The pressure to perform well during the Div. II River Greens district gold tournament was very great for the four top teams in the six-team field.
With five strokes differentiating the four teams at sectionals, everyone from Meadowbrook, Tusky Valley, John Glenn and Garaway knew what was at stake.
However, there was something more at stake for the Pirates, who were trying their best to add one more number to the nine straight state appearances the program has put together.
Ten is a nice round number, and never has it been more difficult for Garaway to muster what it takes to remain calm and steady and play the gold they needed to play to make it past a quality field of challengers who couldn’t wait to dump Garaway from its throne.
Those teams will have to wait until net year to try again, as the Pirates fashioned an impressive 315 to win the tournament by 15 strokes and advance to state again.
“It was a little nerve-racking at the start, but Coach Nyholm has really brought us together as a team, especially over the past two weeks,” Brevin Weaver said. “Whenever we had a bad hole today, we always fought for our teammates, and I think that was a big factor for us today.”
The reason for the nerves was because Garaway was locked in a massive battle with Meadowbrook, John Glenn and Tusky Valley at the turn.
Through nine holes, all three teams were nearly in a dead heat, with the Colts of Meadowbrook clinging to a tight lead that saw all three teams within there strokes of one another.
It was anyone’s game, but Garaway had an ace in the hole. With nine straight district titles, the Pirates understood the pressure and how to better handle it.
“The one thing that we always kept in the back of our minds was that we were the one team here who has done this before and that gave us an edge,” senior Ben Koshmider said.
As teams started to struggle on the back side, the Pirates got stronger. Koshmider had turned in a 39 on the front, a solid score. He sizzled on the back, chewing up the final nine holes at a two-under par 34, finishing the day at 73. Weaver fired a 38 on the front, another good score, but he too got red-hot on the back side, fashioned a 35 and tied his teammate for runner-up medalist honors behind John Glenn’s Dylan Van Fossen, who shot a one-under par 71.
Colten Fender proved to be consistent throughout, putting together a pair of 42s for an 84, while Michael Yoder had a tremendous turnaround. After faltering to a 45 on the front, he turned in a 40 on the back, while freshman Ethan Miller shot sides of 43 and 46 for an 89, a good score for the fifth man.
While Tusky Valley’s Landen Thompson and Brenton Franks were busy doing their part to keep the Trojans close with respective scores of 77 and 78, Tusky Valley did not have the depth to hang with the Pirates. John Glenn fell off dramatically after Van Fossen, and Meadowbrook’s fate was sealed when Tucker Rogers signed his scorecard incorrectly and was disqualified, which dropped the Colts into the sixth and final spot behind River View and Ridgewood, which tied at 345.
“Having ben and Brevin both come in at 73 was a major plus,” Garaway coach Brad Nyholm said. “That gave us such a big cushion.”
Koshmider started putting up impressive umbers long before he hit the back nine. His rounded opened with bogeys on three of the first four holes, but over the final 14 holes he played three-under par, at one point getting within a single stroke of Van Fossen.
Weaver birdied the par-5 17th, then on 18, he stared down the water in front of the green that protected a tight pin placement.
Undeterred, he slammed his wedge within five feet of the stick and finished birdie-birdie.
“I just tried to keep grinding for my teammates and I didn’t really focus on the score at all,” Weaver said. “It was kind of tough though not to take a peek at how we were doing.”
Koshmider said the putts started falling on the back, and he actually had a makeable birdie putt on 17 that just stayed out of the cup.
“To go three over through four holes and then to make a bogey the rest of the day, that was really what I needed and the team needed today,” Koshmider said.
As for turning a four-horse race into a Pirates runway victory, Koshmider said the team simply has a belief in one another that they will do whatever it takes to get the job done.
“I told Brevin the other day that I knew we would play well because I know how much work we have put into this season,” Koshmider said. “Colten and Michael, they didn’t play the way they are capable of playing, but they hung in there when we needed them to. I couldn’t be more proud of those guys, and Ethan too.”
Fender, one of the team’s two seniors along with Koshmider, said they wanted to keep the score under 320 coming in. To put up a 315 from the back tees is a terrific score, and it exactly matched last year’s winning effort.
Having lost three key members from last season’s team made the effort even greater, as did putting up the 10th straight state appearance.
“Last year as the sixth man, I wasn’t able to play as the alternate,” Fender said. “I really wanted this because I was dying to get to play in a state tournament. Watching last year was fun and all, but it was difficult having to watch instead of compete. It is nice to get back there and get a chance to play this time around.”
For a rookie head coach, the pressure to continue the legacy the Pirates have built was immense. Nyholm tried not to make too big of a deal out of it, but both he and is players understood what was at stake, and they knew the intense pressure that was on them to continue to produce.
Now, that pressure has dissipated, and the fun times will roll at the Ohio State University Scarlett Golf Course, with the pressure of qualifying for state finally behind them.
“We were hoping for a 320, and to see these guys come in under that, that is an amazing accomplishment,” Nyholm said. “The way we performed on the back today shows that they are mentally tough and prepared for this challenge.
“This is a huge relief. I don’t want to say I didn’t think about it all year. It was always kind of that elephant in the room. It is nice to get it out there and be done with it. Now we can enjoy the next 10 days and enjoy our time getting ready to play at state.”
Those are the words the entire Pirates program have been waiting to hear all season, after a long and difficult trek through the season that saw a lot of added pressure to get to number 10.