EXETER — Tired of turning-out second-best, Eric Plisko made one more play for first.
It turned into another John Allan Tournament title for his partner.
Plisko made a big splash after a long rain delay Sunday and washed away years of frustration by dropping in a two-foot birdie on a playoff hole to secure a second Allan title for his playing partner Rick Laneski in a dramatic, 1-up victory over Mike Hannagan and Tyler McGarry at Fox Hill Country Club.
“If you don’t feel pressure, you shouldn’t be playing,” Plisko said of his putt for the win. “I’ve been in those situations before.”
Almost too many times.
While Laneski won the 2011 Allan playing with current Web.com tour competitor Brandon Matthews, Plisko suffered through more than his share of heartbreak playing the most high-profile amateur tournaments in the Wyoming Valley.
While teaming with Paul Keating in 2009, Laneski played the 18th hole five times — once in regulation, three times in a playoff and again when the teams came back another day to play the entire 18-hole course while breaking a deadlock to decide the Allan title that ultimately went to Dave Kluger and Eric Williams.
And just last month, Plisko — a Temple graduate from Sugar Notch who played in the U.S. Mid-Amateur Qualifying in Atlanta this past September — finished in second place for the second time with partner Drew Mamary in the prestigious McCarthy Classic at Wyoming Valley Country Club.
This time, he turned silver to gold.
“Finally,” exclaimed the 31-year-old Plisko, the reigning two-time defending Wyoming Valley Country Club champ. “I must have played 18 in a playoff about seven times. After the past, this feels really good.”
It felt just as good to to Laneski, who won his first Allan title with another Temple grad in Matthews — before the former Pittston Area state golf champion headed off to play in Web.com, the developmental tour for the PGA Tour.
“I do well with Temple grads,” cracked Laneski, who teamed with Plisko at the Allan for a second straight year. “That’s the concept. This young man (Plisko) has a heck of a future ahead of him. He and I work very well on the golf course. He hit a shot to within a foot on 6 and made the eagle.”
Laneski helped make the momentum of the title match change, though.
His solid drive on 15 and ensuing 109-yard clip to the green set up a 15-foot putt for birdie that evened the score with three holes to go.
“We were playing and I said to Eric, ‘Nothing’s going in,’ ” Laneski said. “But I feel I’m stroking the ball good, I’m not changing my stroke. I hit a good drive on 15, I said, ‘This is right in my wheelhouse.’ Kept the same strokes, said, ‘I’m going for it.’ “
Plisko went right along.
He followed up with another three-shot make on 16 and the back-to-back birdies, put Plisko and Laneski 1-up with two holes remaining in regulation.
Then the rains came.
In the middle of play on No. 17, the siren sounded to clear the course with lightning flashing in the area, sending both teams to sit for 90 minutes while thunderstorms passed.
“Last year, I chipped it in from the fringe to birdie on that same hole,” Laneski said. “I really wanted to get up there and hit that chip before we stopped. You’ve got to figure out a way to get through it. Mine was by entertaining my family and Eric’s family.”
It led to an entertaining finish.
McGarry, another former Pittston Area golf star and Misericordia University standout, was the only player in the foursome to make par on 17 and the teams played even on 18 to force an extra hole.
“It was incredible,” McGarry said. “If I’m being honest I really didn’t expect this coming in. It was a great weekend, I had a great time. This group, it was a fantastic match we had. They deserved it. They played very, very well today.”
Plisko made his final play with a sweet approach shot on the playoff hole of 18, a 110-foot dagger off a 54-degree wedge to set himself up within two feet from the cup.
Easy pickings, right?
“Baloney,” Laneski said, noting the greens were made softer and soggy by the downpour and the putt had to navigate a tricky curve to the hole. “Eric hit a quality shot in the playoff to 18, you can’t take that away. That little bend, he had to contend with this, the greens were wet. That was not an easy putt.”
But Plisko made it, navigating a path to the Allan title.
”I got an extra read from my partner, got up and told myself to hit the putt, natural, and if it doesn’t go in we play another hole,” Plisko said. “It went in.”
Mike Hannagan/Tyler McGarry def. Lorenzo Medico/Billy Medico
Rick Laneski/Eric Plisko def. John Mikiewicz/Tom Biscotti
Rick Laneski/Eric Plisko def. Mike Hannagan/Tyler McGarry
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski