Ryan Sikora doesn’t have to worry about telling his new pupils what to do. He can always show them.
Like he did in the first round of the 36-hole Tri-State Open.
Sikora is the first-year women’s golf coach at Seton Hill University, an NCAA Division II school in Greensburg, and his new “students” are members of the golf team. If his players want to learn how to properly play the game, all they need to do is witness what he did Monday at New Castle Country Club when he shot a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to lead a field of 101 club professionals and amateurs.
“I always wanted to get into coaching but I never knew where to start,” Sikora said. “I figured this was a good place to begin.”
Sikora is trying to build the program with the equivalent of three full scholarships, and that has enabled him to attract players from Arizona and California for the start of the fall season. For now, he will be focused on adding the Tri-State Open — a tournament he has never won — to his impressive resume.
On a day when only nine players bettered par, Sikora led the way with the only bogey-free round of the group. That gave him a one-shot lead on three players heading into the final round today.
“I was solid,” Sikora said. “The greens weren’t as fast as they usually are. They didn’t get away from you. They were just right.”
Right behind Sikora is professional Brett Carman of Dogwood Hills and two amateurs — Seton Hall University sophomore Kevin O’Brien of Wexford and Brown University senior Justin Miller of Oakmont.
O’Brien and Miller were paired together and combined to make 12 birdies, seven by Miller.
“I hope we’re paired together [today],” said Miller, who played at Riverview High School.
“Five birdies was my goal,” said O’Brien, who played at North Allegheny High School. “I thought if I made five I’d have a good round.”
Lurking two shots back is Edgewood professional Pete Micklewright and John Aubrey, owner and PGA professional at Dubb’s Dred in Butler. Aubrey, 64, had to play with two of the longest hitters in Western Pennsylvania — Butler professional Rob McClellan (78) and Diamond Run amateur Rick Stimmel (75) — but he easily bested his playing partners.
“He handed it to us,” Stimmel said.
But consider the plight of Treesdale assistant Dennis Munko, who shot 72 despite a double bogey at the par-4 eighth and a 9 at the par-5 16th.
Munko was 4-under heading to the 559-yard hole when, after a good tee shot, he said he was “enticed” to go for the green in two. But he hit his second shot left of the green and never found the ball, which was only the beginning of his problems.
After going back to his original spot, Munko’s fourth shot hit a tree and ricocheted into a gully. Then hit another tree when he tried to punch out on his fifth shot. Munko’s seventh shot trickled off the green, but he was able to get up and down from 40 feet for a quadruple bogey.
“It could have been worse,” said Munko, who finished with back-to-back pars. “So I didn’t get too bent out of shape.”