· Inter-Valley Conference ·

Crucial IVC tri-match goes the Tigers’ way as Strasburg and Garaway prepare for a September showdown for the IVC crown

Mitch Neidenthal (left), Bruce Yoder and Zehnder Gibson walk the fairway

There are important golf tournaments peppered throughout the high school golf season including the upcoming Eastern District, Inter-Valley Conference, sectional, district and state tournaments.

However, on Tuesday, Sept. 6 at Willandale Golf Course, a regular season tri-match between Garaway, Strasburg and Hiland held huge ramifications as to the outcome of the IVC league championship this year.

Each year the Inter-Valley Conference preseason and postseason tournaments and the slate of regular-season match-ups carry equal one-third weight in determining the league champion, and this year, as has been the case in the past couple of seasons, that was going to boil down to these three schools.

With the Pirates having won the first step of the big three, beating out runner-up Strasburg and third-place Hiland in the IVC preseason tournament, Garaway could have put a huge stronghold on the chase for the league crown with a victory in the tri-match. Both challengers knew that, and so the pressure placed on this tri-match was immense.

Strasburg would come up big in stage two, winning the tri-match and seizing control of the regular-season slate by firing a 152, besting Garaway’s 157 and Hiland’s 166.

“We circled this night on the calendar when the season began because we realized it was going to be significant,” Strasburg coach Troy McClellan said. “We knew we could really make some hay or end up losing the league tonight, so it was a night filled with a lot of pressure for all three teams.

The Tigers got identical 36s from one-man Dylan Tucker and three-man Mike Neidenthal, a 38 from Mitch Neidenthal, and a 42 from Calvin Willis to grab the win. Garaway was led by Rendall Weaver’s 37 while Brevin Weaver shot a 39, Zehnder Gibson added a 40, Micha Hallman and Zach Immel shot 41s, and Ethan Miller carded a 42. Hiland was paced by Bruce Yoder’s 38 and Johnny Mullet’s 39 with Claye Hummel adding a 43 and Dylan Kaufman shooting a 46.

The big story for the Tigers was the return of Mike Neidenthal, who was coming back from a high ankle sprain and had barely picked up a club the past two weeks. However, that didn’t seem to matter as he cruised to his even-par round of 36.

“It felt great,” Mike Neidenthal said of his round. “I was pretty nervous to start off, but once I got going, it felt pretty good. I didn’t hit a golf ball for two weeks and then picked up a golf club and took some swings three days ago.”

Tucker continued his great season by matching that score, and the two even-par rounds put the pressure on the other two teams to keep pace.

“We knew we were behind the eight ball a little bit with Garaway having won the preseason tournament, so we felt this was a must-win for us tonight,” McClellan said. “Because they had the lead, Garaway is still OK after tonight because it now comes down to the postseason tournament, but this is the one we absolutely had to have to give ourselves a chance.  Now we control our own destiny, which is all we can ask.”

Garaway head coach Brad Nyholm said that while the Tiger’s win and their runner-up sets up a showdown as a winner-take-all in the postseason tournament, he would have been fine to not have that be the case.

“We played well but not quite well enough when you’re playing a team the caliber of Strasburg,” Nyholm said. “We had to bring our very best game, and while we played well, we had some costly penalty shots that we simply couldn’t afford. Even though the 157 is solid, it is still disappointing when you walk off the course and don’t win. But it was a good learning lesson for our kids. This was great competition against teams that we know very well. We will continue to see both of these teams a lot the rest of the season, but I would rather have not made things so interesting in terms of the league championship.”

While they didn’t win, the Pirates again threw out a 41 and a 42, still strong numbers, and Nyholm said that means the team is getting a consistent effort from top to bottom, something that will only help the Pirates down the road when the tournaments become even more important.

“We have a number of young kids, and this is part of the process of learning how to win,” Nyholm said. “Nights like this are only going to make us better in the long run.”

What made the night so difficult for Hiland, aside from the third-place finish, was the scenarios that were out of the Hawks’ control. Dylan Kaufman, the number-one man, came into the night ill, and although he gutted his way to seven pars on the night, he took a quadruple bogey on the second hole and a huge six-over-par nine on the par-3 fourth. However, the more troubling issue was with senior Tremper Coblentz. At even-par and playing well through three holes, Coblentz hit his approach shot on the par-4 third hole, rolled his shot and immediately clutched his shoulder in agony. Coblentz had thrown his shoulder out of joint and was unable to continue because of the pain.

“We actually had a great start, and then pretty much anything that could go wrong did go wrong,” said Hiland coach Austin Kaufman, whose team was one-under par through four holes. “We came out ready to play. We just had some unfortunate things happen that were out of our control.”

Kaufman said his team had been trending in the right direction before the 166, but he said because of the way things played out, there were still some good things they can take from the evening.

“I was really pleased with the way we showed up ready to compete from the start,” coach Kaufman said. “The sad thing is that this really takes us out of contention for the league title. We’re done, but I still feel like we have positive momentum going forward. The big thing is to get Tremper back and healthy. We’ve got four kids who can go low, and Claye really played pretty well tonight. I felt that with the way we were playing, we were going to come in and shoot something in the low 150s.”

However, that effort would belong to the Tigers, and because of it, there is now a two-team dogfight for all the marbles as the IVC postseason tournament looms.

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