GW captures Class AAA Region 3 golf crown
Monday was make-or-break time for area golf teams, and several squads and individuals didn't disappoint.
Regionals were held across the state with the top two teams in each region as well as a number of individuals earning berths to the state tournament set for Oct. 2-3 at Speidel Golf Course at Oglebay Park in Wheeling.
At the top of the list is George Washington, which rolled to a win in the Class AAA Region 3 tournament held at the Lewisburg Elks Country Club.
While the Patriots didn't produce an individual champion, its four members played solidly enough to will GW well past a crowded field, beating second-place and fellow qualifier Shady Spring by 17 strokes.
George Washington coach B.J. Calabrese was both happy and relieved at the end of the day.
"It feels great to win, I was really nervous coming in," Calabrese said via phone interview. "It's kind of a challenging little course. It's not a long course, but it's kind of tight. The biggest thing is, I think my kids over the last three, four weeks of the season have become really resilient. At one point I was disappointed with the way we were finishing rounds and tournaments - we'd get off to a good start and falter coming in. After nine today I heard Will [Evans] was 3 over and Drew [Call] was 7 over and I was thinking, 'We better correct this real quick.'
"But Drew made some birdies and finished 5 over, Will had a couple of birdies coming in to finish 1 over and [Austin] Florence and [Kris] Webster were both consistent all the way through their rounds. I just love the way we finished."
Oak Hill's Craig Buchanan fired an impressive 6-under-par 64 to earn one individual qualifying spot while Greenbrier East freshman Madison Erkine claimed the other with a 77.
Individual qualifying spots were awarded to the top two finishers not on a qualifying team.
Calabrese said coming into Monday's tournament that he felt his team was strong and could vie for a state championship. Now GW will get a chance to do just that and Calabrese is not backing off his stance.
"It's going to take 3 good scores, and obviously you want to see all four of them play well," Calabrese said. "We've played University, we've played Wheeling Park, and we've played Winfield, who will be three of other teams who have legitimate shot at it I think. I really feel like we can compete."
The two players tied for medalist honors at the Class AAA Region 4 tournament held at Sleepy Hollow with both shooting 4-over 76 and earning their way into the state tournament.
"It's good for him," Winfield coach Danny Mullins said of Williams' finish. "He wanted to finish his senior year and golf career at Winfield by taking the team [to states], but he qualified individually. It's the second time as an individual, he also did it two years ago as a sophomore, and it's a good way for him to go out. I think he's really matured this year."
The schools narrowly missed team inclusion as Winfield (242) finished third and Hurricane fourth (243), just three and four shots, respectively, behind second-place Huntington. The Highlanders were edged by just one shot by winner Cabell Midland (238) in an extremely close final result.
"They went and did the best they could do," Mullins said of his team. "Sometimes some other people do a better job and that's kind of what happened today."
The best showing by Kanawha Valley teams at any regional on Monday happened in the Class A event as Charleston Catholic and Buffalo pulled off a 1-2 finish, earning both a trip to the state tournament.
Catholic fired a 233, which would have put it just two shots out of the top two in Class AA, and Buffalo followed with a 240 led by Cory Hoshor's 74. Parkersburg Catholic's Ben Collie (79) and Gilmer County's Austin Cunningham (80) were the region's individual qualifiers.
The Irish have three players with state tournament experience, including last year's Class A medalist, sophomore Christian Casingal, and a runner-up in junior Aaron Persily.
While Catholic coach Bill Gillispie said his team started a little slow on Monday, he was happy with the finish and optimistic about his squad's chances in Wheeling.
"We're pretty confident that our guys have the ability to win this thing," Gillispie said. "We have a few things to iron out, but [the state tournament] is not new to us at all. Aaron has been there twice and with Christian winning it last year and Aaron finishing second, it gives us a little confidence. This is my ninth year and it seems like all nine years we actually play pretty good in Wheeling."
Over the past six years, Catholic has finished first three times and second three times, alternating each year. This time around, the Irish will try to pull off their first repeat title.
The AA event also had some local flavor as Poca punched a ticket to states with a combined 231, just one behind winner Scott. Herbert Hoover's Travis Gibson fired the low round of the day with a 74 and was joined by Nicholas County's Drew Ward as an individual qualifier.
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.