Maybe Garaway’s Zehnder Gibson has a sixth sense about him.
The Garaway, Hiland and Strasburg golf teams gathered at Willandale Golf Course in Sugarcreek on Tuesday, Sept. 4 for a showdown between the three teams, all of which are capable of winning the Inter-Valley Conference championship.
After firing off a 37, matching identical scores with Strasburg one-man Mitch Neidenthal and Hiland one-man Bruce Yoder, Gibson had a revelation.
“Someone’s four to six man is going to come in low and win this,” Gibson said.
Lo and behold, Hiland four-man freshman Carter Mishler tapped in for par on the ninth hole, finishing off his 37, which propelled the Hawks to a victory by one stroke over the Pirates. Hiland ended the night at 156, Garaway shot a 157 and Strasburg ended the night at 163.
That victory put the Hawks in firm control of the chase for a league title, Hiland having won the IVC preseason tournament with Strasburg taking second and Garaway ending up third.
With no other teams offering any kind of a threat to the big three, Hiland appears to be in control.
But what these three state-qualifier hopefuls really took from this night of intense golf was the feeling of battling through some pressure golf, the kind that the teams will face during a looming district showdown that will allow only one team to advance to state.
“This is three really good teams who love to come and compete, and that makes for some really fun golf,” Gibson said. “You just have to put aside the pressure, go out and play your own game and may the best team win. It all comes down to who wants it the most, who can set their goals and keep their composure the best under the pressure.”
For the Tigers, who have won the last two IVC crowns, there is added pressure of wanting to keep a stranglehold on the league championship.
“We want to make it a three-peat,” Mitch Neidenthal said. “Coming in, we knew we had to play well. This has a very different feel to it than every other league match because in those you’re a lot more relaxed because you know you don’t have to play perfectly to win.”
Yoder said while there is pressure on this tri-match, what the three talented teams who all call Willandale their home are really playing for is something else.
“I think more than anything it is about pride,” Yoder said. “You want to beat your rivals. We know each other so well, and while the IVC is important, we all want bragging rights.”
Aside from Yoder and Mishler’s 37s, Dylan Kaufman fired a 39 and Brookston Hummel ended with a 43. Garaway’s Rendall Weaver was low man on the night, churning out an even-par 36, while five-man Zach Immel added a strong score of 40 and Seth Hershberger carded a 44. Strasburg’s Mike Neidenthal added a 40 to his twin brother’s 37, six-man Ethan Creagan came through with a 42 and Kyler Shetler tacked on a 44 for the Tigers.
“There is definitely more pressure than normal because we see each other every day, and we want to put our best out there,” Garaway coach Brad Nyholm said. “I think we all felt we would have to play error-free golf tonight to win, but I think all of the kids felt the pressure to a certain extent.”
- Hiland’s Dylan Kaufman shot a 39, but his round included two balls out of bounds and an ugly four-putt on the second hole. Aside from those atrocities, he was brilliant.
- Garaway three-man Ethan Miller ballooned to an uncharacteristic 49, but there was a reason. After parring one, Miller hit his tee shot on two and hit the ball way out on the toe of his club. The jarring of the club dislocated his finger, and he gutted out his final eight holes in pain.
- Even Steven: All three of the one men chalked up one-over-par 37s, meaning they effectively canceled each other out on the night.
- Sixth-man effort: Each team’s sixth man carded strong numbers in a pressure-packed night. In addition to Cregan’s 42 and Hershberger’s 44, Hiland’s Garret Shoup also carded a 44, meaning the sixth men had a really good night of golf.