PROVIDENCE, R.I.—Jon Burke saved his best for last.
The adopted Armenian from Providence went to sudden death before conquering perennial contender Mark Kanian in the 19th hole in what proved the closest match in AYF memory.
Both golfers finished with an 85 after 18 holes of regulated play, then proceeded to sudden death on the Par 5 490-yard hole at Triggs Golf Course. Burke drove a ball 250 yards down the fairway and with a 5-iron, landed a shot in front of the green before 2-putting for par.
Kanian wound up double-bogeying the hall and it was lights out for the New Jersey contender who came here looking to defend his title. A year ago, he fashioned an 81 for his second Olympic crown. Since 1999 when he carded a 72, Kanian has been a regular on the medal stand.
“I was expecting a medal based upon previous scores,” said the 28-year-old Burke. “The Kanians (Mark and Chris) have an excellent reputation on the links. This was my first time and I hadn’t played competitively since high school.”
Burke came into the AYF through marriage with Paula Markarian and wasted no time getting acclimated. He’s competed in two Olympics but never made it past the trials a year ago in the javelin and long jump. This time he shifted his attention to golf.
He’s a 2003 graduate of Bryant College with a degree in finance, employed as an investment analyst for Amica, Inc. His golf game is confined to mostly charity tournaments over the past 18 years.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Paula,” he admitted. “She’s turned me into an Armenian and it’s become a whole new world for me—one that I’ve learned to enjoy.”
Although they attended the same high school a year apart, they didn’t meet until both were working for the same company outside of college in 2003.
“I had heard about the country of Armenia and knew there was a genocide, but little else,” he said. “Paula’s been a good teacher and a good motivator.”
You’ll find Burke attending services at St. Vartanantz Church and pitching a hand where needed. If the ARS needs a lift, he’s front and center. Burke joined the organization to maintain his eligibility as an Olympian.
“They work very hard for the welfare of Armenians throughout the world,” he says of the ARS. “I don’t just fill an empty seat. I look to stay involved, physically and morally.”
They had a traditional Armenian wedding. Almost as difficult as the golf title was learning to dance the “hars oo pesa” upon entrance.
“We pulled it off well,” he smiled. “There was a lot of practice in the living room.”
Twelve golfers teed off this time on a wide-open course with excellent conditions and good rolls. Burke made the turn at 40 and struggled with a 45 on the backside. His only birdie came on the 400-yard 9th hole after landing a ball in the rough. Using a 9-iron, up came the ball a foot from the hole.
“That one was a shocker and put me back on course,” he confessed. “I was playing in a different foursome than Mark and had no idea what he shot until the round ended.”
Burke finished regulation play with 8 pars, two double-bogeys, and a pair of triple- bogeys, including one on the very first hole to dig himself into an immediate rut. But patience prevailed.
“Just being involved with the AYF and ARS is a positive gain,” he points out. “I never had that sense of community until I met Paula.”
Third place went to Philadelphia’s Mark Santerian with 91. Tied for fourth were New Jersey’s Chris Kanian and Philly’s Pete Tashjian at 97.
Seven women took to the greens, more than in previous years. In the end, it was Granite City’s Michelle Hagopian who defended her title with a 43, matching last year’s round for nine holes and again missing—by one shot—the record held by Racine’s Ani Mikaelian since 1996.
Hagopian went on to capture three gold medals, much as she’s done in the past, while breaking her own discus record.
Second place went to Greater Boston’s Anya Battaglino with 51 while Detroit’s Jaclyn Chopjian finished third with 65. Tied for fourth were Detroit’s Ani Hagopian and Granite City’s Liz Hagopian with 66 each.
Thirty players turned out for the alumni tournament with Providence’s Armen Tenkarian the victor at 80. Tenkarian also won the longest drive contest and was presented the Cory Tosoian Memorial Trophy for his efforts. It marked the first championship for Tenkarian.
Every golf cart had two tri-color flags in true patriotic spirit. A nice luncheon was enjoyed by all.