US Deaf Golf Championships - 2021
Summary of 2021 USDGC in Austin
When golfers arrived Austin, Falconhead golf course was on the verge of “closing down” due to heavy rain. The forecast was more rain during the tournament. The board was discussing plans such as plan b, c, d. They decided to wait till the day arrived. Sure enough, when the tournament began on Monday, there was a bit rain but not soggy enough to prevent golfers from playing on the course.
On the first day, competitors complained that the ball would not roll down on the fairway due to wet. But most scored pretty good especially McGowin Miller of Alabama for the Open with 3 over par and Ashlyn Johnson of Northern California for the Women with 77. Bill Roberts of MO and Keith Worek of NY for the Seniors who shot 78 each.
Moved tee areas to a bit forward for the 2nd day. The weather was a bit better and golfers came out to play their best despite of wet ground. McGowin Miller shot even par and led by 5 strokes. Bill Roberts widened his lead by 6 over Darrell Hovinen. Ashlyn Johnson shot 77 which put her the lead with 10 strokes.
On 3rd round, the weather was cooperative and allowed golfers to drive on fairway with 90 degree turns. That helped speed up the play. McGowin gained the ground with 9 strokes ahead of Brandon Babineaux.
Bill also gained 15 strokes over Darrell in the Seniors.
Sun came out in time for 4th round and dried up most of the fairways which helped golfers to enjoy their round especially Brandon who caught up with McGowin and led with one stroke till 18th. Brandon's ball was in the trap while McGowin's on the right of green. Both got on the green on their 3rd shot. Brandon parred with two putts and McGowin had an opportunity to tie the playoff with just 6 foot putt but he missed that gave Brandon to win the Open championship.
For Women’s Open, Ashlyn Johnson who is only 14 years old showed her consistency with scores of 79,77, 75 and 74 with the help of her short game skills. She won by 30 strokes perhaps the widest margin over 2nd place, Patty Lopez.
Bill Roberts played in the Seniors Open for the first time and won 13 shots including even par on his 3rd round over 2nd place Darrell Hovinen who just moved to the Villages which gave him some improvement in his golf game.
Super Seniors Open went to Mike Finneran of Northern CA who is the oldest of all 8 golfers in his division and Jose Sermeno, also from Northern California did not give up till the end by one.
Women’s Seniors Open is being held for the first time this year as the World Deaf Golf Federation has recognized its newest division. Eight female seniors competed and Lauri Ponikiewski won 1st place by 20 strokes.
Shootouts were held at University of Texas’ beautiful par 3 course. 7 holes!!! Winners were:
Open – Michael Mabashov
Seniors – Paul Rutowski
Women – Jamie Fisher
Super Seniors – Mike Finneran
Facebook video live was played at the shootouts and the banquet. First time ever and many enjoyed watching them. Hopefully we will do again during future USDGC week.
The banquet was held at the pavilion and nearly 100 folks came and enjoyed Mexican food and ate “edible” cookies. The program included awards to winners, Hall of Fame inductees, and announcement of each division winners going to 2022 WDGC in Hawaii which are posted somewhere in the US Deaf Golf website. Kudos to Avonne Rutowski who singlehandedly made the banquet look great by each table’s centerpiece filled with balls and tiny flagstick.
Overall the tournament was well organized and kudos to Paul Rutowski who chaired it. He had a good number of volunteers who worked hard to make the tournament look great. With the help of Players Incentive Program and Sponsorships golfers enjoyed breakfasts every morning, bottled water during the round and lunches afterwards.
For 2023 USDGC, it will be held in Wisconsin. See you there.
GOLF FOR PAUL (written by Steve Baldwin)
June 18, 2021
It is now history that the combined USDGA and SWDGA tournaments took place in June of 2021. Thanks to the agreement between President Mike Finneran and the members of SWDGA, the milestone materialized successfully. Fortunately, the devastating COVID-19 epoch and threatening Texas thunderstorms did not prevent the partnership from becoming an unprecedented reality at Falconhead Golf Club from June 6 to 10, 2021!
The relaxing of the masking protocol rules allowed us to see the smiley faces of about 71 players and many fans for the concurrent annual or biennial golf championships for SWDGA and USDGA, respectively.
“From the knobby oaks and cedars to the rolling hills to the creeks and ponds” in Central Hill country, everything went smoothly and was too good to be true. Eleven of the 20 key planning committee members are longtime SWDGA members. Chairman Paul Rutowski, Brandon Babineaux, and their respective wives, Avonne and Debbie, contributed more than their share of time, expertise, and talent. Ryan Schlecht, another amazing SWDGA member and well-known actor, recruited eight nationally known sponsors! We must not overlook Susan Sien, who produced the fascinating E-program book. Indelible memories galore, indeed.
The USDGA may be old enough to be the grandson/daughter of 63-year-old SWGDA (Est. 1959), but evidently, it was a productive collaboration between both golf organizations. More importantly, we have set a historical precedent for other Deaf regional golf associations, such as MWDGA (1947), SEDGA (1970), and FWGAD (1970). So, which one will partner with USDGA in 2023? Thanks to the vision of Mike Finneran and the passion of Paul Rutowski, our future is waiting with bated breath for another golfing milestone!