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Catholic wins third straight golf title

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Oglebay Resort is starting to feel like a home course for Charleston Catholic's golf team.

The Irish captured their third straight Class A state championship Wednesday at Oglebay's Robert Trent Jones course, beating Madonna by 10 strokes to conclude the two-day state tournament on the par-72 layout.

It's also the fourth title in five years for coach Bill Gillispie's squad, which became just the sixth school to three-peat in the state golf event.

The others were Buckhannon-Upshur (1980-82) and Barboursville (1983-85) when it was a one-class event, Bridgeport (1992-94) in AA and Huntington (1997-99) and Hurricane (2007-09) in AAA.

"It's good to win three in a row,'' Gillispie said, "and be in the same company as Pat Carter and Barboursville and those good Hurricane teams. It's nice to be mentioned with those guys.''

The Irish weren't the only repeat champs on the premises, as Roane County claimed its second straight Class AA crown in a runaway and Wheeling Park took its third in four years in AAA, edging Cabell Midland by five shots.

The closest race for a medalist came in Class A, where Madonna's Michael Rogers nosed out Catholic's Aaron Persily by a single stroke - Rogers shot an 8-over-par 152 to Persily's 9-over 153.

Alston Spears of Roane earned his second consecutive AA title with the week's best overall score of 4-over 148, leading a charge of three Raiders at the top of the standings. Teammates Cole Moore (152) and Cam Moore (158) finished second and third, respectively.

In AAA, Park's Cole Hand won medalist honors for a second year in a row with a 36-hole total of 5-over 149, with Alex Schreckengost (Parkersburg South) and Tyler Hillyer (Princeton) tied for second at 152.

Gillispie felt badly for Persily, who finished in the top four in all four years he competed at the state tournament (all-state honors go to the top eight in each class). But Gillispie said his senior leader, who played alongside Rogers in the final round, proved his mettle Wednesday.

"I know he was a little disappointed,'' Gillispie said, "because he really did want to win it, but he's a team guy first.''

With two holes to play, Catholic sophomore Nick Casingal hit two shots in the water on the same par-5 hole and was despondent. But from a distance, Gillispie watched Persily put his arm around Casingal to settle him down.

"He told him it's OK,'' Gillispie said. "He said, 'You're going to get to the last hole and get on the green, you're going to make a putt and we're going to win the state championship.'

"That right there exemplifies what Aaron's all about. He's probably the most accomplished golfer ever at Charleston Catholic - three state [team] championships, one runner-up and a four-time all-stater. But he's always been a team guy first, and that's part of him saying it's more about teaching a young guy that it's OK and making sure he gets through it, knowing the team battle could be close.''

Nick Casingal finished at 86 Wednesday to end up tied for sixth at 164 and joined the all-state group that also included older brother Christian Casingal, a junior who earned medalist honors in 2011 and was runner-up last year.

Christian Casingal rebounded from a first-day 81 to shoot a 3-over-75, the day's best score outside of AAA.

Also securing an all-state spot in Class A was Buffalo's Cory Hoshor, last year's medalist who improved from an 87 on Tuesday to a four-over 76 to finish fifth.

Improvement was also the order of the day for another Kanawha Valley team, as Poca bounced back from an uncharacteristic off-day on Tuesday to earn yet another runner-up trophy in Class AA, albeit 38 strokes behind Roane.

The Dots shot 261 as a team on Tuesday to stand in sixth place, but shaved 26 shots off that effort and their 235 stuck them right back in second - their fourth straight runner-up finish at the state tournament.

"Our kids showed their true character today,'' said Poca coach Doug Smith. "Roane only beat us by five strokes today.

"This one is the most rewarding [runner-up finish] because of what we did the first day and how much we recovered. We made up 23 strokes on Ritchie after being 10 behind them the first day. I'm proud of them because they played like they were capable of playing.''

Alex Hamrick was Poca's top finisher, fashioning a 4-over 76 Wednesday to end up fourth at 159. Scott's Evan Butcher (163) landed in sixth place. The Dots' Travis Covert whittled 14 shots off his opening-day 90 to shoot a 76 and place in a tie for 10th at 166.

"I've got three kids who were within a stroke of each other all year,'' Smith said of Hamrick, Covert and David Scragg (171). "I could put all their names in a hat and draw one out to see who's No. 1. They've done it all year long.

"I don't know what happened yesterday. We were so disappointed and couldn't figure it out. The kids all came up to me and apologized. We couldn't put our finger on what went wrong. Sure, the greens were fast yesterday, but we putted on the same greens today.''

Also Wednesday, Gillispie was honored as the state golf coach of the year.

Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazette.com.


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