YMCA League gets ready for 75th consecutive year
The former City Golf League plays at Mill Creek.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The YMCA Golf League, the area's oldest continuous golf league, will tee off for the 75th consecutive year on May 4th at Mill Creek Golf Course.
The league, originally called The City Golf League, first began when Babe Ruth was playing baseball, the National Football League was in its infancy and the top golfers of the time were Bobby Jones, Horton Smith, Walter Hagan and Gene Sarazen.
The first league president was Myron Myer and the first secretary was Al Fairfield while some of the original sponsors were General Fireproofing, United Engine and Foundry, McKelveys and Commercial Shearing.
The league consists of four divisions originally called Class A, B, C and D. They were later changed to Horton Smith, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan.
Each division consists of eight teams and each team carries eight players, but only four players participate at a time.
The divisions are arranged according to handicaps so that players of similar ability compete against one another.
Everyone in the league has a handicap. On a given night, two teams compete against each other in head-to-head competition.
The top man on one team plays the top man on another team for two points -- one for match play and another for medal play. The other teammates do the same. There are eight points up for grabs plus one point for team total.
"You wouldn't believe how many matches are decided by a single shot in the team total tie-breaker," league secretary Mike Shaffer said.
At the end of each half, the four division winners square off to determine the first-half champion.
The second half works the same way and the winner of the first half plays the winner of the second half to determine the overall champion.
"Probably the most exciting playoff took place in 1999 when two teams played for the championship and tied, then had to play another 18-hole match to determine the winner," Shaffer said.
Repeats are rare
It wasn't until 1999, on the 70th anniversary, that a team repeated as champion.
The league has attracted the best amateur players in the area who have successfully competed at the state and national level including the Santors, Bellinos and Kishs along with players like Rick Jones, Steve Pipoly, Vince Leslie, Tom Jones, Dr. Robert Katula, Bob McCall, Eddie Griffiths, Johnny Malutic, John Hamrick and Julian Taylor.
The backbone of the league is made up of medium handicappers, whose handicaps range from four to eight.
"I can't tell you how many times I've looked at an opponent feeling I've got an easy two points against this 'old timer,' then he'll shoot a 39 with a five handicap and he closes me out after eight holes," said former league president Frank Bellino.
The two oldest players are Joe Briganti Sr. and Tony Crish. Briganti is 79 and has been playing since 1946. Crish is 75 and has been playing since 1972.
Some of the Y-League records for the first 75 years are: Most championships as a member -- Bill Santor (seven); most championships as a captain -- Santor (six); lowest round -- Frank Bellino (29); lowest net score -- Andrew Santor (23: 30 with a seven handicap); lowest handicap -- Jonah Karzmer (plus three); only back-to-back winners -- Supreme Steel-Beverage House (same players, different sponsor).