The anchor for Garaway did what he has done all year and was supposed to do, but it was two of the youngsters who stepped up to deliver low numbers for the Garaway Pirates who stunned highly favored Strasburg in the Inter-Valley Conference preseason golf tournament held at Union Country Club in Dover on Monday, Aug. 14.
Garaway got the anchor score it wanted from number-one man Brevin Weaver, who fashioned a 78, but it was the 76 from sophomore three-man Ethan Miller and the 80 from sophomore six-man Micah Hallman that pushed the Pirates to a fantastic score of 316, four shots better than the Tigers, who placed second at 320.
Miller’s 76 was third-best at the tournament behind medalist Joe Cottis of Claymont, who carded a one-over-par 73, and Strasburg one-man Dylan Tucker, who fired a 75.
“That was a total team effort, but Ethan’s score was a difference-maker for us,” Garaway coach Brad Nyholm said. “Those two guys (Miller and Hallman) coming in that low really came through for us.”
Nyholm said there are players he talks to during a round and others he simply lets play their game. He had no idea Miller was shooting so well until the final hole when Miller told him if he parred, he would shoot a 77.
“I told him why not go birdie it for a 76, and then he did,” Nyholm said.
While the two younger kids surprised, Weaver and freshman Zehnder Gibson, who has been a rock this season, both were steady all day, turning in scores of 78 and 80, respectively.
Nyholm said Weaver has been so consistent this season that he hasn’t had to worry about his key senior at all.
“He has been so good, so consistent,” Nyholm said of Weaver. “I can just let him go play his game and don’t have to worry. He just goes about his business, and that has helped to take some of the pressure off of our younger guys.”
As for Gibson, Nyholm said that for a youngster he possesses incredible course-management abilities, and that has allowed him to be in the top scores in all four of Garaway’s early season tournaments.
Freshman Rendall Weaver ended the day with an 88.
The IVC victory for a team as young as Garaway, which boasts three freshmen and a sophomore in its top-seven players, was a big one and will only serve as a starting point for them to continue to improve.
“It’s pretty exciting stuff,” Nyholm said. “It’s just a real boost of confidence. It reminds me a lot of last year when we kind of struggled early but found ourselves and won the IVC preseason tournament.”
The Tigers’ top-three scores put them in prime position to claim the IVC preseason title with twins Mitch and Mike Neidenthal producing identical rounds of 78, making the Tigers owners of three of the six players to score under 80 on the day. The other was a fine 78 produced by Tusky Valley’s Billy Crone, whose score helped the Trojans earn fourth place at 345.
However, the Tigers could not produce a solid fourth score, which eventually came back to haunt them. Usually reliable Calvin Willis struggled to an 89 with the Tigers’ fourth and final score while Ethan Cregan and Kyle Shetler both shot 94.
Garaway’s consistency top to bottom helped the Pirates sneak out of Dover with the title.
Meanwhile Hiland, a team many figured would vie for the IVC preseason title, never did get going and finished a distant third at 340. The Hawks were paced by Dylan Kaufman’s 82 while Bruce Yoder added an 84, Claye Hummel carded an 85, and Jonny Mullet and Tremper Coblentz both shot 89s. The third-place finish marked a disappointing day for the Hawks, who entertained much bigger things coming into the day.
“That was disappointing,” Hiland coach Austin Kaufman said. “I thought we got in trouble early by trying to hit some shots that we shouldn’t have, and then we started to press because we felt we were getting behind, and that just made things even worse. We failed to hit greens and struggled all day, and that really took a toll on our confidence.”
Kaufman said his group is simply going to have to go back to work and fine tune some of those little things in golf that can result in ugly numbers.
“I think one thing we will try to refocus on is backing off the risk early on and playing safe to start rounds so we don’t put ourselves in a position where we have to push,” Kaufman said. “The game is hard enough without having to push harder to get back into it by playing catch-up.”
Kaufman said he firmly believes this Hiland team has every capability of playing great golf. With four tournaments in the rearview mirror, two seconds and two thirds would flesh out that belief, although he noted that the Hawks are far from playing their best yet.
“These kids have the potential to put up some really low numbers,” Kaufman said. “We just have to start playing the way we are capable of playing.”
Claymont came in fifth at 350, one stroke ahead of Sandy Valley at 351. The Cardinals were paced by Logan Leichtamer, who carded a team-medalist 80. Trey Stoffer shot an 82 as Ridgewood was seventh at 362, and Dalton Burcher matched that score of 82 for Indian Valley, who placed eighth at 385. Newcomerstown (391) got a 95 from Kaden Shepherd, and host Tuscarawas Central Catholic came in at 427, led by Austin Fantin’s 102. Malvern rounded out the scoring at 473.