MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — After Moon Open play concluded Sunday afternoon, Moon Golf Club general manager Josh DeNinno and a small group of individuals associated with the tournament decided to leave the scoring area to break the news to Luis Cardiel that he won both the D Flight Gross and Net prizes.
In a scene that resembled a Publishers Clearing House commercial, the crowd, led by DeNinno, went to the clubhouse bar where Cardiel was surrounded by friends and the bar staff and informed he had won both prizes.
Cardiel was immediately overcome with emotion as he hugged DeNinno and waved in appreciation, proceeded to the scoring area to join the other present winners and dance ‘La Cucaracha’ in celebration.
“Thank you Moon Golf Club,” Cardiel said through tears. “The people that work in the pro shop, the people that work the 19th hole and also the people that maintain this golf course.
“The groundskeepers never get credit for what they do. There are a group of people who play here every day, they know who they are and because of them, I’ve got this.”
— Moon Golf Club (@MoonGolfClub) July 23, 2023
Cardiel joined repeat A Flight champion David Michaels, B Flight winner John Kim and C Flight victor Robert Soda as those who lifted both trophies as the Moon Open had the same person in each flight earn the gross and net titles.
128 total golfers finished two rounds of competitive play, after which they were treated to steak, shrimp, baked potatoes, and plenty of time to watch the final leaderboards, while enjoying each other’s company.
As David Michaels reached the turn, he had one simple question, “How did the leader finish?”
With leader Cameron Krotec in the first threesome to start on the back nine, their round had reached a conclusion, so a few minutes later, an answer returned as the leader had given strokes back.
The immediate surprise gave way to a competitive feeling as now Michaels and playing partner Quinn Sliker felt a couple of birdies coming in on their second nine may lead to a victory. Sure both were having fun, but now the competitive juices began to flow, with both standing at 2 over and feeling they could win.
All of a sudden it was game on.
“Knowing what the news was, to figure out where the leader was at the time, knowing what we had to shoot it was very helpful to know what was going on,” Michaels recalled.
In the lengthy wait between the 18th hole and the first, Michaels made a change in his ball markers, which are tributes to his children with the first ball marker being from 2013 and the second from 2016 to honor his twins.
“I always start with my oldest but he wasn’t helping me very much today, so I had to change it out and as soon as I changed it out, I started making birdies,” said Michaels. “I made birdie on the first hole, made birdie on the second hole and made a huge putt on three to avoid double and then made another birdie on the next hole.”
— Zachary Weiss (@ZacharyMWeiss) July 23, 2023
As the group was aided by some White Claws to loosen up the mood, Michaels continued his play, until the seventh hole when he airmailed the green and put himself in a tricky position. From there he left himself a 12-foot putt which he made for what he called “probably the best par of my life” and emphasized the make with an enormous fist pump.
“It was a little bit of a sucker pin that was tucked,” he said. “I thought I would hit this 135 yards, nice and clean, choked down and I just nuked it. I was 40-50 yards back behind everything, just in jail. I thought at that point, ‘Just make a bogey, don’t do anything stupid.’ I had trees under me and hit a little chip shot that was underneath, got lucky and took an extra hop and then put a good stroke and made it.”
As scores posted, Michaels saw Mike Papciak’s 2-over overall score. With Michaels at 1 under he was able to par the final two holes, securing victory. Krotec and Sliker each tied for third place.
“The guys killed it,” praised Michaels. “The course is in absolutely amazing shape; they did a terrific job with it. Josh is fantastic, the grounds crew and greenskeepers did a terrific job. It’s nice to see it play so true and I didn’t have one terrible lie the entire two days, so it was fantastic.
“It was nice to play the ball down, Josh did a smart thing there, it really takes it to the next level to make this tournament a little bit more special.
“It’s my favorite tournament of the year, I love it. With my three little guys in sports, we run around all of the time, so it’s a little bit of me time getting to come out and play some weekend golf, play with some friends and have a good time and actually compete.”
