Monday marked Mike Wolfe’s first round at the Downing Golf Course this year.
His card didn’t suggest it after the qualifying round of the Erie District Golf Association’s 50th Annual Match Play Championship.
Wolfe, 35, posted the lowest score among the 37 participants who started in spectacular weather conditions. The McDowell High School and Allegheny College grad, playing from the tips of Harborcreek Township’s 7,108-yard course, shot a 6-under 66.
“It’s definitely a good way to get into games,” Wolfe said. “This (win) gives you confidence knowing you can play the course well.”
Matt Barto and Alex Weir, who like Wolfe are recent Match Play finalists, are tied for second at 4-under 68. They will include the top four seeds with Jon Merriott, who was exempt from qualifying as the 2021 tournament champion, when Friday’s first round begins at Downing.
“I’m really looking forward to Friday now,” Wolfe said.
The five rounds of the tournament will conclude with Sunday’s title match.
Always Busy Match Play Champion
Merriott was spotted at Downing on Monday. However, the 2003 Cathedral Prep graduate was there to compete in an afternoon tournament that followed Match Play qualification.
Merriott received his bye to this competition, as well as the automatic seed in the initial field of 32, thanks to his victory by two against Weir in last year’s final at nearby Lawrence Park Golf Club.
“It’s new territory for me, so I’ll try to take it step by step,” Merriott said. “There will never be an easy game, so I just have to play my game and see where (the ball) lands.”
Merriott said he didn’t play as much as he would have liked at this time of year. He played nine-hole rounds with two or three balls when possible to compensate.
Downing was one such course where Merriott tried this.
“I did it here (on Sunday) so I got to see the course from different angles,” Merriott said. “They have the course in great condition, so I’m looking forward to this weekend.”
Drew Deimel (2018-19) was the last player to win back-to-back Match Play finals. The former University Prep and Gannon golfer, who qualified with Monday’s 3-of-75 round, is aiming for his fourth overall title.
Hewett hints at competitive retirement
Dave Hewett was a 16-year-old McDowell student when he made his Match Play debut.
It was for his 1976 tournament, the fourth ever. It was held at the old Gospel Hill Golf Course.
Although Hewett was knocked out in the second round that year, he has been a regular in Match Play ever since. A first place finish in his 2011 tournament at Lawrence Park highlights his tournament resume.
Hewett has also served as president of EDGA since 2003.
However, this five-decade race may be coming to an end.
Not Hewett for his duties as president, but as a player.
Now in his early 60s, Hewett advanced to Friday’s first round with an 81. It was a shot better than Monday’s cut.
Hewett looked like he was only half joking when he talked about his appearance in this year’s historic Match Play.
“I think I should stop playing and just be in charge,” he said. “I’m at the point where I’m not playing well and it’s stressful. I still love being there (the tournament), but maybe next year I’ll (strictly) go to the other side like I did with bowling.
Hewett has been director of the Erie Times-News Open since 1983.
Erie High’s Westfall earns a spot
It’s possible that Hewett’s last appearance on the course in an EDGA match play could double as the first for Kyle Westfall.
The Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy student, who won the District 10 Class 3A men’s golf tournament last fall, cracked the tournament’s 32-man field for the first time with Monday’s round of 80.
Westfall represented Erie High when he became district champion. He also wore the Royals kit during Monday’s round at Downing.
“I didn’t play my best there,” Westfall said, “but I’m still confident I can play anyone here.”
Isaiah Swan and Doug Gerould were two of the other golfers on Monday who had a district tie but failed to qualify.
Swan, a 2021 Northeast graduate and 2020 PIAA Class 2A Men’s Individual Golf Champion, recorded an 84. He played for the Indiana University men’s team in Pennsylvania the fall last, but is not currently listed online.
Corry Beavers swim coach Gerould shot an 86. He and Swan were two of six starters who didn’t make Monday’s cut 82.
Lake View Country Club members Scott Simonsen and Scott Lewandoski, who each fired 82 shots, needed more golf to determine who would receive the 32nd and final spot in match play. Simonsen claimed it after a playoff holeshot.
Contact Mike Copper at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ETNcopper.
Qualifying results for the 50e Erie Marquette Savings Bank District Golf Association Annual Match Play Championship at the par-72 Downing Golf Course in Harborcreek Township:
Mike Wolfe 66
alex weir 68
Ed Podufal 71
David Spitzer 72
Ted Grassi III 73
Marc Majewski 73
Dean Rainville 73
Mike Capotis 73
Dustin Coleman 74
T.J. Mitchell 74
Rob Nioctra 74
mike newcomer 75
Drew Deimel 75
Mike Slupski 75
Sal Vella 75
Brett Folga 76
Maclain Deitrick 76
Matt Stearns 76
Jesse Yates 77
Zac Bihler 77
Phil Pedano 77
Tim Weyand 78
Matt Modica 79
Chris Keim 79
Kyle Westfall 80
David Hewitt 81
Marc Noce 81
* Scott Simonson 82
I missed the cut
Scott Lewandoski 82
Jeff Westfall 84
Isaiah Swan 84
Shawn Wallace 84
Doug Gerould 86
Paul Chilcott 89
Matt Melle DEO
* Simonson won a one-hole playoff for the 32nd and final seed in Friday’s first round.