, clearing the way for Donatoni and McCool to duel for the title. McCool, the Senior champion in 2013 and 2014, used a pair of birdies on No. 6 and No. 7 to move ahead of Donatoni by a stroke heading to the back nine.
"I knew it was nip and tuck with me and Robin," Donatoni said. "It wasn't exactly match play but we were watching each other."
But the combination of a McCool bogey on the 11th and a Donatoni birdie on No. 12 flipped that order, putting Donatoni up by one. The seesaw battle went McCool's way again, as he made birdie on No. 13 and No. 14 to move to 2-under for the championship. However, McCool dropped a shot on the 15th, falling into a tie with Donatoni at -1. Donatoni made a clutch birdie on the 17th to get to -2, setting the stage for the 18th hole with the championship on the line.
"That birdie was a turning point," Donatoni said of the 20-foot putt on the 17th hole. "We both hit really good shots in there and I made one of the better strokes I made in two days of the tournament.
Clinging to a one-shot lead on No. 18, Donatoni hit a great drive, putting the pressure on McCool, whose tee shot found the rough. Knowing he needed to gain a stroke on Donatoni to force a playoff, McCool made an aggressive play.
"I had a bad lie but I felt I had to go for it," McCool said. "Normally I would not have done that."
McCool's approach from the rough ended up finding the water. After Donatoni flushed a 6-iron to 20-feet, the championship was all but decided. Donatoni then two-putted for birdie and the win, finishing at 71-70 141 (-3), the only golfer to post both rounds under par.
The win was Donatoni's second in the event, as he also captured the crown in 2014 at Waynesborough Country Club. The double bogey on No. 18 put McCool's 36-hole total at 145 (+1), which ended up tying for second place with Huntingdon Valley Country Club's Thomas Bartolacci, Jr. Chylinski finished in fourth at 147 (+3).
After a rain-soaked opening round, Donatoni was thrilled to end up with the trophy at the end of the championship.
"It was a long day after that delay on Monday," Donatoni said. "But I finished with a birdie on No. 18 on Monday and that gave me some momentum heading into today's round."
The momentum certainly carried over, as Donatoni became the third player to win the Super-Senior title on multiple occasions. Jay Howson, Jr. won from 2009-2011 and George Bilowick won in 2005 and 2006.
The Pennsylvania Golf Association would like to thank the staff and membership of St. Clair Country Club for their support and hospitality during the event.