Notice of MetroParks Standing Committee Meeting

The Wildlife Standing Committee to the Board of Park Commissioners of Mill Creek MetroParks, will meet on Thursday, June 29, 2017, at 1 p.m. in Classroom A, at the MetroParks Farm, in Canfield, on Rt. 46.

Family-oriented overnight camping event at Mill Creek MetroParks provides many activities

Two years ago, Lia Sebaugh and her father, Joe, spent a few days and nights camping at Pymatuning State Park, so you could probably say that experience has primed Lia for another day and night of fun.

“Tonight I get to sleep in a tent and have a fire,” the 7-year-old said Saturday afternoon, referring to some of what she looked forward to during Mill Creek MetroParks’ annual Family Camp in the Park, which began Saturday morning and continues until 1 p.m. today near the Judge Morley Performing Arts Pavilion in the James L. Wick Recreation Area.

The family-oriented overnight camping event provided a slew of activities such as nature programs, hikes, crafts, a scavenger hunt, structured games, storytelling and a trolley ride in and around the Bears Den area. The overall idea was to bring a greater number of people to the park while showcasing its offerings, noted Cara Hahn, the MetroParks’ programs and event coordinator.

“It’s good for people who have never camped; it’s also good for people who love to camp,” said Hahn, whose 2-year-old son, Justin, also took part in the festivities.

Suffice it to say Lia wasted no time engaging in fun activities. She enjoyed making a bug jar, a glow-in-the-dark item and a picture frame, said Lia, who listed as her favorite activities being with friends and family as well as watching movies.

“We love Mill Creek Park, and all the staff are always nice and polite,” Lia’s father added.

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Locals golfers take part in round two of AJGA event at Mill Creek

Mill Creek’s south course proved to be a worthy adversary for many of the competitors during second-round play at the American Junior Golf Association’s Mill Creek Foundation Junior All-Star.

After an opening round of 79 on Monday, Brookfield’s Conner Stevens shot an 82 on day two, dropping to 21 over for the tournament and falling from tied for 56th to now a tie for 63rd place.

Youngstown’s Jayne Bernard remains in 23rd place. She improved upon her opening round of 101 with a round of 98 on Tuesday.

Maxwell Moldovan of Uniontown, Ohio took the lead after two rounds, sitting five-under for the tournament, leading Matthew Yamin of New York by two strokes.

On the girl’s side, Taylor Kehoe of Strathroy, Ontario maintained her first-round lead as is two-under for the tournament, leading Sophie Zhang-Murphy of Beijing, China by three strokes.

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AJGA Awards Ceremony to be Moved Up Due to Impending Weather

Due to the impending weather forecast for today, June 22 the AJGA (American Junior Golf Association) has moved up the tee times for today to ensure the event finishes before 2:00 pm. The awards presentation and event wrap-up is anticipated to be completed by 1:30 pm. 

WHAT:              AJGA Awards Ceremony 

WHEN:             Thursday, June 22, 2017 at 1:00 p.m.

WHERE:           Mill Creek Golf Course 

MetroParks PGA Golf Director will present information about this event and recognize sponsors. AJGA officials will present awards to junior golfers. MetroParks staff, AJGA staff and junior golfers will be available for interviews and photographs.

Top young golfers from all over the world playing in the Valley

The field included players from 23 states, along with Canada, Russia, and China.

“Anytime you can bring in the world’s best juniors, it’s pretty solid, especially here in the Mahoning Valley,” said Brian Tolnar, Director of Golf at Mill Creek Metro Parks. “Your last three U.S. Open champions have won right here on the AGJA, the one that won this past week, Brooks Koepka. He won it in 2005 and won 14 events on the AGJA total.”

This is one of 14 similar tournaments around the country, and the Youngstown area fits the event’s needs.

“It’s a terrific venue. It’s highly ranked, 26th golf course municipal in the United States. It’s overall a great experience for our players, we have great feedback from them, and obviously, it’s mutual between the two of us,” said Ryan Flanigan, Midwest Regional Director of the AGJA.

