By RUTH ANNE LAWSON
AVON PARK — It was a beautiful morning on the links as the second annual Heartland Golf Open Championship got underway at Pinecrest Golf Course. Though the winds were high Saturday, a total of 37 competitors came out to try to win the first place trophy, cruise, prizes and the coveted red blazer.
The Heartland Golf Open is a points format. A double-eagle is worth 7 points, eagle is 5, birdie is 3, par is 2 and bogey is 1. There was a hole-in-one contest for a chance to win a Club Car from A2Z Custom Carts but unfortunately no one was able to make an ace. There was also a closet-to-the-pin contest and a longest drive contest.
AdventHealth and the Highlands News-Sun sponsored Saturday’s event. There were two divisions made up of 8 women and 29 men. The men’s division came down to a playoff.
Tom Hokenson and Joe Festa III tied for first each with 45-points. A crowd gathered around as Hokenson and Festa had a shootout on hole No. 1. Festa came out on top and won the men’s division of the Championship.
“It was incredible to win,” said Festa. “The weather was beautiful, a little windy. It was tough with the wind and you had to use the right club to get the distance. My putting was spot on today and the course was excellent. I hit them straight and made it happen.”
Festa claimed first place with 45 and Hokenson was close second with 45. Third place was tied and went to match of cards where Mark Lawrence claimed third place with 42 and Anthony Haney rounded out the top four also with 42.
“I was nervous during the playoff,” Festa admitted. “My opponent teed off first and sliced his drive and ended up in the sand I had a pretty good feeling. Then he ended up not hitting a good second shot, I hit a decent second shot just short of the green, then he duffed his third shot and then his fourh shot rolled back down into the fringe. I knew I had to make it at least to the cup and I got within 8-inches and tapped it in.”
In the women’s division, Barb Hall celebrated her birthday with a win. Hall placed first with 45 points. Sandi Wolfram claimed second place with 43 and Bonnie Lennox placed third with 37. Jeannete Billy came in fourth with 36.
Lynda Krull won the the longest drive contest in the women’s division and Bill Brinengar won the men’s. Both Krull and Brinengar took home a new driver.
Lennox not only place third in the women’s division, she also won the closet-to-the-pin contest on hole No. 10. In the men’s division the prize went to James Hughes. The pair each received $250.
“This year’s tournament was awesome,” Festa stated. “The qualifying round was great at Sun ‘N Lake where I shot 79 and I beat my score by one point today and tied for first. Came down to a sudden-death playoff. I will be back next year to defend my title.”