Area Division II and III golfers find themselves just one step away from state when they take the course at Sycamore Springs in Arlington and Stone Ridge in Bowling Green on Thursday.
In Division II at Sycamore Springs, Napoleon heads to districts hot off a sectional championship and looking to advance to state for the second consecutive season. The Wildcats were 10th at state a year ago and head coach Gregg Merrill knows his team is excited about the opportunity of trying to get back to the highest level.
"Our guys are looking forward to competing for a district championship, it's such a neat experience," stated Merrill. "We know there are going to be some very solid teams at Sycamore Springs and that the course is going to be challenging. We've had a great season, and we kept getting better all year, but we know we have to play well on Thursday. It's all about staying away from big numbers ... bogeys are good, pars are great."
Brandon Lambert leads the Wildcats into districts after shooting a 73 at sectionals. Zach Hoops (79), Jacob Green (79), Austin Peppers (81) and Andrew Taylor (85) round out the Napoleon squad.
"We know there are going to be a lot of good teams there," said Merrill. "Bryan, Wauseon, Liberty Center and certainly Liberty-Benton, which brings back its whole team after going to state last year in Division III and is playing on its home course. The course sets up tough because it's like two very different courses. The front nine is more open and the back nine looks like an airplane just started dropping holes in among the trees. You have to be mentally tough to shoot a good score here."
Area teams joining Napoleon at Sycamore Springs include Bryan (Adam McBride, Dalton Schulenberg, Shea Vogelsong, Luke Shaffer, David Miller), Liberty Center (Tyler Davis, Cody Knapp, Michael Huber, Cody Weichers, Levi Weichers) and Wauseon (Colin Dietrich, Austin Tuckerman, Trey Rupp, Zach Lillich, Trevor Dominique), while area individuals competing will be Matt Hermiller of Ottawa-Glandorf and Ollie Short of Archbold.
Wauseon mentor Mike Marshall will be looking for consistency from his team.
"As a team we've been pretty consistent, although we don't have that one guy who is going to put up a real low score," said Marshall. "Our strength has been that we have five guys who all shoot around that 78 to 84 range and that's helped us win a lot of matches. This is a tough field with teams like Napoleon, Bryan and Liberty-Benton. In order for us to advance, we need to shoot around 320 as a team. If we can do that, we will have a chance.
"I just think this is one of the better districts in the state in Division II," added Marshall. "I think you're going to see some individual scores that will be very low. Whoever comes out of Sycamore Springs will represent our district well at state."
The top two teams and the top two individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the Division II state tournament at North Star Golf Resort in Sunbury, beginning Friday, Oct. 14.
Meanwhile, Stone Ridge will host Division III district action where several Defiance six-county area teams will also look to punch their ticket to state.
Stryker is one of those teams, coming off a sectional championship at Ironwood. The Panthers, just two years removed from making a run to state, are poised to play their best golf on Thursday according to Stryker mentor John Ruffer.
"I really like the way we're playing right now, we're coming together at the right time," said Ruffer. "During the summer we had some injuries that set us back, so the fall was all about getting into the swing of things. Winning the sectional should give us a good confidence boost, and having been to districts for quite a few years now will also help our confidence. Our kids feel comfortable playing there, but we know we'll need to really play well to get to Columbus."
Troy Saunders leads the Panthers into districts after shooting a 73 at sectionals. Rounding out the Stryker five are Hunter Clingaman (79), Jared DeGroff (83), Tanner Clingaman (83) and Taylor Brown (86).
"Troy, Jared and Hunter were all on the team that went to state two years ago and Taylor was our sixth-man that year," said Ruffer. "These guys have all played at Stone Ridge many times and have a lot of confidence. I really like they way they've practiced this week, they've been very business-like. I like their mentality heading in and I have confidence in all five of them."
Joining Stryker at districts will be Defiance six-county area teams North Central (Kole Peterson, Brandon Turner, Clayton VanDeVoorde, Dylan Hutchinson, Cameron Cochran), Kalida (Austin Horstman, Cody Mathew, Neil Recker, Zach Erhart, Eric Kahle) and Ottoville (Zach Weber, Kyle Karhoff, Travis Maag, Luke Schimmoeller, Derek Schimmoeller). Area individuals competing include: Luis Miron of Hicksville, Anton Jerna of Ayersville, Michael Overmier of Tinora, Grady Gudakunst and Corbin Linder of Wayne Trace and Tim Gerken and Jim Jacobs of Patrick Henry.
"LCC (7th in the state last year) has won the district numerous times and is probably the favorite heading in after shooting the lowest score (302 at Hawthorne Hills) at all the sectionals," said Ruffer. "Minster and Ottawa Hills (2nd at state last year) are also very good teams that do well every year. After that it's a crap-shoot. I feel very confident that if we play solid and have all five guys shoot around an 80, we'll have as good a chance as any team of making it state."
The top four teams and the top four individuals not on a qualifying team advance to state at Ohio State's Scarlet Course beginning Friday, Oct. 14.
At Sycamore Springs
Napoleon, Bryan, Liberty-Benton, Liberty Center, Wauseon, Eastwood, Clear Fork, Willard, Shelby.
Ollie Short, Archbold; Matt Hermiller, Ottawa-Glandorf; Keegan Bollenbacher, Huron; Trever McLear, Genoa; Bo Pettigrew, Huron; Carter Bowman, St. Marys; Jacob Brake, Van Wert; Matt Holt, Lima Bath; Justin Schoen, Bellevue; Alec Oney, Upper Sandusky; Derek Kuns, Margaretta; Austin Johns, Galion.
At Stone Ridge
Stryker, North Central, North Baltimore, Kalida, Ottoville, Delphos St. John's, Ottawa Hills, Woodmore, Fremont St. Joseph, LCC, Minster, Parkway, Van Buren, New Riegel, Allen East, Tiffin Calvert, Hopewell-Loudon, Ashland Crestview.
Luis Miron, Hicksville; Anton Jerna, Ayersville; Michael Overmier, Tinora; Grady Gudakunst, Wayne Trace; Corbin Linder, Wayne Trace; Tim Gerken, Patrick Henry; Jim Jacobs, Patrick Henry; Rick Deichert, MVCD; Ben Hartfield, Crestline; Mitch Cook, Colonel Crawford; Luke Edgar, Old Fort; Matt Ream, Old Fort; Darin Bergman, New Bremen; Jared Kahlig, Fort Recovery; Tyler Moser, New Bremen; Reggie Wendel, Marion Local; Kyle Smithey, Elmwood; Corbin Blair, Carey; Kieran Campbell, Fostoria St. Wendelin; Matt Gray, Ada; Chris Stang, Norwalk St. Paul; Billy Diehm, Seneca East; Adam McGinnis, Buckeye Central; Chase Hushour, Buckeye Central; Tyson Brown, Plymouth.