Dr. Jonathan Valuck (The Society of Seniors Photo)
Dr. Jonathan Valuck of Oklahoma City, Okla., has been looking forward to playing The Club at Olde Stone ever since the pandemic canceled an event scheduled for the Arthur Hills gem in 2020. Valuck finally got his chance this week in the 15th Jack Hesler Tournament, and he did not walk away empty-handed. Valuck entered the final round tied at 3-over par with Jack Hall of Savannah, Ga., in the Senior Division and posted a solid round of even-par 72 to grab a one-shot victory over Hall.
Players faced difficult scoring conditions all week with hot temperatures and thick 'U.S. Open-like' rough. There were just four under-par rounds posted for the week, all of them 1-under, 71.
After a rough start with a double bogey on the tough first hole, Valuck finally got something to go his way with a long birdie putt on the par-three No. 8. As the final group made the turn with Hall leading by one thanks to a tricky two-putt from off the left side of the ninth green, Valuck made bogey on the difficult 10th hole, while Hall made birdie to then lead by three.
From there, the good doctor played stellar golf by finishing three under in his final eight holes to fight back to even for the day and post the winning score of 3-over. Hall made an uncharacteristic bogey on No. 16 and relinquished his lead.
"I wanted to shoot even par today. This course is so difficult; it's in great shape, perfect conditioning, and the rough was really challenging. I'd been one over and two over, and luckily I was able to shoot even today," said Valuck. "When the putt from about 40 feet on (No. 8) went in, I believed I could do it, and I was able to make some birdies coming in to get it back to even. It turned out to be a great day."
On the final hole, Hall just narrowly missed a birdie putt to tie, having to settle for runner-up honors. Steve Maddalena of Jackson, Mich., and Dennis Martin of Los Angeles, Calif., each shot matching rounds of 1-under 71 in the final round, good enough to finish third and fourth, respectively.
Super Senior Division
Steve Humphrey of Ocala, Fla., started the day two strokes behind second-round leader Buzz Fly of Memphis, Tenn., and the two were paired together for the final round along with Michael Arter of Lakeville, Mass. Arter and Humphrey joked about the good fortune the latter has had while being paired with the former.
Humphrey has won three events while being paired with Arter, somewhat of a lucky charm. Make it four wins now, as Humphrey was able to post a final round of 4-over 76 to win by two strokes over a group of four players (including Fly and Arter) tied for second place at 10-over for the three-day event.
After an up-and-down first eight holes where he was trading birdies and bogeys, Humphrey knocked his second shot on No. 18 from 208 with a 7-wood to three feet and brushed in the putt for eagle to turn the momentum in his favor. Down the stretch, he was able to make pars on his front-nine closing holes, including the difficult long par four No. 9.
"My goal going in was to just keep it out of the rough, which I did for the most part. The eagle was big for me on No. 18, and a couple of big pars on the second nine gave me the lead when Buzz made a couple of bogeys. From there, it was just, find a way to make pars coming in," said Humphrey.
Among the group tied for second place was Kirk Geiling of Loveland, Ohio, who shot a final round of even-par 72. Also in the tie for second was Gregory Goode of Salina, Kan., who shot a solid final round of 2-over 74.
Legend/Grand Master Division
Les Devitt of Concord, Mass., posted a three-day total of 15-over to outlast Jody Vasquez of La Quinta, Calif., to take home first place in the Legend Division. The low Grand Master award went to Jim Saivar of San Diego, Calif., with a total of 26-over.