The 84th Maryland Open Championship went to a sudden-death playoff yesterday, but a sudden phone call decided the winner.
While pros Gary Mankulish and Wayne DeFrancesco were on the course at Woodholme Country Club in Pikesville, headed to their second playoff hole, Maryland State Golf Association officials received word that Mankulish's membership in the Mid-Atlantic PGA had been suspended.
Pros in the Maryland Open are required to be MAPGA members in good standing, so Mankulish was disqualified, and DeFrancesco, playing on his home course, was declared winner of his third Maryland Open title.
"We discovered a little bit of a rules violation, and we decided we didn't have to go on with the playoff," said Michael Kuntz, vice president of the MSGA. "That notwithstanding, Gary played very well, and we'd like to recognize that."
DeFrancesco and Mankulish, a pro at Lakewood Country Club in Rockville, were tied for the lead heading into yesterday's final round. Each then shot a 2-over-par 73 to force the playoff at 214.
Both parred the first playoff hole, the 12th. But before they could tee off at the second extra hole, the 18th, MSGA officials had heard - conveyed in a call to Woodholme's golf shop - from Jon Guhl, assistant executive director of the MAPGA.
Guhl said he had been checking the scores of the Open on the Web and noticed Mankulish's name, which he didn't recognize. Then, checking on Mankulish's MAPGA membership status, Guhl discovered he was under suspension for not having completed PGA requirements - such as education steps - to be a Level I apprentice. Therefore, the MAPGA doesn't consider him a member.
DeFrancesco, a Columbia resident and teaching pro at Woodholme, called his opponent "a great player and a great guy," adding he felt "really bad for Gary. It's a shame what happened."
Mankulish led DeFrancesco by three strokes when the two finished yesterday's first nine holes and appeared a sure bet. But he quickly crumbled on the back nine with bogeys on his first two holes. Mankulish continued his descent with a double bogey on No. 15, where starting with a drive far right of the fairway, he needed five strokes to reach the par-4 hole's green. A 7-foot putt gave him double bogey. He finished the back nine with a 40.
DeFrancesco, who won the Open in 1994 and 1995, played the back nine in 1-over, bogeying No. 11. Of 123 players in Monday's first round, 40 - 23 pros and 17 amateurs- played in yesterday's final.
Amateur Moose Brown, playing out of Hayfields Country Club in Hunt Valley, took second with a 72 yesterday on the par-71 course and a 215 overall. Brown has held a share of the lead after the Open's first round for the past two years.
Though he placed sixth overall with a 218, Jeff Castle, a Towson University junior playing out of Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center in Ellicott City, had the most impressive showing of the tournament yesterday with a 68 that included six birdies, a bogey and a double bogey. But Castle had shot a 76 and 74, respectively, on Monday and Tuesday, making yesterday's cut by a single stroke.
John W. Stewart contributed to this article.