WESTFIELD TWP. — When the 96th annual Ohio Open takes place on the North and South courses of Westfield Group Country Club, the 233-player field won’t be devoid of area talent.
The Open, which runs Tuesday through Thursday, is a three-round event with cuts made after the second day. It is a virtual who’s who of Medina County golfers, as 15 will compete.
Westfield Center’s Parker Hewit and Jason Martin will join Seville’s Greg Briggs and Michael King as well as Hinckley Township’s Michael Ross and George Papas and Brunswick’s Steve Weir.
Montville Township will send seven hopefuls, as Bob Henighan, Joe Kerrigan, Bob Koch, Spencer Koch, Kyle Richardson, Evan Schreck and Pete Skirpstas are in the field. Medina’s Patrick Luth also is there.
Of the 15, only Briggs, Kerrigan, Papas and Ross are new to the field. Hewit, Richardson, Weir and Spencer Koch made the cut in 2015.
Hewit finished three shots back of winner Justin Lower of Canal Fulton at 12-under par and was one shot off second in a tie for fifth.
Should one of them win, they’d join Jack Nicklaus, Byron Nelson, Billy Burke, Tom Weiskopf and Herman Keiser as an Ohio Open champion.
For Hewit, Westfield holds a prominent place. The 2008 Cloverleaf graduate lives 30 seconds from both courses and works at the country club.
“It’s really special,” Hewit said. “To me, it signifies home. No matter how long I’m gone, when I come back and play Westfield, it’s home. It’s where I spent my childhood. It’s where I’ve grown up. Wherever I end up, wherever I go, Westfield will always be home.”
Hewit has had incredible success there as well dating back to his days in high school, when he set the area ablaze with two top-15 finishes in the Westfield Junior PGA Championship.
Last year, a blistering third-round 63 put him in contention at the Open, as he tied the record on the North Course with a 9-under round.
Hewit also holds the South Course record with an 8-under 62.
“For as big a tournament as it is, it’s very relaxing,” Hewit said. “People come and watch me play golf, which is awesome. They’re all rooting for me, so I don’t feel any added pressure. It’s nice to have them out there. It’s such a laid-back environment. It’s a special week.”
Weir was the only other area golfer under par last year at minus-1, finishing tied for 45th.
Skirpstas is ready to get back at it as well after missing the cut by two shots last year.
A 2015 LatinoAmerica PGA Tour professional and 2006 Medina graduate, he’s very familiar with the nuances at Westfield and is looking to join those in contention.
“Being at Westfield helps with your game plan,” he said. “You don’t have to spend any time in preparation. The work is already done. Other than if they change something on the course or if it’s dry, that’s the only thing you have to worry about.”
Therein is the difference as Westfield will be both comforting and challenging for those with previous experience.
“There’s an advantage in the lines you take off the tee box,” Skirpstas said. “You’re just more confident in your shots because you know where the ball is going to end up. There’s no mystery.
“It’s kind of a disadvantage if you let it because you know the golf course so well. You can press it if you don’t get off to a good start.”
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.