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All in the family On Sunday, 16-year-old Mitchell Kontak, right, won the same S.P. Jermain match-play event that his father, Mark, captured in 1990. In doing so, they became the event's first father-son champions.
On Sunday, 16-year-old Mitchell Kontak, right, won the same S.P. Jermain match-play event that his father, Mark, captured in 1990. In doing so, they became the event's first father-son champions.
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Published: Friday, 7/20/2012

All in the family: Father, son share in Jermain's lore

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

On the 10th day, presumably, Mitchell Kontak rested … or at least slept in.

During the previous nine days, Kontak played 11 rounds of golf -- several of them extended beyond 18 holes -- and produced a historic daily double.

The junior-to-be at Maumee High School won the Toledo District Golf Association's junior match-play championship, no earth-shattering surprise. He added the S.P. Jermain match-play crown last Sunday, at age 16 becoming the youngest player in history to capture the championship flight at venerable Ottawa Park.

By winning the same Jermain event that his dad, Mark, won in 1990, they became the first father-son champions. That's not all. Mitchell's uncle, Brian, was the Jermain champion in 1989.

"That's pretty neat," Brian Kontak said from Arizona, where he is a professional golfer. "I can't imagine there are many families with three different Jermain winners. And for Mitchell to win the boys' match play and the Jermain in the same week, well, that's awesome. He's come a long way."

How far? This was Kontak's fourth year in the Jermain field. At the age of 13, he shot 90 in the stroke-play qualifier and lost in the first round of C flight match play.

A year later, he qualified with an 88 and won three matches in B flight before losing in the semifinals. In 2011, his qualifying score was 77, but he dropped a first-round championship flight match.

This time, he carded a sizzling 68 in the qualifier and went the distance, beating veteran John Hills, a former Jermain champ who was appearing in his fifth title match, 1-up for the win.

Three days earlier, Kontak wrapped up the TDGA junior event with a 2&1 victory over Patrick Sherlock at Stone Ridge Golf Club. The Jermain is staged over back-to-back weekends; the junior tournament was tucked into the weekdays in between.

"Am I surprised? Not really," Kontak said. "It was a lot of golf, but I was playing well and with a lot of confidence. Anything can happen in match play. You just have to play smart, hopefully make some putts, and get some breaks along the way."

It appeared that young Kontak got the break he needed in the Jermain title match, leading by a hole with two to play, when Hills' drive on No. 17 landed in some storm debris that had not been marked as a drop area. Instead, it turned into an act of sportsmanship by Kontak that will be as well-remembered as his victory.

Kontak had rattled his drive on No. 17 off trees to the right and saw the ball drop into a water hazard. He had already dropped and hit when he walked over to check out Hills' predicament. Under special local rules resulting from a recent storm, any relief allowed on balls hit into unmarked -- and in this case unplayable -- areas was at the discretion of a player's opponent.

"I thought John had a valid argument and I thought it was fair he got a [penalty-free] drop," Kontak said.

Hills hit his second shot over the green, but made a tremendous chip to within five feet and calmly dropped the par putt to even the match with one hole to play.

"I was really proud of Mitchell for making that decision even though it could have cost him the match," Mark Kontak said. "That's the spirit of the game."

On No. 18, however, Hills could not escape from another wayward drive and, after chipping out, his third shot found the creek in front of the green. With Kontak safely on the green in two, Hills conceded the match at that point.

For Mark Kontak, his son's win was a dream come true.

"The father-son champion part is really up there to me," the elder Kontak said. "I thought it might happen, but maybe not this quickly. He beat me for the first time last summer, his 74 to my 76, about the same time he had a little growth spurt. He has a perfect build, thin and lanky, and it has been fun watching his progression.

"I gave him the fundamentals, but it's up to him now. The sky's the limit but it's a matter of how far he wants to go and how hard he's willing to work to get there."

Having a pro golfer in the family has sparked Kontak's interest in an eventual career in the game, but his immediate goals are more modest -- a strong finish to the 2012 Toledo Junior Golf Association schedule, all-league honors this fall for Maumee High, and qualifying for the state prep tournament.

Claire Batista at The Legacy is Mitchell's local instructor, but the teen has spent the last few spring breaks visiting family, including Uncle Brian, in Arizona.

"He's an athlete, he's intense and he's so raw, which means the right people can mold him," said Brian, the Canadian Tour Order of Merit winner in 1998 and the career money leader on the Arizona-based Gateway Tour. "I've tried to pass along a bit of knowledge and I guess my big push has been on putting. It's one of the most boring parts of the game, but it's what wins tournaments."

Kontak -- who has another uncle, Tom Kontak -- who also has appeared in the Jermain's championship flight, proved last week that he has all the game it takes to win tournaments.

So, surrounded by golfing talent in the family, not to mention "my dad's smack talk, which is all in good fun," what's next for Mitchell?

His father has an idea.

"What about a father-son final in next year's Jermain? That would be the ultimate," said Mark Kontak.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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