By Ken Hachikian
The 2014 AYF Olympics Golf Tournament was held this year at Warren Valley Golf Club in Dearborn Heights on the historic East Course, which was designed in 1922 by Donald Ross, one of the legendary golf course designers of all time.
There was a record turnout with 51 golfers, a credit primarily to the local Detroit Armenian golfing community. The competition included 7 young AYF men, 4 young AYF women, and 40 AYF alumni, including 32 men and 8 women. Golfers came from Massachusetts, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Rhode Island, Maine, and California. The event was overseen on behalf of the Governing Body by Ken Topalian of Providence, R.I., whose term on the Governing Body is coming to an end (thanks, Ken, for your service). The weather was excellent with temperatures in the mid 70’s and mostly clear skies with only a slight breeze. Conditions were, in short, excellent for a spirited competition.
The women’s 9-hole competition went off first. Michelle Hagopian of Granite City, Ill., although not shooting one of her best rounds, handily won with a 50; it was one of her patented dominating performances with the outcome in little doubt. Michelle now has won 9 consecutive years of gold medals, starting at age 17, and has another 2 years of eligibility. She may well set an Olympic record of 11 consecutive wins before she retires in 2 years. Second place and the silver medal went to Lauren Yangouyian of the Detroit AYF, who shot a 64; 3rd place with the bronze went to Ani Hackett of Greater Boston, who shot a 75 in her first Olympics at the young age of 16; and 4th place was won by Joclyn Chopjian of Detroit with a 77.
The men’s 18-hole competition was much closer. Peter Tashjian of the Philadelphia AYF shot an 81 to win the gold medal. This is Peter’s 4th gold medal, having previously won in 2007, 2012, and 2013. Peter had a very consistent round shooting 40/41. Mark Santarian, also of Philadelphia, won the silver medal with an 83; he was leading at the turn with a 38, but his superb putting on the front nine deserted him on the back as Peter overtook him with his steady game. Peter and Mark are close friends in the best fraternal spirit of AYF, competing against each other on a consistent basis. Third place and the bronze medal was won by Chris Attar of Detroit with an 87; 4th was taken by Michael Haase—a previous gold medalist in 2008—also of Detroit with an 88.
One of the young men, who shall remain nameless, hit a spectacular shot from within 100 yards of the pin on the back nine. His shot sailed over the chain link fence boundary of the course, landed on the roof of a passing van, and bounced back onto the course, landing on the green. He claims to have planned the shot that way!
The alumni event was arguably the highlight of the day. There were 40 competitors, including 8 women. In the medal event, Jeff Hagopian of Granite City won with an 83, closely followed by Art Vartanian and Michael Crane, both of Farmington Hills, Mich., who shot 84. Larry Ovian of Worcester, Mass., came in 4th with an 85. In the scramble format, the Palaian family of Farmington Hills, Mich., won. Dad Steve had to be carried by his three daughters, Maria, Angela, and Julia, all AYF alumni.
The alumni event drew golfers from near and far, but the two golfers who traveled the farthest were Steve Dadaian and Raffi Ghazarian, who are both alumni of the “Sardarabad Valley” AYF Chapter in California; Steve lives in Encino Hills and Raffi in Sherman Oaks. Raffi is a past winner of the alumni event, back in 1994 in Boston. Steve traces his East Coast roots back to the Quad Cities, Iowa, Armenian community where his grandfather settled 100 years ago in Davenport. Thanks to both for joining the competition.
The air was full of old friendships, great fraternalism, and wonderful competition. A picture was being shown around of 4 Detroit golfers who competed together today in a foursome—and the same group 40 years ago when they were active in the AYF. They almost looked the same! Thanks to everyone who participated.