ST. CLAIRSVILLE - At 53 years old, Dave Clarke just loves to play competitive golf.
That competitive nature has paid dividends several times already this summer and worked once again Sunday afternoon at the annual Belmont Hills Club Championship.
For the second straight summer, Clarke posted the low score in the 54-hole event and is now known as BHCC Club Champion.
THE BELMONT Hills Country Club Championship wrapped up Sunday afternoon. From left are BHCC Club Professional Ron Baker, women’s champion Linda Dowler and men’s champion Dave Clarke. For Dowler, it was her first BHCC Club Championship and Clarke repeated as the men’s champion. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleader-online.com
BELMONT HILLS Country Club Champion Dave Clarke (right) is congratulated by Dave Reasbeck, Sr. on the 18th green after he won the BHCC Championship for the second straight season. For Reasbeck, it was the 13th different player he’s finished second to during the event.
Clarke finished with a score of 219, which was 11 shots better than runner-up Dave Reasbeck, Sr.
"Winning this again is just as sweet as it was last year," Clarke said. "It's been a good summer. I've played a lot of good golf this year."
Clark prevailed in 2012 by outlasting perennial BHCC Club Championship contender James Carson.
Carson wasn't in the field this year, which allowed Clarke to basically cruise to the victory despite trailing by four shots after Saturday's first round.
"I wish James had been here," Clarke said.
Entering Sunday's round, Clarke wasn't nervous about the deficit he faced after posting a 74 in the first round.
"I knew there was a lot of holes to be played," Clarke said.
Clarke seized control with a 2-under, 70, on Sunday morning and Reasbeck's four-shot lead turned into a six-shot deficit thanks to the 80 he posted.
The lead swelled entering the final 9 holes of the final round after Clarke posted a 35 on the outward nine.
"I just kind of put it on cruise control on the back 9 in the last round," Clarke said. "I just brought it home from there. When you're that far up, you just have to make sure you don't stick your finger in the light socket and do something really stupid."
Clarke finished with a round of 75 to wrap up the trophy.
Along with his victory in the BHCC Club Championship, Clarke also captured the senior division of the Stoney Hollow event on the OVGA and then just last weekend he won his age group at the Ohio Senior Hall of Fame in Sandusky.
"I love playing as many competitive rounds as I can," Clarke said. "I'm finally at the point in my career where I can go practice. When you have the time to go putt, chip and keep sharp, you keep getting better."
Will there be a run at a three-peat for Clarke?
"I don't know," Clarke admitted. "My golfing is kind of taking me in different directions, so I am 50-50 on it right now. Nothing against this club, but I am trying to get into more competitive rounds on harder golf courses."
For Reasbeck, it's another runner-up finish. All told, Clarke becomes the 13th different player he's finished second to in the event.
Dr. Larry Kettlewell posted a 234 to finish third. Anthony Reasbeck finished fourth overall in the championship event with a three-round score of 236. Dr. Jason Newton was fifth with a 237.
In the flights, Rennie Minor won the first flight championship with a round of 161. Dan Balgo captured the the second flight crown with a score of 164. Ernie Wilson was the champion of the third flight with a score of 172.
For the first time, the women's championship was held on the same weekend as the men's event.
That wasn't the only first to happen during the 36-hole event, which wrapped up Sunday afternoon.
Linda Dowler, who's been playing competitive golf for some 50 years, captured her first Belmont Hills title.
"I finally got it," Dowler said shortly after receiving her championship trophy. "I've been runnerup many times, but I was never able to beat my best friend Esta Maloney."
Maloney didn't play in the event this year because of arthritis. Though she didn't compete, Maloney was at the course both days supporting Dowler.
"I had to get her out of the way to be able to win this," Dowler smiled.
"She just couldn't play like she used to, so she decided she didn't want to continue."
Dowler shot a two-round score of 193, which was 22 shots clear of Kelley Hanlon.
"I don't play like I used to because I'm older, not as strong as I was and I have arthritis," Dowler said. "I know enough about the game that I was able to do well enough."
As for what lies ahead on a chance of a repeat, Dowler isn't quite sure just yet.
"I accomplished what I really set out for," Dowler said. "One time is all I ever asked for. I lost my husband and I know he was up there (in Heaven) rooting for me."
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org