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‘Flexible’ Rosen captures county amateur golf title

Little old Grover Cleveland held its own Sunday during the final round of the Erie County Amateur championships.

The 5,621-yard, par-69 course resembled a British Open track – minus the cool conditions. Instead, temperatures in the 90s left the course playing firm and fast. A steady wind cooled things down some for the players, but only added to the challenge.

Bob Rosen handled the conditions best, earning a one-shot victory after a round of 3-over 72 Sunday gave him a two-day total of 1-over 139. He was joined by Marah Penn (women’s division) and Charles Carlson (junior boys) as winners Sunday.

“Regardless of the distance, you still have to hit good shots – whatever course you’re at,” Rosen said.

That’s something the 55-year-old has been doing a lot of lately. Last week, he won the Buffalo District Golf Association’s Men’s Mid-Amateur championship, beating players half his age.

“I’ve been doing a lot of work,” Rosen said. “During the offseason, I did a lot of yoga and things like that, in just trying to stay young. I’m trying to keep my body flexible.”

That’s not always easy for the Williamsville North hockey coach. Winter in the ice rinks isn’t the best way to stay flexible, but Rosen has struck a good balance.

“That’s probably been the biggest reason,” he said of his recent success.

Nothing came easy Sunday, even for the winner. A pair of three-putts on the par-4 16th hole and par-3 17th hole shrank Rosen’s lead to just one. The 16th was particularly disappointing after he had driven the green.

“It was hard conditions,” Rosen said.

Nowhere was that more true on the course than the 17th green, which featured a near-impossible pin position.

“I watched guys in front of me putt it off the back of the green,” Rosen said, “so I knew getting it close to that hole was going to be tough.”

Standing on the 18th tee with a one-shot lead, Rosen hit a perfect drive down the middle of the fairway. With playing companion Mark Lesinski on the green in two shots and needing a birdie to tie for the lead, Rosen played a safe chip shot over the bunker to about 20 feet.

“Just get it on the green and two-putt,” Rosen said of his approach. “Make him make a putt.”

Lesinski was unable to do that from at least 40 feet, and Rosen was able to successfully two-putt for the title.”

“This is the first time I’ve every played this golf course,” said Rosen, who plays out of the Country Club of Buffalo. “It reminds me of a course we play on vacation in Cape Cod. The rough has the same feel. It’s that British Open look – firm and fast. It’s really nice to play.”

A total of 38 golfers played in the men’s division of the fifth championship, which rotates annually between the two courses run by Erie County – Grover Cleveland and Elma Meadows.

Lesinski and James Tee shared second place at 2-over 140, while Claudiu Mihai and Frank Garcia Jr. tied for fourth at 3-over 141.

“I hit the ball OK, but it was rough on the greens,” Lesinski said. “The wind was gusting out there, for sure. I had a lot of fun out here, though. I’m able to drive a couple greens out here. It’s a different challenge.”

Tee drove the par-4 15th green, but was unable to convert the eagle putt. Like those around him on the leader board, he lamented his performance on the greens.

“I missed a couple short putts that had me a little bummed,” said Tee, whose round of 1-over 70 was the best of the day. “I was hoping to break par today. I didn’t really think I had a chance as it was unfolding, but we kept getting the scores back, and the leaders weren’t running away.”

That’s how things unfolded in the women’s division as Penn cruised to a comfortable 10-shot victory. Playing the course at par-72, Penn opened with a 3-under 69 Saturday, then shot 2-over 74 Sunday to finish 1-under 143.

“It was pretty hard,” she said. “My driver was not going well today. I was struggling off the tee, which was putting me in bad spots, but I recovered. … The pin placements were very challenging.”

Penn chipped in for a birdie on the third hole, then added two more birdies on No. 4 and No. 6. She two-putted for birdie on the par-5 fourth hole, then chipped to within 2 feet for a kick-in birdie on the sixth.

Penn, the 2014 winner in this event, played Grover Cleveland in high school with Nardin against Sacred Heart.

“But that was only the front nine,” she said, “so it was interesting to see the back.”

Penn will be a sophomore at Elon College in the fall. She competed in five tournaments with the Phoenix as a freshman, with a 77.79 stroke average in 14 rounds. She played Sunday in the final threesome with childhood friends Sydney Shaw and Sara Riso.

“It was like old times,” Penn said.

Riso finished runner-up at 9-over 153, while Shaw was next at 11-over 155.

Carlson, a senior at Nichols School, finished with an impressive total of 5-over 143 for 36 holes, playing the same tees as the men. The 18-year-old shot rounds of 71 and 72.

“Just keeping everything relaxed, not getting frustrated with the bad shots,” he said of his approach. “This was my first event that I played in this summer, so it was great to start off this way.”

Joseph Tomczak finished as the runner-up among juniors, finishing at 12-over 150 after a round of 76 Sunday.