This year’s field includes two local golfers, including Cardinal Mooney’s Jayne Bernard and Brookfield’s Connor Stevens.

“It means a lot, knowing that kids from the area really want to golf. They don’t think it’s cool,” said Stevens. “Hopefully some younger kids see what our golf team did last year, and they’ll come out and play.”

This is the second year the Metro Parks has hosted this event, and it’s brought in more than $500,000 economically.

“It means to Metro an opportunity to showcase what we got here at Metro Park’s golf course. It means more for the community than it does the golf course,” said Aaron Young, Executive Director of the Metro Parks. “Because the economic impact to the region last year was over $250,000, expect to see the same thing this year. It’s an impact for everyone and an opportunity to showcase the Valley.”

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Junior Golf Program to begin in July at Mill Creek Golf Course

Mill Creek MetroParks Golf Course will hold the 3rd annual Junior Golf Program every Thursday in July from July 6 – July 27. The program is open to juniors 5 – 15 years old. Participants will have the opportunity to learn the game of golf, its values, life skills, golf fitness and proper etiquette in a four week long instructional series. The program will be instructed by Mill Creek MetroParks PGA Director of Golf, Brian Tolnar and Head Professionals, Andy Santor & Stacie Butler. “We’re happy to be hosting this event at Mill Creek Golf Course this July. Junior golf is the next generation of our golf business. The program has seen two straight years of growth and we expect it to grow even more in the future. We’re proud Mill Creek MetroParks is involved in our areas youth and we are looking forward to a bright future in youth golf,” says Brian Tolnar, PGA Director of Golf at Mill Creek MetroParks.

Players can register at the Mill Creek Golf Course Golf Shop or by calling the Fieldhouse at 330.740.7112. Registration is $99.99 per junior and will include 4 days of PGA golf instruction, program t-shirt, range balls, golf bag tag, golf balls, golf coupons, 10-pack range pass, Q & A session, guest speakers, prizes, rules overview, fitness exercises, drills, games & prizes.

For more information about the Junior Golf Program or the Mill Creek Golf Course, visit our website at

McGee links AJGA, success

As former PGA pro and East Palestine resident Jerry McGee perused the list of Sunday’s U.S. Open final results, there was one fact about each player that became pretty obvious to him.

“I went down the entire U.S. Open list and couldn’t find a player that didn’t go through the AJGA [American Junior Golf Association],” McGee said during Monday’s practice round at Mill Creek Golf Course. “The same holds true for those on the women’s tour.”

The AJGA is hosting the Mill Creek Foundation Junior All-Star tournament this week at Mill Creek’s South Course with McGee serving as honorary guest host.

It’s the second straight year that the tournament for 12-15 year-olds has been at Mill Creek with boys and girls winners advancing to the Junior All-Star Invitational this fall at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Ga.

“This is by far the most fantastic group for junior golf,” said McGee of East Palestine. “The tournaments that they have, it’s simply the PGA Junior Tour.

“I had never been to an AJGA event until last year, but walked away most impressed with the level of play and how the kids handled themselves both on and off the course,” McGee said. “My clubs are obsolete compared to the ones that they are using.”

Two local entries, Jayne Bernard, a freshman at Cardinal Mooney High School and Conner Stevens, a sophomore at Brookfield High School, were among the 96 boys and girls taking advantage of the practice round. Twenty-three states and three foreign countries (Canada, China and Russia) are represented.

Bernard enters AJGA play on the heels of winning Friday’s Greatest Golfer qualifying event at Tam O’Shanter Golf Course in Hermitage, Pa.

She says that if there’s an advantage, albeit an ever so slight one, it’s that Mill Creek is her home course.

“The goal is to get better and just have fun,” Bernard said. “It’s a very talented field and while I’m a bit nervous, the fact that this is my home course should help.

“I feel like I know the greens better and have a little more knowledge overall about the course,” she said. “This is one of the most competitive fields that I will ever play in so I want to do my very best.”

Stevens said participating in the Greatest Golfer the past three years and taking part in some other highly competitive tournaments has prepared him for this year’s AJGA.

