-- The outcome of the 84th annual Maryland Open was decided Wednesday not by a powerful drive or a breathtaking putt. Rather, Wayne DeFrancesco won the event on a technicality.
DeFrancesco, a 15-year teaching professional at Woodholme Country Club, was declared the winner after the first playoff hole when it was learned that Gary Mankulish was disqualified from the competition.
"I don't really know what to say," DeFrancesco said after winning this event for the third time. "It feels nice to hold the trophy. I feel really bad for Gary. It's a shame it happened. We were having a good playoff."
DeFrancesco, who also won in 1994 and '95, shot 71-70-73 -- 214 (1 over par) on his home course to earn the $7,200 first-place check. Moose Brown of Hayfields finished one stroke back and was low amateur. Doug Hurson, an amateur from Columbia Country Club, was third at 216. David Long of Woodmore shot 217 and took home $4,400 as the second low professional.
Maryland State Golf Association officials approached DeFrancesco and Mankulish as they were about to tee off on the second extra hole and informed Mankulish that he was ineligible for the event because he was not a member in good standing with the Middle Atlantic PGA. Jon Guhl, assistant executive director of the MAPGA, spoke to MSGA official Randy Reed at 2:30 p.m. to inform him of Mankulish's status.
"We discovered a rules violation as the playoff was underway," said Michael Kuntz, an MSGA vice president.
The MSGA customarily submits the names of the players entered in the competition to the MAPGA to verify their eligibility. The MAGPA often disqualifies several players before the event begins. This time, however, officials did not catch the problem with Mankulish's standing until the tournament was nearly complete.
Mankulish knew he was suspended before the competition began. He had failed to turn in his workbooks by the deadline, which was May 2004. Because of his suspension, he had not played in any MAPGA events recently. He was unaware, however, that he could not play state events, especially since he played in the Maryland Open last year when he was suspended.
"I'm not upset about the ruling," Mankulish said. "That's the rule. That's fine. Catching it a little bit earlier would have been nice. I would have been more upset if I won in regulation and they took it away from me. I guess this is the lesser of the evils."
The startling conclusion diminished an otherwise dramatic final round. DeFrancesco and Mankulish were tied atop the leader board coming into the day. Mankulish seized a three-shot lead after nine holes by making four birdies and two bogeys. Then on the back nine, he started to falter. He bogeyed No. 10 and 11. DeFrancesco also made bogey on 11, which kept Mankulish's lead at two.
The par-4 No. 15 was Mankulish's undoing. After hitting a poor tee shot into a grove of trees in the right rough, he tried to punch out but flew his ball over the fairway into a cluster of trees in the left rough. His third shot landed on the grassy slope in front of the green. He chipped onto the green, 15 feet past the pin. He made the putt and was fortunate to escape with only a double bogey, but his lead had disappeared when DeFrancesco made par on that hole. Both players made par the rest of the way to force the playoff.
Although this is his third time winning this event, DeFrancesco was moved when he accepted the trophy.
"This is," he said, "one of the trophies I revere the most."