CALLICOON – It’s a banner year for the Sullivan County Democrat Two-Man Better Ball Golf Tournament. Started four decades ago by then-Sullivan County Democrat Publisher Fred Stabbert Jr. …
CALLICOON – It’s a banner year for the Sullivan County Democrat Two-Man Better Ball Golf Tournament.
Started four decades ago by then-Sullivan County Democrat Publisher Fred Stabbert Jr. and Tournament Director Paul Zintel, this annual spectacle continues to attract the best amateur golfers to the area from around the region.
The 40th Annual Democrat will be held this Friday, Saturday, Sunday – July 30 -August 1 – at the Villa Roma Country Club in Callicoon.
“If you can remember what you were doing on August 20, 21 and 22, 1982, odds are you might have been playing in our first annual Democrat Golf Tourney,” Tourney sponsor Fred Stabbert III said. “I know there will be at least seven players in this year’s field from the original tournament and all I can say is ‘We’ve had a great run so far.’”
“There were 45 teams – 90 players – in the original field at the Big G Grossinger’s Golf Course and the players from that field who will be teeing it up this weekend include Marvin Newberg, Mitchell Etess, Ken Cohen, Tom Drobysh, Nathan and Ira Steingart and myself,” Stabbert said. “That first tourney was really special and Paul [Zintel] worked hard to get some of the best players in the area.
“We are truly excited about this year, and thanks to the great support of area golfers, the tradition continues… as strong as ever,” he said.
Who’s gonna win?
The next chapter of the tournament will be written this weekend as 128 golfers – 64 two-man teams – tee off today at the Villa Roma in the Friday qualifier (see page 10B for a complete tournament roster).
Each year this event brings together experienced tournament participants and new golfers looking to make an impact on the leaderboard.
Twelve past champions will be returning to this year’s tournament, and combined they have an incredible 37 Democrat titles.
As Villa Roma Director of Golf and Pro Matt Kleiner aptly predicted (see column at right), there are many teams to watch in this tourney.
For example, Sean Semenetz and Joe Winski – the winningest team in Democrat Golf Tournament history with six victories – are back to try and add another title to their trophy case. They won the tourney last year.
Speaking of the Semenetz family, Sean’s brother Gregg Jr. and father Gregg Sr., both past champions of the tournament, along with their partners, Jared Kubenik and Bill Phillips respectively, are always strong contenders.
Another team to keep an eye on is Walter Herzog and Kort Wheeler. The Liberty duo has won the tournament before and have been so close to doing it again, making three championship match appearances in the past five years. They were the Democrat runner-ups in 2020.
Young gun Jake Hommel, who won the tournament in 2019 with Eldred alum David Powers, will be back this year with fellow Kingston High School alum and Wiltwyck Golf Club member Scott Kleeschulte. They will certainly be a team to watch.
Also, don’t count out the veteran team of past Democrat champions Ken Cohen and Mitchell Etess. These two have 12 Democrat titles between them and Cohen knows the course as well, if not better, than any golfer in the field.
No matter how good you are, and how far you can hit a drive down the fairway, it will be the team that catches fire and cleans up on the green who will be called Democrat champions at the end of the weekend.
More than a game
While many eyes will be on the leaderboard this weekend, the Democrat Golf Tournament is more than the competition.
Golfers with county ties who still call this place their home and others who have moved away, gather together to catch up, have fun and reminisce.
There have been many reasons for the tournament’s success, but in addition to the help of past and current tournament directors, and the Stabbert family, a large role in the tourney’s prominence is the support from its participants.
From Marvin Newberg, the only person to play in every Democrat, to Cohen, Etess, the Semenetz family, Winski, and a host of others, the Democrat welcomes back familiar faces year after year.
Original Tourney Director Zintel, contacted this week, said he was elated the tournament is still going strong.
“Boy, I am so happy. I remember when it started,” Zintel, who recently turned 90, said. “It’s unbelievable. Please tell Marv Newberg that I still have my four wood…”
A family affair
One tradition that is growing year after year is the growing number of families who play together.
Four members of the Meyer family – two father-son teams – have been in the field for years. Tom and son, Joe, and John and son Jordan, each have a legitimate shot of not only making the championship flight, but earning a championship.
Of course the Semenetzes – Sean, Gregg Sr. and Gregg Jr. – who have 10 titles altogether, play on three separate teams. There is no mercy when they are on the course competing against one another.
The Steingart family, Nathan with partner Wayne Pirnos, and Ira and Zack Steingart are also strong contenders this year.
Brothers Todd and Michael Gallo took the partner combo to another level when they started showing up in matching golf attire nearly a decade ago.
“This is our tenth Democrat together and wait until you see this year,” Todd said with a laugh.
The Kubeniks are also well represented, with Eric and son Cody teaming up and Jared also in the field.
Other father-and-son tandems include Marv and Ben Newberg, Ricky and Devin Dias, Jon and Andrew Etter and Andrew and Fred Stabbert.
Other families with multiple members include the Whites (Tyler and Logan), Walshes (Jim and Brendon) and Van Keurens (Taylor and Corey).
Democrat golf predictions
BY MATT KLEINER
DIRECTOR OF GOLF
Here are my predictions for the 40th Annual Sullivan County Democrat Two-Man Better Ball Tourney:
Odds to win The Democrat ...
2 to 1 Semenetz/Winski – If you know this tournament, no explanation needed.
3 to 1 Wheeler/Herzog – Depending on the qualifying scores a 2020 repeat final could be in order.
4 to 1 Hommel/ Kleeschulte – Just another couple of young bucks who will make plenty of birdies. Hommel has been to victory circle and I wouldn’t be surprised if this team wins.
5 to 1 Cohen/Etess – Has this team seen its best years pass them by? Don’t think they think so and I wouldn’t count them out. Haven’t seen Mitchell’s game this year but I do know Kenny still makes plenty of birdies.
5 to 1 – J. Kubenik/G. Semenetz Jr. – Former champs practicing hard. Think they’re hungry for another title.
Other teams competing for the Championship
8 to 1 Phillips/Semenetz Sr.- Very good team. Similar to Cohen/Etess, might be waiting for the birth of the “Senior Democrat.”
10 to 1 Mainey/Walsh - Not sure how much tournament golf Mainey is playing but if these guys are in shape they could be a tough out.
12 to 1 John Meyer/Jordan Meyer. John playing great this year and could shock and win a match or two. Jordan improving too.
14 to 1 Joe Meyer/Tom Meyer – Joe might be one of the top 5 players in the field. Pops throws in a bird here and there who knows.
Last year I actually had the final four right. Qualifying scores will tell a lot.
My crystal ball says, “Semenetz/Winski beat Hommell/Kleeschulte and Wheeler/Herzog beat Mainey/Walsh in semi-finals. Think Wheeler and Herzog return this year to the winner’s circle in 19 holes.”