Always plenty of surprises

The City Open always seems to hold a few surprises every year.

This year, the 48th City Open was split for the first time in five years, with Saturday’s first round taking place at the Alpena Golf Club while Sunday’s second day events took place at River’s Edge.

Pleasant surprises from this year’s City Open were presensted to golfers Tom Lahner and Maggie Skiba, who outpaced their opponents to win their first ever City Open championships.

Lahner, a long-time golfer who has won multiple Thunder Bay Open titles, beat seven-time City Open champion Phil Straley and 2011 City Open champion Todd Skiba with a 144.

Straley shot 146 while Skiba shot 148.

“This is probably my fifth or sixth time (I’ve competed in the City Open). It feels good to win. I’ve been playing well this year and have been playing about two or three days every week this summer to prepare,” Lahner said.

Meanwhile, Skiba is not only a first time City Open winner, but a first time competitor, but few who know her family history are likely to be shocked by her win. At least three of her family members, including her father and brother have won the City Open since it’s inception.

“It feels amazing to be back out on the course, competing and winning again as a Skiba,” she said. “Golfing is a family tradition and so is playing in the City Open.”

In fact, the 20-year old Skiba had rarely touched a golf club since graduating until shortly before the City Open.

“I kind of gave (golf) up a little bit since high school, but I played a lot more this summer, just practing a lot more than I have in the past, so I decided to see how well I could do in the Open,” Skiba said.

Lahner’s win did not come easy this year, as he duked it out with Straley and Skiba on Saturday. Lahner started slow as Skiba took a two stroke lead over both Straley and Lahner with a 71.

However, Lahner came out strong on Sunday to take a one stroke lead.

“I played really well in the front nine. I was two under at the turn and Todd (Skiba) was three over so I caught him and went ahead. Then, Todd missed a couple of putts that he normally wouldn’t have to put him further back,” Lahner said.

Straley and Skiba had a few chances to catch Lahner in the back nine: Lahner bogied on 11 and three-putted on 16, losing a chance to take a comfortable two-shot lead.

With a tentative one stroke lead heading into the last hole on Sunday, Lahner knew he couldn’t wait around for his opponents to make a mistake. As Straley teed off, Lahner saw his opportunity to pull ahead for good.

“Phil kind of laid up short of the pond on the 18th. I hit a great drive and picked up the best lie. I could have laid up and went for the three, but I just went for it and got it in two and took the two stroke lead,” Lahner said.

The women’s competition didn’t have the same sense of drama as the men’s competition: Skiba outshot six-time City Open winner Sue Geyer by five strokes on Saturday, taking an 84 into the second day.

With such a strong lead, it would have been hard for Skiba to lose or Geyer to catch up. However, Skiba wasn’t taking Geyer for granted.

“It was a little nerve wracking knowing that she (Geyer) has won so many times. She really golfs a lot more than I do and she’s great. So, it was a little scary competing against her all weekend,” Skiba said.

Skiba had little to worry about as she shaved a stroke on Sunday to win by six with a score of 169. Interestingly, Geyer’s 175 was the exact same score she won with last year.

Now that Lahner has his first City Open championship, he’s gunning for more.

“Oh, I’ll be back next year. I’m just going to keep playing and trying to get better with every game,” he said.

Skiba is just as ready to once again prove her worth on the links.

“It was so much fun playing this weekend, especially coming out and playing so strong after not playing for so long. I’ll definitely come back and compete next year,” she said.

Dan Misel came in third in the men’s championship with a 152, outpacing Bob Centala (155) and Derek Seguin (156).

Tim Sayre won the men’s first flight with a 137, outshooting second place Bill Yahne by one stroke. Jim Kolson shot 141 for third.

Dave Kneeshaw won the men’s second flight with 145, outpacing Kim Crevier by two strokes. Kim Matuzak and Kevan Rogers tied for third with 155.

Ricky Chism hung on in the men’s third flight for a two-stroke win (141) over Rick Gapske and Patrick Green.

Mike Klimek (134) beat Darrel Milligan by three in the men’s fourth flight.

Donice Ziberna won by double digits in the women’s first flight (144), beating Patty Goldammer by 11 strokes.

Debbie Adams won the women’s second flight with a 146, holding off Marcia Milligan by six strokes.

Eric Benac can be reached via email at ebenac@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.