Greatest minds do think alike

Valley Golfers, our major week is upon us. This weekend 300-plus golfers will challenge the field to earn the 2016 Greatest Golfer of the Valley title across eight different flights. For those of us who don’t really play in regional or state wide events, this is our big weekend.

For me personally, this weekend has a special place in my heart. In 2008, I worked as one of the golf professionals at what was then Fonderlac Country Club (now The Lake Club). That winter I knew I was going to get out of the golf professional field, but I had always wanted to start a local golf organization. I formed the Youngstown Golf Association with the intent of bringing together local golfers through a first-rate tournament schedule that would make Youngstown golfers proud. I was young and had no money behind it, but my intentions were good.

I think we ended up with about 50 participants in 2009, all of them juniors. Brandon Pluchinsky, whose name you’ll certainly see this weekend was one of our original all-stars. That winter I got a call from my good friend Michael Ferranti, who was then the PGA professional at The Lake Club. He told me about a guy named Todd Franko at The Vindicator. Franko was trying to start something similar to what I envisioned. It took one meeting with him for me to realize I needed to pack up the YGA and get behind the Greatest Golfer of the Valley program.

Seven years later, and the rest — as they say — is history. Hundreds of golfers annually in the regular field. More than 600 rounds played by the juniors this year. Multiple courses and sponsors. And the Greatest Scramble and Long Drive championships to boot. And while Franko certainly didn’t need me to make The Greatest what it is today, I am very proud of the involvement and input I’ve been able to help with over the years.

As defending champion of the Pete Mollica Open Division, I’m very excited to compete this week. But to be honest, mMy opportunity to share my thoughts right here each golf season and to witnessithe growth and success of the whole series year after year is enough for me.

On a quick side note, I do want to also congratulate some of my friends who won their club championships this past weekend. Michael Porter, Josh Zarlenga and Joey Cilone won their respective club championships at Tippecanoe Country Club, Youngstown Country Club and The Lake Club. Cilone (an awesome guy who I just met last weekend) knocked me off my perch at The Lake Club in a hard-fought battle that ended with him making a great par in the rain to beat me and Mark Sahli by one shot each.

I know club championships aren’t as big as The Greatest. But I have to say, as someone who has won a number of them in a row at The Lake Club, they are very meaningful to the competitors who play in them. Where the Greatest is the event that brings everyone together for one local “major,”club championships are important because they’re the biggest event between your players.

The Lake Club is like a summer home to my family and I. We’re blessed to get to spend time out there and the guys I golf with are like a summer family to me. So to earn the club champion title really is something meaningful. I’ve been extremely proud to have that title for a number of years now, and I’m sure Cilone, Zalrenga and Porter all feel the same way today.

So congrats to our local club champions. And to all of our league, course and outing champions who are crowned as the season winds down. And good luck today to all of the competitors who made it to the final round of The Greatest at The Lake Club. It really is something special and I hope you all enjoy the day.

For those of you reading this who don’t have plans today, remember that the final round of The Greatest Golfer of the Valley Championships are open to the public. So come on out to The Lake Club and watch the winners finish in person.

Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a Sunday golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at