By Dave Mast
The Smithville Smithies golf team rolled into The Pines Invite at The Pines Golf Course in Orrville as a heavy favorite to take the crown.
The Smithies did not disappoint.
Led by Braden Smith’s sizzling even-par 72, Smithville captured the tournament with little trouble, dispensing runner-up Cloverleaf (333) and third-place finisher West Holmes and fourth-place Fairless, which both came in at 340, but the Knights took third on a tie-breaker.
Smith was joined in the winner’s circle by Jacob McConnell, who fired a 76, Matt Miller, who shot an 81 and Jacob Mullen, who carded an 84 for the winners.
Smith’s 72 was good for medalist honors, while McConnell tied Fairless’ Garrick Tucker and Chippewa’s Adam Filo for second best rounds of the day, at 76.
“This group of kids, we knew could be a good group for some time now,” said Smithville coach Mike Miller. They have worked hard and put their time in. We’ve seen a lot of improvement, but perhaps the biggest surprise has been Jacob Mullen in the four spot. I knew during this summer he was capable of shooting some good numbers, but he has really stepped it up.”
The early going has been lucrative for the Smithies, who have now placed second twice and won thrice in the early tournaments.
Miller said winning is always nice, but he said shooting well is what his team is focused on doing right now. He noted that if they can do that, the winning will take care of itself.
“It’s about taking one shot at a time and learning to keep our composure, whether we are playing great or struggling,” said Miller.
Struggles were few and far between on this day for Smithville, which is trying to unseat Dalton’s current run as the Wayne County Athletic League champions this season.
Smith almost made it look too easy as he perused The Pines at even par. He tallied 16 pars, one bogey and one birdie, on hole number 17.
“I played really solid, and putted really well,” said Smith, who hit a knock down wedge to within four feet for birdie on 17. “When I missed a shot with my irons, I was able to get up and down to save par.”
Smith said the key to victory so far this year for Smithville has been the team’s willingness to play for the team. He said relying on each other has been important to keeping them focused and excited about playing the team game.
Cloverleaf was paced by number one man Greg Briggs’ 79, while Fairless was paced by Tucker’s 76. West Holmes, meanwhile, may have redefined the term “team consistency.” The Knights were the only team to post all six scores under 90. They were paced by three-man A.J. Race’s 83, but also got an 84 from Philip Schlabach, an 86 from Jake Bowman, an 87 from Blaine Hager and a pair of 89s from Eric Biltz and Cort Stout.
“We’re pleased with the effort today,” said West Holmes coach Phil Schlabach. “This team has a great deal of potential, and they are excited about what they can achieve. I think the guys are happy but not satisfied with the outcome today.
“I think they all felt that they left some shots out on the course, and we all can shoot four or five strokes better fairly easily, so to post the numbers we did was good.”
Following Fairless was Chippewa, led by Filo, Dalton placed sixth, led by Eric Summers’ 86. Seventh went to Hillsdale (355), which was paced by Ben Roudebaugh’s 83. Eighth went to Firestone (368), in ninth place was Orrville, which came in at 372, with Jeff Dilyard’s 88 leading the way.
“That’s a good score for us,” said Orrville coach Paul Chamberlin. “We are still trying to fit things together right now, so this was encouraging.”
Tenth through 14th place went to Black River (375), Central Christian (379), which was paced by Yan Seymour’s 84, Triway, (389), which was led by Isaiah Schafrath’s fine 79, Waynedale (392), who got an 87 from freshman Drew Hostetler, and Loudonville (423).
“We are fairly inexperienced right now,” said Melinda bates, head coach at Waynedale. “We took some big numbers today, which is something we are trying to avoid. It isn’t the worst thing in the world to play bogey golf sometimes.”
Bogey’s were not on the menu for the Smithies on this day, and the odds on favorite went to work and finished off a day of solid play from top to bottom.
After finishing second at Mohican Golf Course three days prior, Coach Miller said it was nice to see his team eliminate big numbers and manage the course well.
“To a man, all the kids felt we could play better than we did at Mohican,” said Miller. “We played solid gold today. These kids are very grounded, and don’t get overly exited about anything, and hopefully that trend will continue.”