In this case, the big dog was Dustin Lieber, the second-year golf assistant at Eagle Creek. He chewed up the New State Road course in club-record fashion earlier this month, carding a 61 and erasing the names of long-time club professional Gary Wilkins and two-time club champion Isaac Hartley — both of who shot 62 last year.
Lieber played the course on July 3 as far back as he could, using the Gold tees, stretching the 18-hole yardage to 6,633 yards. His previous best round was a 64 shot last year, that number posted from the black tees (6,234 yards). He had it as low as 65 previously from the gold tees.
“I was hitting the ball pretty square the entire round that day,” Lieber said. “The course is quite firm right now so I can get fairly close to some of the greens on the par four holes off the tee. My wedge game was decent, but my putting was really solid — just 22 of them.”
Charlie Brown, who played all 18 holes that day with Lieber, will attest to that as will Director of Golf David Morgan who played the front nine and the Creek’s new assistant Mason Berry who joined in midway through the round.
In recalling his round, he well-remembered the very first hole when he hit a great drive but then hit his second into some high weeds to the left. He tried a heroic shot which failed, the ball dropping straight down after hitting a limb.
“When I chipped in for birdie after back-to-back poor shots on that first hole, I kind of figured the round would be special,” the 24-year-old 2012 Norwalk High graduate said. “No. 1, a 505-yard par 5 hole, is generally a birdie hole for me but certainly not that way.”
Lieber followed that hole with two pars and then birdied both 4 (10-foot putt) and 5 (tap-in putt) to get to 3-under. He then pared the next three holes before knocking in a 20-foot putt from off the green on No. 9 to make the turn at 4-under 32.
“I had it 4-under a number of times before so I was not thinking anything real low,” said Lieber, the University of Findlay graduate.
But, he would re-think that statement when on the par 4, 365-yard 10th hole he unleashed a colossal drive, one that ended up 10-feet from the pin. He missed the eagle putt, however, tapping in for birdie to go to 5-under.
On the par 5, 522-yard 11th hole, he hit two solid shots and this time got the eagle putt (from off the green) to go down from 30-feet. Now he was -7 under.
Now the course record was definitely in his head. But, there were slower golfers ahead of the threesome so they moved around them to No. 13. Lieber made short work on that hole, making birdie from three-feet and then on the par 3, 14th, stuck his tee ball to within four-feet and made that putt to go to -9 under. That meant he played a stretch of five holes 6-under par.
Lieber got a nice up-and-down for par on 15 and then hit it to within eight feet on the 182-yard, par 3 16th and made another birdie. On 17, he had what he called “a vicious lip-out” on a six-foot putt for birdie. He recorded his final birdie on 18 when he knocked his second shot (an 8-iron) on and then two-putted.
The blemish on the card came on No. 12, the hole they went back to play to complete the round.
“I made the only bad swing all day on that 198-yard, par 3 hole,” he said. “I hit it in the right trap and failed to get up-and-down. I was hesitant on what club to use and I pulled the wrong one. I took a deep breath and trusted the club I chose and just did not make a good swing.
“But, overall, it was a day to remember,” Lieber added. “I do feel I have a 59 out here sometime in the future. That lip-out and then that bad pass which turned into a bogey was costly this time around. There will be other times.”
Lieber works at Eagle Creek until the snow flies — then heads to his winter job in Florida at Palmira Golf and Country Club in Bonita Springs.
Lieber and Morgan teamed the win the season-long Northern Ohio Section Match Play title last year. They also got by the first round of the 2018 event earlier this month.
The next match will be against the twosome of Dennis Miller (Youngstown) and Mark Evans (Canton), the team they beat last year to make the finals against the Stone Brothers (Steve and Mike) from the Toledo-Bowling Green area, a match they won 3&1.