Greatest started with luck and a hunch

Starting Monday, we get great.

Er, Greatest.

The Vindicator is a proud founder and host for Greatest Golfer of the Valley for four months every summer, and it all wraps up this week with Greatest Week in the Valley.

It’s been seven years of this, and we’re as humbled as we are proud that it keeps growing. In this, it’s seventh year, we’re looking at our best year ever. We just need our most important team member – Mother Nature – to allow it.

When next Sunday rolls around, we will have touched 3,000 golfers this summer via teen play, charity scrambles and adult competition in regular play and long-drive.

More important than the golf has been the community and industry that have been achieved.

Greatest happens with partnerships of four major investors, many event sponsors and 12 golf courses. It’s a six-month-long connection to drive an industry and a 3,000-person program.

What I like most about it:

It all kinda started with luck and a hunch.

In 2010, The Vindicator launched a weekly story series called “Greatest Golf Holes of the Valley” to salute Valley golf courses.

As part of that project, two guys who never played in a real golf event in their lives decided to try a golf tournament at the end of the holes series, which was also the end of the summer. That’s me and Ted Suffolk, Vindicator assistant general manager.

Our first call was to this guy we did not know – Dennis Miller at Mill Creek Golf Course.

After two minutes on the phone, Dennis was in and said we should call these three next people:

We called Ed Muransky, Mike Ferranti and John Diana. We knew of Ed but did not know him, and Mike and John were total strangers, as we were to them.

We six met for 30 minutes. The idea was agreed upon in the first five minutes. The next 25 was just logistics.

That quick, immediate gut feeling hatched Greatest. With The Lake Club donating golf and Farmers National Bank funding the marketing and prizes, Greatest Golfer of the Valley was off. They both still do so even today.

That year, 97 golfers tested the event. Mike Porter, Joan Ash and Bob Leonard were our first Open champions. They are with us again this week. So, too, are James LaPolla and Tom Onesti. They won titles that first year, along with Ed Antonelli.

One key: Greatest has changed every single year.

Our best change was to grow it to Greatest Week in the Valley. It was mostly out of fatigue – but also out of opportunity.

We realized Greatest happened at a tremendously busy time of year with Covelli Enterprises’ Panerathon, the start of high-school football and the Canfield Fair. After a couple years of groaning, we decided to grab onto it as a branding opportunity.

In the next 10 days, Greatest, Panerathon, HS Blitz football and Covelli Centre concerts will all take place – “The Greatest Week in the Valley.” Well, OK – “Week-ish.”

Aug. 15 – Miller Lite Greatest Scramble at The Lake Club. Spectators welcome.

Aug. 18 – Greatest Long-Drive competition hosted by Tippecanoe Country Club. Spectators welcome.

Aug. 19-21 – 2016 Farmers Bank Greatest Golfer of the Valley Tourney. Spectators welcome.

Aug. 21 – Covelli Enterprises Panerathon. Spectators and racers welcome.

Aug. 21 – 2016 Vindy HS football preview section publishes. Readers welcome.

Aug. 24 – YSU classes begin. Students welcome.

Aug. 25 – Start of HS football season.

Aug. 26 – KISS at the Covelli Centre.

Aug. 27 – Lionel Richie at the Covelli Centre.

More partners and sponsors, more players, more events.

All of that said, we always remember how it started.

It’s tough to start a community celebration and even tougher to maintain it. We see plenty of great events cross our desk that have to cancel or pull back. It’s so hard these days to stay viable. We’re proud.

What is most loved is that the same handful of people who launched Greatest – Dennis, Ed, Mike, JD and Farmers – will be on the courses somewhere this week.

Have a Greatest Week in the Valley.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at He blogs, too, on Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.