There were two factors in the annual Pirate Invitational golf tournament at Willandale Golf Course on Saturday, Aug. 5 that were almost a certainty. First, the field of 15 teams would provide a dogfight for the top spot with one of several teams capable of pulling out a victory if all fell right. Second, two of those teams competing for the top spot would be a veteran Strasburg Tigers team that, along with the Wooster Generals, would be the team to beat.
It turned out those two teams went one-two, and strong play across the board from the Tigers led to a season-opening title.
Strasburg’s team total of 314 was good enough to fend off runner-up Wooster’s total of 319, and a savvy Hiland Hawks team that also is loaded with a ton of returning talent was one shot off of Wooster’s pace at 320. Rounding out the top six were three more quality efforts at this early juncture in the season with Zanesville fourth at 322, perennial state-qualifier Wellington fifth at 323 and a super-young Garaway Pirates team that has been to state nine straights years placing sixth at 325.
The Tigers got a huge boost from two-man Mitch Neidenthal, who fired off a one-over-par 73. He continued his torrid pace he set this summer, where he captured the championship at the First National Bank Junior Gold Tour, a series of eight events at area courses in which he won three times including a sparkling 69 at Carroll Meadows. He rode a two-under 34 on the front side at Willandale GC to his runner-up medalist honor at the Pirate Invitational. Strasburg also got a 79 from Dylan Tucker, an 80 from Mike Neidenthal and an 82 from Calvin Willis to earn the championship.
“We played well, and it was big for us to come right out and post some good numbers,” Strasburg coach Troy McClellan said.
The Tigers were a state qualifier last year, but in losing seniors Gino Schupbach and JT McCracken to graduation, McClellan said there is always question marks for any team early on. “It’s big for us to come out and compete early because you lose two of your top kids to graduation and you wonder if someone is going to step up and replace them,” McClellan said. “This was a big confidence boost.”
Wooster was nipping at Strasburg’s heels all day long, led by outstanding senior Brent Dillon, who is as consistent as they come. Dillon fired off a four-over-par 76 but was hurt by a quadruple bogey on the nasty par-3 fourth. Generals four-man Wesley Roberts also played well, churning out a 79, while teammates Mason Frazier and Austin Meese shot 81 and 83, respectively.
“We are very solid in our top four guys,” Wooster head coach Mike Snowbarger said. “We will have to find someone to step into the fifth and sixth roles and provide some consistency, but this is going to be a very good team this year. Dillon is so consistent, and we have a nice veteran group.”
Hiland was consistent all day long and got five tremendous efforts in its third-place effort. First and foremost was fifth-man Claye Hummel’s exciting round of 79, which tied four-man Dylan Kaufman for team honors. Bruce Yoder added an 80, Tremper Coblentz fired an 82 and Johnny Mullet chipped in with an 83.
Zanesville got a 73 from Jace Ruggerio and a 74 from Nolan Kimberly while Wellington was paced by a 75 from Aiden Schumer and a 77 from Jack Doody.
The young host Pirates team will be working diligently toward finding consistency this year, courtesy of three freshmen who cracked the starting five.
Garaway senior Brevin Weaver fired off a one-under 35 on the front side and rode to a final score of 77, which tied freshman Zehnder Gibson for team medalist honors. Veteran Zach Immel added an 85 while freshmen Micah Hallman and Rendall Weaver tacked on scores of 88 and 86, respectively, to round out the Pirates’ effort.
Garaway head coach Brad Nyholm said it will be a learning curve for much of the year as the team pushes each other on a weekly basis for varsity playing time.
“We’ve got a lot of kids putting in the time and gaining experience, and they are going to keep pushing each other for these varsity spots,” Nyholm said of his youthful crew.
Dover, which placed seventh at 333, got a medalist effort from one-man Alex German, who carded an incredible four-under-par 32 on the front side and ended the day at an even-par 72. Teammate Gabe Miller and Nate Kinsey added scores of 80 and 88. German’s front-nine score of 32 tied the Dover school mark for nine holes, a record that was posted 41 years ago.