By Mike Dudurich, Freelance writer and host of The Golf Show on 93.7 The Fan Saturday mornings from 7-8 AM – Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeDudurich
VERONA – Perry Graciano knew exactly what he needed to do after shooting an opening-round 75 in the West Penn Golf Association’s Senior Amateur at Green Oaks Country Club Tuesday.
“I was trying to shoot anything in the 60s,” Graciano said. “I had to make a bunch of birdies.”
And that’s what he did. He made five in the afternoon round but also made three bogeys and a double, but that combination (71) was good enough for a three-shot victory over Paul Schlachter and four better than Don Lewis in the 84th West Penn Senior Amateur.
The win was his third in four years and inched him closer to the all-time greats in the Senior Amateur. Dr. George T. Gregg, Joe M. Wells and Paul Schlachter all have won the event five times.
“I got off to a quick start in the afternoon,” Graciano said. “I hit it to a foot on No. 1 and four inches on No. 2. But then I made double bogey on the third.”
Graciano is one of the best senior amateurs in Western Pennsylvania. Those who play against believe he could be very good nationally if he competed on that level.
Graciano finished T-12 in the West Penn Open at Fox Chapel a few years ago, the only senior amateur to make the cut in this event since the format was changed to 54 holes.
On a day that started out cloudy and a bit rainy, the sun shone brightly on the players and a spectacular golf course. Several players said they hadn’t putted on greens any better than the ones they did Tuesday at Green Oaks.
“If you had your putter going, you could make some putts,” Graciano said. “We won’t see any better greens than this all year.”
Schlachter and Don Lewis put up even-par 71s to lead after one round. But both suffered major meltdowns early in their second rounds. Schlachter was even par coming to the seventh hole, but his demise started with his third shot into the par five.
From a downhill lie, he attempted an approach shot that flew dead right off the clubface. That led to a bogey and a bogey on eight. He then hit a poor drive down the left side of the 11th fairway, a shot that hit off a tree and went out of sight.
The lost ball led to a seven and he made three bogeys in his last five holes for a 40 and a 78 total.
“I was just hanging on as the round went along,” Schlachter said, who is ranked second in the SeniorAmateurGolf.com player rankings. “I started hitting it bad last Friday and have no idea what I’m doing. This was the fifth 36-hole round in May that I’ve played. I’ve played 40 of the last 42 days and I’m exhausted.”
For Lewis, the second round was a nightmare. He posted a no-birdie, six-bogey round of 79.
How tough was it out there? Fourteen rounds were registered in the 80s, including seven over 90.
Shot of the day? Edward McFarland of St. Clair Country Club, playing the 499-yard, par-five 13th, hit his second shot to the right and eventually lost the ball. He had to return to the spot of his previous shot to play again.
He had 224 yards to the hole and proceeded to rip a three-wood that stopped rolling when it hit the bottom of the cup. Just a routine birdie with a lost ball.
Greensburg’s Dave DeNezza continued his hot play, shooting 74-72 for a 146 total to win the Super Senior title. DeNezza has captured a victory in just about everything he has entered this season, notching a victory at the PA State Super-Senior Match Play and partnering with Bob Allshouse for a victory in the Semple Brothers Century Foursomes Championship. He is a previous champion of the West Penn Senior Amateur in 2008 as well.