By Lynn Saternow
Herald Sports Editor
SHENANGO VALLEY —
The gods of golf giveth; the gods of golf taketh away!
That was never more evident than at the annual Herald-Tam O’Shanter Junior Golf Championships Friday where penatlies and luck played major roles in the outcome.
Billy Colbert of Hermitage became a rare 3-time champion but it didn’t come easily or without controversy.
The Hickory High junior, who has a shot at a fourth crown next year, edged Kennedy Catholic sophomore Jacob Wilson in a one-hole playoff after both golfers finished the two-day event with 157 totals.
Wilson led after day one by two strokes, posting a 77 to 79 over Colbert, a son of Steven and Missy Colbert. And the lead got even bigger after the first hole on Friday.
Colbert played the wrong ball on his second shot on the Par 4 No. 1, resulting in a two-stroke penalty.
The golf gods smiled on Wilson.
It was a battle the rest of the way, with Colbert making a slight comeback, but Wilson holding a slim lead heading into No. 17. Wilson drove into a bunker by the green, then flubbed his shot out of the sand.
In frustration, he swung his club backwards hard and hit the sand. Result: a two-stroke penalty.
The golf gods smiled on Colbert.
After both players holed out on No. 18, the penalty rulings were made and strokes assessed, resulting in a two-day total of 157 for both golfers and sending them both out on No. 1 for a sudden-death playoff.
Both players pulled drives on the short Par-4 into the woods on the left. And the golf gods smiled!
Colbert’s ball cleared through to an opening, although not a very good lie in high grass, but Wilson’s ball landed under a root. Wilson tried to hit it out, but the ball rolled into the crook of a tree.
And the golf gods laughed.
Wilson did make an almost miraculous bogey 5 on the hole, but Colbert got down in par for the victory.
“Luck plays a role,” said John Kerins, director of golf at Tam O’Shanter, about the ball under the root. “It usually evens out, but not in a one-hole playoff ... It’s been a long time since we had a playoff. I can’t even remember the last one.
“It was a great tournament. Everyone thought Billy would run away with it for his third title, but Jacob played great. He made that one mistake on No. 17 in the sand. The rules of golf are there to help you but you have to know them. Both players learned something today.”
As Colbert walked off the playoff green he had to admit, “It feels good. It was a real challenge and that makes it fun for me.”
Can he become only the second player ever to win four tiltles, joining Mike Klaric III at that lofty height?
“I hope so, but I’ve got to play well,” said Colbert, adding with a chuckle, “and try not to get any penalties.
Meanwhile Wilson, a son of Bob and Fran Wilson of Sharon, lamented not only the sand penalty (”I didn’t even know I did it”) but also said, “ I missed some short putts and tht made a difference. But I have two more years so I’ll be back.”
And after the excitement of 2013, you can bet the gods of golf will be watching as well!
Notes: Colbert joined David Chuba (1981, ’83, ’84) and Bobby Thomas (1961-63) as the only three-time winners since the event began in 1949. ... Klaric’s four victories came in 2002-03 and 2006-07. ... Two girls, Alena Lancia and Abby Hearns, both accounted themselves well in the tournament. “It’s nice to see more girls playing,” said Kerins.
x-Billy Colbert 79-78—157
Jacob Wilson 77-80—157
Lonnie Schell 84-81—165
Ryan Dogan 92-94—186
Andrew Pursel 98-90—188
Louis Wareham 100-92—192
Greg Galbo 98-97—195
Jospeh Faber 84-110—195
Matt Wallace 97-101—198
Alena Lancia 97-103—200
Cameron Colbert 100-102—202
Chris Hartnagel 102-104—206
Travis Roberts 100-107—207
Abby Hearns 100-109—209
Ted Haaz 99-WD
x-won in playoff