“I know about 10 of the golfers in this year’s event and all are excellent players,” Stevens said. “The goal is always to win, but the field is quite competitive.”

Max Moldovan is the defending boys champion and at 15 years of age, was an alternate for this year’s U.S. Open.

The Green High School student said he’s looking forward to defending his title.

“If I play like I did last year, then I feel like I’ll have a pretty good chance of defending my title,” Moldovan said. “I love the course because there are a lot of scoring opportunities.”

Ryan Flanagan, AJGA regional director, credits Brian Tolnar, Mill Creek’s PGA Director of Golf, as the driving force behind bringing AJGA to the Mahoning Valley.

“Brian was previously involved with AJGA when he was at Blue Heron Hills Golf Club in New York,” Flanagan said. “He really wanted us to come to Youngstown and I can see why because Mill Creek Park is a fantastic setting.

He was the vision behind this three years ago and between Brian, his staff and the many volunteers, it has been a great association.”

Tolnar, a Hubbard native, said that his goal when hired in 2015 was to make a major difference in the local community.

“Hosting a national event that makes a substantial financial impact to the Mahoning Valley, and makes the Mill Creek MetroParks accessible to families all over the world, is something that we’re really proud of,” Tolnar said. “The financial support of the Mill Creek Foundation, Mahoning County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Mahoning Valley Hospital Foundation and the 200+ volunteers have helped us bring over a half million dollars to the area over the past two years.

“It’s something we can’t thank them enough for with our goal heading forward to bring many more events like this to the Mahoning Valley.”

Mike Senchak serves as president and CEO of the Mahoning Valley Hospital Foundation.

“At the foundation we are always looking for health initiatives and what better initiative than the AJGA and the youth that are playing in this tournament,” Senchak said. It’s a great event, not only for our youth but the entire community so kudos to Brian Tolnar and his staff for the outstanding job that they have done.”

Andy Detesco serves as Mill Creek Foundation chairman.

“As we showcase Mill Creek Park to those from other states, it’s a true recognition of the high level of golf that is played in the Mahoning Valley,” Detesco said.

One out-of-state player is 12 year-old Bailey Shoemaker of Cooperstown, N.Y., who is playing in her third AJGA event.

“I actually played a round yesterday, but got called in on the 16th hole when it started to rain,” she said. “The course is similar to the Beth Page Black Golf Course in New York City, so I feel like that will help me out.”

Opening-round play begins today on the South Course from 7 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. with a cookout and social slated from noon until 5 p.m.

Second round action is set for Wednesday (7 a.m. to 12:10 p.m.) with the final round slated for Thursday, also from 7 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. An awards presentation will follow.

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Mill Creek to host junior tournament

The American Junior Golf Association will host the Mill Creek Foundation Junior All-Star tournament from Monday through Thursday at Mill Creek Park Golf Course.

The tournament is comprised of 96 boys and girls ages 12-15. Golfers from 23 states and three foreign countries (Canada, China and Russia) will compete.

The event will take place on the South Course.

A practice round will be held Monday at 8 a.m. with the first round beginning Tuesday at 7 a.m.

Second-round play will be Wednesday and the final round will be Thursday, both taking place at 7 a.m. An awards ceremony will be held Thursday at 5 p.m.

This is the second consecutive year Mill Creek Golf Course is hosting the event.

“We can bring $500,000 to the Mahoning Valley in just two years,” said Brian Tolnar, PGA Director of Golf at Mill Creek MetroParks. “Last year, we brought in around $255,000.” 

The above figures are curated from expense reports for hotels, meals and other costs from the families of the participating golfers that they submit to the AJGA.

Area hotels, restaurants and other businesses will also send data to the Mahoning County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Former PGA pro Jerry McGee of East Palestine will serve as the tournament’s honorary guest host.

McGee, a New Lexington native, played on the PGA Tour from 1967 to 1981. He was a member of the 1977 Ryder Cup team. He was the former pro at Oak Tree Country Club in Middlesex, Pa. His son, Mike, is married to Annika Sorenstram.

