BUCYRUS – Galion coach Bryce Lehman was asked about what he thought of his golfers’ ability to put bad holes behind them easily this early in the season.
“That’s why I have all this gray hair,” he laughed.
After shooting a 165 on the back nine, four of the five Tigers dropped scores on the front for a 152. The team’s 317 total clinched the Bucyrus Elks Invitational title for the second consecutive year ahead of Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference rival Ontario (343) and county foe Wynford (350).
“Early on we didn’t play very well, our first nine was the back,” Lehman said. “Logan (Keller) shoots a 41 then catches me and says he’s on a heater with four birdies in a row. I thought a couple kids would shoot higher based on their demeanor on the course. Nate McMullen shooting an 82 is good score for him , (76) was a good score for Nick (McMullen).
“We use this as a practice round for our league tournament — not that we didn’t have interest in this — it’s just an opportunity to get over here and play. But I’m pleased with the scores, last year at the MOAC tournament we shot a 338 and didn’t win the tournament. They’ve played this several times, but anytime you can play it again is a good thing for us.”
Keller’s 73 (32-41) paced the team and was medalist runner-up behind Upper Sandusky’s Brock Montgomery who fired an even par 72. Nick McMullen’s 76 (37-39) was next followed by younger brother Nate’s 82 (39-43) and Nate Barre’s 86 (44-42); Braylen Hart’s 88 (41-47) was the drop.
The course received a ton of rain overnight and some into the morning which made for less than ideal conditions. Lehman thinks that played somewhat of a role in the back nine scoring.
“I can’t believe how wet it was this morning, and even still,” he said. “Our course isn’t this wet, Chapel Hill was dry on Friday … it was a change of pace. The greens were nice but a little slow because of moisture, and we didn’t do a great job early on adapting. The sun came out and breeze picked up which dried things out a bit and sped up the greens more to where they’re used to putting.”
The Elks were the first of, hopefully, many trophies the Tigers lift this season. Returning virtually three No. 1 golfers in the McMullens and Keller, along with Barre and Hart rounding out the varsity five, the core returns from last year’s trip to state — the program’s fifth consecutive.
“This group is pretty much the same as last year minus one senior,” Lehman said. “This is a group that has been able to (rebound easily). If they have a bad front, they can pull it together on the back. And I’ll use Logan again as an example last year at districts, 50-39, that 89 was crucial for us. Logan, again today, he didn’t put his head down and pout, he stepped up to regain his focus and composure. I’ve got three or four kids that can play bad then bounce back to put a respectable score up.
“That’s a luxury we have, and it continues to go back to our junior high program. What they teach them there and getting them prepped to come in as freshmen. And if you look at the freshman we’ve had their freshman year, Matt (McMullen), Spencer (Keller), Jack (McElligott) … Nick got thrown right into the fire, so did Logan. Those are all kids that went through the junior high program and already had an idea, they were already playing as many summers tournaments as they could.
“Even this year, six or seven of my kids are members of Valley View and four or five of my kids were playing in tournaments bigger than Heart of Ohio. Nothing wrong with Heart of Ohio, but when you’re playing in the COGA ( Central Ohio Golf Academy Tour) or Southern (Ohio) PGA two-day tournaments, it’s a better test. They’re battle tested, if they can just keep the mental side down — that’s key.”
Royals chasing consistency early in the season
“For us, it’s disappointing,” coach Michael Powers said.
That should tell you how high expectations are at Wynford this season.
“But if we’re going to play below average and shoot a 350, I guess that’s pretty good,” he added.
Knowing Galion would be heavily favored for first, second place was up for grabs between Wynford, Ontario, Upper Sandusky and Seneca East. The Warriors bested the Royals by seven strokes for runner-up honors, but all things considered, Powers was pleased to see his team shrug off bad holes and maintain focus.
“It’s not bad,” Powers said of the team’s score. “We struggled at the start of our round but a few of the guys played better and strung some pars together towards the end. At the Buckeye (Central) Invite we shot a 319 but it was a little easier course. The biggest thing for us this year is working on consistency. Keeping it around that 319-330 mark would be our ideal average round.
“It’s early and this inconsistency is happening with everyone.”
And, like Galion, Wynford had to overcome a soppy course to start.
“It was pretty wet, especially compared to what we’ve been playing in with a dry summer and our first couple matches were dry,” Powers said. “Then the course in general is a little tougher, greens are quicker than our last two matches so the guys had some three putts out there. But everyone plays the same conditions and the same holes.”
Wes Prenger led the way with n 83, Micah Greene fired an 86, Dawson Pelter a 90, Drew Johnson 91; Dylon Robinson’s 94 the drop. Wynford was eight strokes ahead of Upper Sandusky and 15 better than Seneca East — the trio are expected to compete for the Northern 10 title along with Mohawk.
“That’s what’s nice about the Elks, a lot of the N10 teams are in it and we can compare right now where we are,” Powers said. “Our team knew coming into this year we’d have a chance to compete for the league and, obviously, our goal is to win it with everyone back from last year. Hopefully we keep carrying on, keep improving throughout the year and get ready for our league matches.”
Rest of the field
Buckeye Central was seventh overall with a 387 led by Drew Rose’s 87 and Logan Hanes’ 88. Tyler Mason shot a 104, Cory Biglin a 108 and Grady Schafer’s 126 was the drop.
Host Bucyrus placed ninth with a 397. Cody Pennington shot a 93, Noah Burke 96, Brock Frost 101, Brayden Campbell 107 and Brody Higginbotham’s 109 the drop.
Colonel Crawford was 11th at 459 paced by Brennan Hamilton’s 103. Nick Eachus’ 108, Jake Swisher’s 123 and Seth Wirebaugh’s 125 were the counting scores, Silas Hero’s 154 the drop.