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In The Arena: Oakmont’s Gee Captures Tri-State, Juniors Begin

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Devin Gee, left, accepts the Tri-State Open trophy from Bob Ford at Williams Country Club. (Photo: TRI-STATE PGA)

Check it off the list.

Three years after succeeding Pittsburgh golf patriarch Bob Ford as head professional at Oakmont Country Club, Devin Gee has followed up his old boss in another way.

Gee, the defending Tri-State PGA section champion, shot an 5-under 67 on Tuesday in Weirton, West Virginia, to claim the E-Z-Go Tri-State Open … and the Bob Ford Trophy.

Ford was on hand at Williams Country Club to present the hardware that goes to the winner of the event he himself lifted eight times. Gee edged Allegheny Country Club head pro John Aber by one shot for this first win of the TSPGA season, and his third top-five finish in three 2020 events.

“This meant a lot to me,” Gee told TriStatePGA.com. “Any time I can be on a trophy with (Ford’s) name, that’s big.”

Gee shot 8 under for the two-day tournament, including that six-birdie round Tuesday. He trailed Monday leader, 15-year-old rising Central Catholic sophomore Rocco Salvitti, by two entering the final 18.

Salvitti’s closing 73 on the par-72 layout wasn’t enough to hold off the pros, but he still finished in a fourth-place tie at 4 under, two strokes behind the Open’s low amateur, 34-year-old Jimmy Ellis of Venetia. As a freshman last fall, Salvitti finished seventh at the state high school tournament.

“I look at this as a really good way to start the season,” said Salvitti, whose Monday 67 tied for the low round of the event. “This shows me that I can hang with some pretty good players.”

As for Gee, his outstanding start to the TSPGA season includes a tie for second place June 3 in the Golf Max Head Professional Championship and a fifth-place showing at last week’s Golf Galaxy Open. Pennsylvania Golf Academy pro Gene Walter of Wexford won both of those events.

Aber, a two-time Tri-State Open champ, has now finished second in each of the first three TSPGA tourneys this year. He lost in a playoff to Walter on June 8 at Connoquenessing CCC in Ellwood City and was five back of Walter in the Head Pro Championship at Wildwood CC.

“While I would have liked to win,” Aber said, “I looked at this event as a celebration of golf after all we’ve been through this year.”

The TSPGA season continues with the Frank B. Fuhrer Invitational at the Pittsburgh Field Club, a three-day event that includes mini-tour players and begins Monday, June 29.

Claire Konieczny, left, and winner Megan Joyce claim their girls 13-15 plaques in Wednesday’s Junior PGA. (Photo: TRI-STATE PGA)

JUNIORS OFF AND RUNNING

This week included the first three Tri-State PGA junior tournaments of 2020, culminating in Wednesday’s 36-hole Junior PGA Championship at Willowbrook Country Club in Apollo.

Caroline McConnell of Bridgeville and Michael Wareham of Murrysville came out on top in the girls and boys competitions, aged 16-18.

McConnell, a 16-year-old rising junior at South Fayette, shot 78-76 for a 10-over total that beat runners-up Paige Scott, Vileska Gelpi and Ella McRoberts by three.

The 17-year-old Wareham shot 2-under 70 on his second 18 to rally from two down to top Cranberry’s Nolan Nicklas by two. Wareham, a rising Franklin Regional senior, notched three birdies in his final six holes to surge to the title.

Wes Lorish, 13, won the boys 13-15 age group, firing 81-78 to push past Nicholas Turowski by one. Megan Joyce’s twin 81s were enough for the top spot in 13-15 girls.

Normally an 18-hole qualifier for regional and national competitions that were cancelled due to COVID-19 this year, the Tri-State Junior PGA Championship expanded to 36 holes. TSPGA player development head Bob Gillespie called the marathon format “a great option” to give the area’s top young talents an enhanced test.

In the Isaly’s Junior Tour opener Monday at Westmoreland CC, a pair of 14-year-olds — Pittsburgh’s David Furher II and Harrison City’s Turowski — tied for the title with 4-over-par 75s. Nolan Shilling and Logan Marnick were each one stroke back.

On Tuesday at Diamond Run Golf Club in Sewickley, Meadville’s Ryan Ferry was the lone player below par with a 2-under 70. Erie-area standout Natalie Brosig earned solo second with a 1-over 73.

Three more Isaly’s events are on tap next week, with Shannopin CC, South Hills CC and Glengarry Golf Links in Latrobe hosting one-day tourneys.

A 15-year veteran of sports media, Matt Gajtka (GITE-kah) is the founding editor of PGN. Matt is a lifelong golfer with a passion for all aspects of the sport, from technique to courses to competition. His experience ranges from reporting on Pittsburgh's major-league beats, to broadcasting a variety of sports, to public relations, multimedia production and social media.

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