MERIDEN — The Meriden Open champions reigned supreme at Hunter Golf Club on Sunday. The plaque of city champions, though, will be inscribed with two new names.
While Chuck Stupakevich of Wallingford and Katie Pesko of Waterford defended their Open crowns on a hot and humid day, long-time Hunter members John Adamowicz and Fran Beedle captured the city titles.
It was a first for both.
Adamowicz actually won two trophies with his two-round score of 152 — City and First Flight — and was in contention for the overall title heading into Sunday.
Make that “technically in contention.” Truth is, there was little doubt Stupakevich would repeat as men’s Open champion. Not after he shot a 4-under-par 67 on Saturday.
Dressed in black on Sunday, Stupakevich stayed in red for the tournament. With a second-round 72, he came in with a 3-under 139 for the show and won by 12 strokes.
“I’m very pleased with the way I played this weekend,” said Stupakevich, a Meriden native whose history with Hunter goes back to his youth, when his mom would drop him off at the course on summer mornings with a bag of clubs and a $5 dollar bill. “This is my home. I love this place; I grew up here.”
The same can be said of Stupakevich’s counterpart. Before she became Katie Pesko, the Meriden Open women’s champ grew up here as Katie Grobsky.
Now a chemistry teacher and boys golf coach at Waterford High School, Pesko shot an 85 on Sunday to defeat Hunter Women’s Golf League standout M.J. Petretto by four strokes.
It was Pesko’s 10th city championship and it will be her last.
“I think I’m going to go out on top; I think I’m done,” she said. “10 to me is a nice even number. This is it.”
On Sunday, Pesko settled down after a front-nine 46, shooting 39 on the back.
“It was actually all over the place. I had two triples, two doubles, three bogeys, so I had a buffet, if you will, with golf scores,” she elaborated. “My problem was when I had a bad shot, I did not recover well. But I did also have a birdie and a few pars mixed in there, so there were a lot of good holes.”
Stupakevich’s best holes came right out of the gate. He drained a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 1 and then chipped for another bird on No. 2.
“The other guys in the group were like, ‘Oh, brother,’” Stupakevich recounted. “From there on in, my mentality changed just a hair. I wanted to stay aggressive, but again I didn’t want to get too aggressive because I had such a big lead. You start messing up, you start having bad thoughts — I didn’t want to have any of that.
“Fairways and greens: That’s all I tried to do. I was hitting it pretty good, but the putter wasn’t as hot as it was yesterday.”
Actually, the putter wasn’t bad. To use Stupakevich’s term, he “burned the edges” on birdie attempts on a number of holes, including No. 18. With most of the other golfers, their rounds done, up on the deck of Violi’s Restaurant watching, Stupakevich put a 25-footer within an inch of the cup.
He tapped in to applause.
“These mean more to be me than anything,” Stupakevich said of his Open titles. “Very special to me. I played here with all those names up there — Les [Zimmerman], Ron Victor Sr., Ron Victor Jr., Jerry Morytko. Those guys were legends.”
Zimmerman, the 12-time city champ who won his seventh Meriden senior championship with a 142 last week, did not play in this year’s Open due to illness. Zimmerman’s absence, as Hunter club pro Bob Tiedemann put it, “was not a hole; it was a crater.”
It also opened the door of opportunity to others, especially in the race for the Meriden resident’s crown. This proved to be the closest division. Adamowicz, Joe Diaz and Bob Hill opened the day separated by one stroke — Adamowicz had a first-round 75 to 74s for Diaz and Hill.
Diaz was in good shape Sunday until a double-bogey on 16. Adamowicz capitalized, edging Diaz by one stroke, 152-153.
It was a sweet return for Adamowicz. He underwent open-heart surgery in 2013.
“It’s been a struggle to make the comeback,” said Adamowicz, who’s been playing at Hunter since he was old enough to ride his bike to the course from his boyhood home on Bee Street. “I’m very happy.”
Adamowicz’s fellow city champ, Fran Beedle, is also on the mend from medical issues, which is why she was surprised to come away with the women’s title.
“I haven’t been playing up to my expectations,” Beedle explained. “I had some back surgery last year and I’m still not where I should be.”
What was up to par were the playing conditions. On both Saturday and Sunday, more than one golfer complemented the work of head groundskeeper Tom DeVaux.
“This course is in superb condition,” Beedle said. “This is a gem; we’re lucky to have it.”
Tiedemann also noted that Hunter is fortunate to have Zimmerman’s sons, Kyle and Brett, who handled the scoring throughout the tournament. While Kyle plugged all the scores, hole by hole, into the computer, Brett, in his meticulous hand, etched the numbers onto poster boards.
In the end, here’s how the leaders read on those posters:
■Men’s Open: Chuck Stupakevich 139, Rich Varotto 151, Joe Diaz 153, Manny Dasilva 153.■Women’s Open: Katie Pesko 85, M.J. Petretto 89.■Men’s City: John Adamowicz 152, Joe Diaz 153, Bob Hill 159, Larry Michaud 159.■Women’s City: Fran Beedle 97.■First Flight: John Adamowicz 152, Jerry Morytko 155.■Second Flight: Bob Hill 159 low gross, Jim Lobb low 136 net.■Third Flight: Dan Berube 179 low gross, Alex Newton 135 low net.■The Meriden Open was presented by Meriden Hyundai.