For the second time in a week, area golf teams got a taste of what it is like to compete against some of the top teams in the state when Willandale Golf Course played host to the annual Pirate Invitational.
What host Garaway, Strasburg and Hiland got was a day of exciting competition with each other and with a few of the state’s best small-school programs.
In a fantastic fight to the finish, Worthington Christian would fire a winning score of 305, beating runner-up Wellington (306) by one shot and Strasburg (307) by two. Lurking close behind were Hiland (311) and Garaway (316) as the area teams were well represented.
“This is probably the highest caliber of teams we have had for this event as a whole, and we have had some really good teams here over the years,” Garaway head coach Brad Nyholm said. “The biggest difference this year than in the past is that we had three teams going really low in the low 300s compared to what is usually just one. Then we had three more teams right there around 315, so it was a talented core group.”
Worthington Christian rode the hot shooting of one-man Tyler Jones’ two-under-par 70, getting additional help from Blake Lawson’s 75 and Will Evans’ 77. Wellington got a 72 from Carsten Judge and a 73 from Jack Doody, but it was not as consistent as WC.
The Tigers proved to be very consistent, getting 75s from Calvin Willis and Mitch Neidenthal and a 78 from Mike Neidenthal. DJ Seward chipped in with a 79, and Kyle Shetler added an 83.
The Hawks were paced once again by junior Bruce Yoder’s even-par 72 while freshman Brookston Hummel carded a fine score of 77 and Dylan Kaufman and Carter Mishler each shot 81.
The Pirates had Zehnder Gibson leading the way with a 76, followed by a fantastic score from five-man Mikey Blauch, who carded a 78, which was the low score among all fifth men. Rendall Weaver and Zach Immel each shot 81 while Ethan Miller added an 89.
“We were very happy with the way things played out and with our score,” Nyholm said. “We have been stumbling along recently, and it was nice to see us come together and post a strong score. We knew coming into this season that it was going to be a slow and steady climb to get to where we want to be at the end of the season. Zehnder has been really consistent at the top, but other than that, we are just looking to gain some consistency from a group who can put up pretty good numbers. It is just a matter of some of our guys finding that groove, that right approach that suits their game, and getting on a roll. We’ve got time, and I’d rather not peak now.”
Other top teams in the 18-team field included Columbus Academy (314), which got a 74 from Ali Khan, and Coshocton (315), which got matching 76s from Clay Davis and Logan Desender and a 79 from Gage Gamerstfelder.
Other local team scores included Dover (335), which was led by Gabe Miller’s 80 and Micah Smith’s 83; Claymont (346), which got a 78 from Cam Henry and an 85 from Owen Baker; New Philadelphia (350), which was paced by Grant Daniel’s 86; Tusky Valley (357), which got an 82 from Brandon Goldsmith and an 87 from Billy Crone; Ridgewood (386), which was led by Trey Stoffer with an 82; and Tuscarawas Central Catholic (413), which Ciro Ciraci paced with a 92.
Nyholm said this tournament along with the recently completed Warrior-Jaguar Classic at Northstar that featured the state’s top teams goes a long way in helping his team deal with the pressure of facing some top-quality teams under pressure situations.
“This and the Warrior-Jaguar really do a good job of simulating a postseason feel,” Nyholm said. “Everything that we do during the course of the season is kind of geared toward preparing us for the tournament run, and we know the competition to grab that one spot at state is going to be fierce. There are going to be some really good golf teams left out, but we all know that going in.”
Garaway followed up that effort with a strong nine-hole performance at home versus Buckeye Trail as Inter-Valley Conference League play kicked off. Ethan Miller carded a one-under-par 35, and Rendall Weaver fired a 36. Gibson added a 41, and Immel shot a 42 to create a fantastic score of 154, which easily knocked off the Warriors, who came home in 206.