“He’s one of those guys I’ve come to know from being in the golf business,” Tolnar said Saturday. “He’s got a passion for youth sports and working with younger golfers.”

Three AJGA champions are participating in what will be one of 16 American College Development Solutions events this year on the Junior All-Star Series which concludes at Reynolds Lake Oconee for the Justin Rose Junior All-Star Invitational.

Locally, Conner Stevens from Brookfield and Jayne Bernard from Youngstown will compete in the tournament among 17 Ohio golfers.

Other Ohio golfers include Benjamin Basta (Hudson), Kahmar Byers (Columbus), Zach Hazard (Olmsted Falls), Ali Khan (Westerville), Colton Levey (Twinsburg), Maxwell Moldovan (Uniontown), Donovan Morris (Northfield Center), Joshua Qian (Westerville), Topher Reed (Fairview Park), Michael Shyu (Grove City), Mason Witt (Jamestown), Ashley Zi-Tong Au (Westerville), Leila Raines (Galena), Natalia Sompolovorachai (West Chester) and Madison Spiess (New Albany).

Moldovan won the event at Mill Creek last year and will look to defend his title against a field of 65 boys.

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Dandelion knowledge blows into Sprout Club at Fellows

Children at the monthly Sprout Club program met on May 18 at Fellows Riverside Gardens to learn about dandelions.

Lynn Zocolo, horticulture educator, teaches the children each month about a different part of the environment. This month the children got hands-on with dandelions and the different parts.

The program started out with a coloring sheet for children to color until everyone came and the lesson could begin. Zocolo taught the children about the different parts of a dandelion and then passed those parts out for the children to look at and feel.

The children had the opportunity to examine the stem, the leaves, the flower and the seeds.

Zocolo also informed the children that parts of the dandelions are safe to eat, but only after asking an adult.

Many people associate blowing the dandelion seeds with making a wish, so the children made their own wish necklaces.

They were given ribbon, a container on the ribber, dandelion seeds and an acorn top as the lid.

There was a tag on the necklace that said “Some see a weed, I see a wish.” The children were supposed to make a wish as they put the seeds into the container.

After making the necklaces, the children tried blowing bubbles with the hollow stem. There was an experiment to see if bubbles or water mixed with soap created the best bubbles. In the end, the soap mixture produced the most and biggest bubbles.

Sprout Club educations children in a hands-on way that gives them the opportunity to have fun while doing it.

Anyone interested in signing up for Sprout Club can visit for more information.

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Mill Creek MetroParks to offer new recreation & sports camps

Mill Creek MetroParks has a new addition to its summer program lineup.

Next week, the park will offer a three-day youth recreation and sports camp for children age 6 to 15. It’s the first multi-sport camp the MetroParks has offered.

The program at Wick Recreation Area will give participants a chance to try a wide range of sports, including baseball, softball, volleyball, golf and tennis. Additionally, the camp will feature a nature education component during which campers will go on hikes in the park and learn about the areas surrounding the recreation area.

“We tried to design a camp that encompassed all the sports currently held at Wick,” said Brian Tolnar, MetroParks golf director.

The camp runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday through June 16. During those hours, campers will participate in hour- to hour-and-a-half-long sessions focusing on those sports.

The goal, Tolnar said, is twofold: Give kids the chance to try out sports that they might want to continue playing in the future, and draw new members to the sports leagues the MetroParks offers at Wick.

“We just want to showcase Wick and everything we have up there,” he said. “We wanted to really start taking advantage of the Wick Recreation Area and really trying to draw from that section of town, to grow our golf leagues and Little League baseball leagues.”

The sessions will be led by MetroParks staff members and community volunteers, including coaches from local high-school teams.

Registration is open through Tuesday. The cost is $39 per person. To register, call the Wick Par-3 pro shop at 330-740-7114 or Ford Nature Center at 330-740-7107.

Tolnar encouraged parents to sign up their children. “We just think it’s a great, interactive camp that will give the kids a vast knowledge of all these different sports to see if it sparks an interest,” he said.

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