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Local putters welcome Great Lakes Tour back to East Suburbs

| Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012, 11:31 a.m.
Cranberry's Jim Engel, at right, won Saturday’s four-round professional tournament. The Great Lakes Tour came to Monroeville over the weekend for the second time this season. Photo by Michael Love
North Huntingdon's Bill Combs, above, watches a putt roll down the green during the first round of a four-round tournament on Saturday at Monroeville Par 2 Golf Course. Photo by Michael Love

John Bambling shot 7-under over 18 holes Saturday morning in his first round of a two-day Great Lakes Putting Tour event at Monroeville's Par 2 Golf Courses facility.

"I hit three soft lips and finished at 7 under. I could've easily been 10 under," the Shaler Township resident said. "I hit the ball well but just had a few bad breaks."

Soft lips are when the ball loops around the edge of a hole on a first shot and comes to rest only a few inches from the hole.

Bambling, who has played in amateur and professional miniature-golf tournament events in Monroeville for close to four decades, joined eight of his fellow Park 2 Golf Courses League members and close to a dozen more golfers from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Nevada in the second of two tour stops in Monroeville.

"It's really nice that we get an opportunity to play our home course in an event like this," Bambling said. "Some of us have been playing here in Monroeville for 40 years. It's always great to have a Great Lakes Tour event here and have people come in and see what we have here."

Herb Hull, an Alliance, Ohio, native now living in Las Vegas, knows what its like to find success in miniature golf at the national level.

He became involved with the sport during the miniature-golf boom in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and he won the 1970 World Amateur Putting Championship.

His prize was a seven-week all-expense-paid trip to different countries around the world, and he was a part of grand openings of several miniature-golf courses in Australia and South Africa.

Hull qualified for the world championships that year at the old Monroeville miniature-golf facility on Monroeville Boulevard.

He said he was happy to come back to Monroeville and compete in this event.

"It's a great course. They really keep it well maintained," Hull said.

The winner of the professional side of the 1970 World Putting Champion- ships took home $50,000.

"Most of the guys playing are over 50," Bambling said.

"The boom of Putt-Putt for the national events was a while ago. Now, not as many start playing early like we did. It's unfortunate, but there is still a group of us around the country who still love to play."

Bambling said he will play in a couple more regional events before the Professional Putters Association National Championships Sept. 11 to 15 in Columbus, Ind.

The Golf Channel again will provide coverage of the event.

The Great Lakes Tour is one of five regional tours that make up the PPA, and tournaments are found in states from Pennsylvania, Virginia and New York to Louisiana and Texas.

The golfers in Monroeville played Saturday's four rounds under cloudy skies and in rather cool temperatures.

The course was damp to start, and the golfers had to adjust as the greens dried.

The sun came out for Sunday's event, which feature a pair of three-round tournaments.

Monroeville also welcomed golfers for a Great Lakes Tour stop in April, but Mother Nature wasn't as kind that weekend.

"We all enjoy the game. We wouldn't drive all over the place and spend the money we do if we didn't enjoy it," said Ken Hastings, a Greentree resident and the 2011 PPA Seniors National Champion.

The Great Lakes Tour championship event is Labor Day weekend in Warrren, Ohio, and Monroeville will host the 2013 Great Lakes Tour finals.

Jim Engel, a Cranberry Township resident, won the four-round pro tournament Saturday with a total of 41 under.

Hull captured Saturday's amateur event with a four-round score of 29 under.

On Sunday, Hastings won both three-round pro tournament. He shot 30 under both times.

Hull (23 under) and Braddock resident John Tuite (22 under) claimed Sunday's amateur tournaments.

Par for the course is 36.

"It's really special to have people come from other cities and states to play at our course," North Huntingdon resident Bill Combs said. "Everyone looks forward to coming to Monroeville, as we do going to their cities."

To find out more about the Great Lakes Tour and the Pro Putters Association, visit

For more information on the Monroeville Par 2 Golf Courses Golf League, visit, or call 412-373-0063.

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