HANOVER TWP. — Through 35 years of near-misses and close finishes, Art Brunn Jr. had a whole handful of heartbreak.
Rick Berry experienced so much frustration it made his head shake.
Together, they raised the stakes.
Teaming together for the first time, close pals Brunn Jr. and Berry won their first championship at The McCarthy, besting the talented tandem of Drew Mamary and Erick Plisko in 16 holes of the title match on a rain-soaked Sunday at the Wyoming Valley Country Club.
“It’s been 35 years,” Brunn Jr. said. “I’ve been playing here since I was 15 years old.
“Patience is a virtue.”
Apparently, so is putting.
Brunn Jr. made a 94-yard up-and-down gimme on the final hole of the Sunday semifinals to end a tremendous battle with the father-son team of John and A.J. Olszewski to make the finals.
Then Brunn Jr. walked out of a 30-minute rain delay with the championship match tied after six holes and immediately buried a 30-foot birdie.
Berry followed with a nifty 8-foot putt from the front of the green on the 8th hole, and pretty soon, the tandem was carrying a 3-hole lead after 13 holes of the title showdown.
Three holes later, the title was theirs.
“It means me and my buddy get to share a victory together,” Berry said. “Artie and I practice together four nights a week. Each day, we help each other get better. It paid off.
“That’s the key, the friendship,” Berry continued. “He’s such a tremendous person, motivates you to no end.”
Brunn Jr., the head golf coach at Holy Redeemer who guided the Royals to the school’s first state team title in any sport when it captured the 2013 PIAA golf crown two years ago, won three of the past four Wyoming Valley Country Club Anniversary Tournament titles and was club champion in 2012 and 2014.
But he never won a McCarthy.
“It’s a dream come true,” Brunn Jr. said.
Berry also experienced his share of heartache in The McCarthy field.
“I finished fourth, fifth,” Berry said. “Every year I’m close, but not winning it.”
Finally, the heartbreak kids teamed up —after Brunn Jr.’s former partner scaled back his golf game — and both walked away holding a championship.
It didn’t come easy.
In the semifinals, Brunn Jr. and Berry had to contend with John Olszewski — who won five Wyoming Valley Country Club championships since 1990, eight championships at The McCarthy since 1998 and captured two of the past three McCarthy championships including the last one golfing with Eric Williams.
Golfing with his son A.J. Olszewski for the first time at The McCarthy, John Olszewski powered the team to an early three-hole lead over Brunn Jr. and Berry in the semifinals, before the eventual tourney champs made a late, stirring comeback.
“Just grit and grind,” Berry called the performance. “We said there was a lot of golf left to play. Artie’s such an inspiration. It makes it so much easier when he hits the ball on the green. I think we both played well.”
The fast friends weren’t about to fall again despite a course made sluggish by an off-and-on rain, as Brunn Jr. used a head-turning shot to take the team to the finals.
“I really was hoping to put it close, give myself an opportunity to make par,” Brunn Jr. said. “We went through a lot of adversity. John and his son just played fabulous. It was a dogfight, that match. It’s one of those matches, it’s unfortunate someone had to go home.
“That’s the kind of match you never forget.”
Meanwhile, Mamary and Plisko fended off the Cinderella father-and-son team of Frank Schiel Sr. and Jr. — who entered the Championship Flight through a four-team playoff and went from a No. 16 seed to the semifinals — with solid play Sunday morning.
And they were right there, even with Brunn Jr. and Berry at three holes apiece, when heavy rains hit the course and stalled play in the championship flight for awhile.
“It did get pretty bad for awhile,” Berry said.
But the match resumed in a steady rain, which seemed to rejuvenate both Brunn Jr. and Berry.
“Going back out, I thought Eric (Plisko) would get a little advantage on us, because he’s a little younger,” Brunn Jr. said. “The delays were not good for us older guys. You’ve got to go out and take it back up. But we persevered.”
And at long last, two guys who spent decades reaching for the mountain joined together for the first time and helped each other over the top.
“First time’s a charm,” Brunn Jr. said.