The list of first-time champions continues to grow in the Ohio Senior Hall of Fame Championships at Plum Brook Country Club.
Fremont’s Buck Baumann became the 22nd winner in the 23-year history of one of the premier amateur events in Ohio Tuesday with a come-from-behind victory in the 36-hole test.
Baumann trailed opening day leader Brian Sokol of Vermilion by two shots entering the final round, got that back on the very first hole and went on to capture the coveted crown by four strokes.
Baumann fired rounds of 69-68 for a 137 total, five shots under par, and well ahead of runner-up Alan Fadel, of Toledo, who recovered from a 74 opening day with an outstanding 67 Tuesday for 141.
Sokol and 2013 champion T.J. Brudzinski, of Columbus, followed with 143s, and John Zitcovic, of Findlay, finished fifth at 144.
Sokol slipped from 67 to 76 for his 143, while Brudzinski rebounded from a 74 for a two-under-par 69, and another 143. Zitcovic had 70 Monday and added 74 in the final round.
Jeff Sparks, the 2007 champion, placed sixth with 69-75—144 and earned low gross honors in his age group (60-64).
Baumann pulled away from the field with three consecutive birdies, starting on No. 13 with a 12-foot putt.
He then hit his tee shot on the 146-yard 14th hole to within five feet of the pin and promptly dropped that birdie putt.
The biggest putt, however, came on No. 15, a par-four hole. His second shot landed just short of the green, then caromed to the back of the putting surface, well above the hole. He struck the putt lightly, then watched as the ball rolled quickly, well to the left of the cup. The ball then headed directly for the hole, and dropped in for what Baumann called a surprising birdie.
"There is no doubt that three-hole stretch was the key," said the 57-year-old car dealer who has franchises in Fremont, Norwalk, Port Clinton and Tiffin.
"I had one bogey today, a three-putter on No. 2, and three three-putts for the 36 holes. I really like this course, primarily because it fits my game," Baumann said. "Its not long, but tight, and you must hit the ball straight and I did that for the most part.
"I won the Ohio Senior in 2011 and this tournament is quite similar to that one in that the field here is comprised of high caliber players comparable," he added.
Sokol talked about his performance, and the tournament itself.
"I'm just a rookie so to speak, and found out I'm not seasoned enough for this," he said. "There is a quality field playing on a quality course. I'm disappointed I didn't play better today, but I'm just a three handicapper playing against some who have plus handicaps. Now that I had the taste I'll be back next year.
"I had a two-shot lead starting out and in less than 15 minutes I was tied for the lead by Buck," Sokol added. "He birdied the first hole and I had a bogey. Then, on the second hole, I missed a short putt and now I'm one back just that quickly."
Meanwhile, Fadel said he enjoyed the two days of competition.
"I know I didn't play well Monday, but I had a lot on my mind such as going into the Hall of Fame Monday night after a long drive to here Sunday," Fadel said. "I played well today with that 67 and had five birdies.
"Part of the reason was I wasn't thinking about my game Monday as I did today, and the results show that," the 2008 champion added. "I've played in this tournament a number of times now and I enjoy playing against the competition we have, and to come back and play well is something I'm very proud of."
Sparks had no excuses for faltering the way he did.
"I was right there with a few holes to go, but give Buck credit," the Cincinnati golfer said. "He made three big putts in a row, and I lost my patience and missed two short putts and that was it as far as I'm concerned."
Brudzinski also commented on his play.
"I'm happy with the way I played today but you have to do that both days against this type of field to have success," he said.