Treesdale assistant holds on to win Tri-State PGA Open by 1

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Taking a quadruple bogey on a hole, three-putting the 17th green with a two-shot lead, missing a 4½-foot birdie putt on the final hole -- none of that seemed to bother Dennis Munko. And for good reason.

An assistant professional at Treesdale Golf & Country Club in Gibsonia, Munko, 35, has more pressing matters away from the course.

His 20-month-old daughter, Sophia, is less than six months removed from a bone marrow transplant and still receives medicine twice a day to prevent pneumonia and fungus forming in her lungs.

Munko's daughter is on a healthy road to recovery -- "She's dancing and everything," he said with a smile -- which probably explains his calm, almost tranquil, manner on the golf course.

And that's why he was able to dismiss some of the minor travails the past two days at New Castle Country Club and win the Tri-State Open for the first time.

Of course, it helped that he made 12 birdies in two days, too.

"That's a lot of birdies," said Ryan Sikora, the first-round leader who finished one shot behind Munko.

After an opening-round 72 that included a 9 at the par-5 16th hole, Munko made six birdies for the second day in a row and shot a final-round 68 Tuesday to finish at 4-under 140. That was good for a one-shot victory over Sikora (73), the women's golf coach at Seton Hill University, and West Virginia professional Jason Robinson (69), whose round included a holed shot from the fairway for eagle at the par-4 10th.

Gordon Vietmeier (71) of Quicksilver Golf Club and Dennis Dolci (69) of Tam O'Shanter finished tied for fourth at 143. Justin Miller (75), a senior at Brown University who lives in Oakmont, finished alone in sixth and was low amateur at 144.

"It was great, it was awesome," Munko said when it was all over.

"I liked making 12 birdies in two days. I would have liked not to have made a quad and a double. But it worked out."

That goes for off the course as well.

Munko's daughter was diagnosed with neutropenia -- a low number of white blood cells -- less than three months after birth and needed to have injections in her thigh twice a day for three months. The medicine, which was covered by insurance, cost $20,000 per month. Sophia had transplant surgery Dec. 17 and was visited in Children's Hospital the next day by Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury and several other Penguins players.

"That was really nice," Munko said.

In addition to orally giving his daughter four medicines twice a day to prevent pneumonia and fungal bacteria, Munko and his wife have to apply lotions to Sophia's head, face and body twice a day.

"It's been a long winter for him," said Treesdale's head professional Joe Boros.

Munko wasted little time taking control of the 36-hole tournament when he began the final round with three consecutive birdies. He even got a little help along the way when one of the spectators found his second shot in the heavy rough on the third hole.

"It could have changed the whole round right there," Munko said.

When he birdied the devilish par-3 seventh -- he hit a 5-iron from 205 yards to 2½ feet -- Munko jumped into the lead and never let go. He added two more birdies on the back side at Nos. 12 and 15 to offset a pair of three-putt bogeys at Nos. 13 and 17, both par 3s.

He even resisted going for the green in two at the 559-yard 16th after what happened the previous day. Of course, it helped that his drive landed in the left rough.

"Good," Munko said. "That means I'm not going for it in two. You hit a good drive and you start thinking ..."

Munko, who has a degree in turfgrass science from Penn State, got a boost from Sikora, who three-putted four times in the second round -- none more damaging than when he three-putted from 40 feet at the 158-yard 17th hole. The bogey dropped him two shots from the lead and rendered meaningless his 20-foot birdie at the final hole, though it did push him into a second-place tie with Robinson.

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com and Twitter @gerrydulac.


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