WHEELING - It's been six summers since Larry Lis Jr. won the last of his record five Stoney Hollow Tire Amateur Championships.
The reason for that is simple: He's been busy being a dad. With kids involved in baseball, football, cheerleading, dance ... you name it, Lis had been too busy driving the bus or volunteer coaching to get the kind of practice in it takes to win a tournament on Oglebay's two championship-caliber golf tournaments.
''You don't want to give that stuff up,'' he said.
For that reason, Lis cut down both his practice and tournament schedule. But with his kids now reaching high school age where the coaches coach, and a son who enjoys golfing, Junior thinks he might be back near the top of his game.
''I've probably played more this year (by this time) than I have in the last few years,'' he said.
Lis, like a lot of people, figures there's only about eight to 10 players in the field of nearly 300 that have a legitimate shot to win the Stoney.
And he's certainly among them.
''Anybody, if they tell you they're not coming to win, it's probably not one of those 10 guys,'' he said.
In this Stoney, with 2009 champ Carson Schambach not signed up, those names are likely, in some form: Lis, four-time champ Bryan Myers, who has won four of the last five, Rob Cimarolli, Brian Anania, Dave Frey, Eric Fisher, Thadd Obecny II, Bart Mease, Bob Potts, and Eric Coe.
''Would I guarantee I'm going to come down and win? Never,'' he said. ''I'm content with where I am and what I've done. I still think I've got the game to win a lot of more of these. Is it this the be-all and end-all? No.''
Myers has a chance to tie Lis in Stoney victories and has overtaken him as the premier golfer in the OVGA. Myers has won the OVGA Player of the Year award in each of the last five summers, topping a run of four in five years posted by Lis from 2000 to 2004.
''I've got a lot respect for him,'' Lis said of Myers. ''What's nice about it is he brings out the best in my game and he might say the same about me.
''He's a helluva player, but at the same time, am I walking off into the sunset? No way. Not yet in any stretch.''
At 41, Lis understands he can't play the game the way he did when he was 28.
With age comes experience, though.
''It's helped,'' he said. ''I'm not cutting corners to try to drive as many greens. I'm not making as many birds, but I'm also not making as many stupid mistakes.''
Avoiding those mistakes, he says, is the key to winning the Stoney.
''I'm sure I'm going to have my goofball holes,'' he said. ''Everybody's going to have those. That's why they play 36 holes. To find out who can separate themselves.''
During the relative break he's taken from the game, Lis said he fell into some bad habits that he's hoping he's ironed out this year.
'' I tweaked a few things that I found out in the past that I kinda got away from,'' he said. ''Bad habits are hard to get out of.''
There's no better place than the Stoney, he said, to see if he's flattened enough of them.
''Everybody can't wait to play in this event,'' he said. ''You want to test yourself and see where your game is. This year, I'm probably geared up more for it than I have been the last couple of years. I'm actually feeling pretty good about it.''