Flight A Gross
- David Michaels -1
Mike Papciak +2
T3. Cameron Krotec +4
T3. Quinn Sliker +4
T3. Brian Stewart +4
- David Bennett +5
Flight A Net
- David Michaels -5
T2. Brian Fredericks -3
T2. Tracy Lehman -3
T4. Mike Papciak E
T4. Quinn Sliker E
All year long John Kim has been grinding at Moon Golf Club and his loyalty was rewarded as he led wire-to-wire and held off John Barber by two strokes to win his first Moon Open, in this, his second try.
“I feel ecstatic,” Kim revealed. “I’m telling you, this is my gym, I don’t get anything other than this. I look forward to it every single day. I come into Moon Golf Club and just play. I play with my friends a few times a week and that’s what it is. Moon Golf Club is so accessible, and I love it.”
Kim shot 80 on both days of play and birdied both the fourth and 13th holes. He started on the back side and finished up on the front side by parring his final three holes and then waiting with two of his friends and playing partners for official confirmation that he was indeed the victor.
Upon finding out the news he shook DeNinno’s right hand with both of his and flashed a smile.
“I like the fact that they made the Moon Open more challenging because since I come here all of the time, I think I have an advantage, but at the same time golf is golf,” said Kim. “You never have a leg up, sometimes you get lucky and I got lucky today.
“You have to give props to (superintendent) Jason (Batchelor) and the staff here, just phenomenal. I’m not kidding when I say Moon Golf, best course in Pittsburgh, I love it.”
Flight B Gross
- John Kim +16
John Barber +18
T3. Brian Blaha +19
T3. Sean Cummings +19
T3. Kevin Snatchko +19
Flight B Net
- John Kim -6
Brian Blaha -5
T3. Sean Cummings -1
T3. Matt Druciak -1
- John Barber E
Robert Soda remembered his first Moon Open, estimating he shot a 147 in his first round, attributing it to having to retool each time he hit his ball out of bounds, but each year he has climbed the leaderboard.
Now, in year four, there is nowhere left to climb as he bested Tim DiPietro by four strokes to capture the C flight.
As was the case with Kim and Michaels in the previous flights, Soda started his round on the 10th hole and set out with the goal not faring any worse than two over on the first three holes, which he accomplished on the number.
Soda, a member of Moon Golf Club’s Monday league, while also averaging an additional round per week, is clearly no stranger to the course, so when it came time to make the turn, he told his friends he wanted to shoot a 39 or a 40 on his second nine.
Problem was, Soda did one better with a 38 securing his victory.
“I drove the ball very well and didn’t get myself in trouble, which is important on this course,” Soda assessed. “If you spray the ball you’re going to get in trouble with the trees. My flatstick was really good today.”
Flight C Gross
- Robert Soda +23
Tim DiPietro +27
T3. Eric Branagan +30
T3. Eric Jenko +30
- Dillon Owens +31
Flight C Net
- Robert Soda -5
T2. Eric Branagan -2
T2. Eric Jenko -2
- Tim DiPietro -1
T5. Anthony Glunt +3
T5. Dane Looman +3
T5. Dillon Owens +3
Though he was not atop the leaderboard in flight D, Ian Ayers continued offering his Cal Ripken Jr. impression competing in his 12th overall Moon Open and 10th consecutive, both records among the field.
While wearing the tournament shirt from several years ago, Ayers could not have been more upbeat about his Moon Open experience this time around.
“I like coming out and playing with my buddies,” he explained. “I’m not very good, I had a 111 today, but we had fun, that’s the main thing. This Moon Open is a lot of fun and there’s a lot of great people you get to meet and see. I just hope I can do 10 more.”
Ayers expressed that he has a friend that always is on Twitter around the time that registration opens up for the Moon Open and he takes care of getting their foursome registered.
There is no doubt in Ayers’ mind that he will make next year’s Moon Open — lucky number 13 — but with one caveat.
“I’ll be back, I’m hoping to break 111, but I’ll be back next year,” he said.
Flight D Gross
- Luis Cardiel +30
Steve Kramer +34
Ron Swantek +40
Bernie Sarsfield +43
David McHugh +37
Flight D Net
- Luis Cardiel -14
Skylar Russo -11
Steve Kramer -8
Jim Kelly -7
Ron Swantek E
PHOTO GALLERY (photo credits Julia Wingard)