Fort Loramie won the Shelby County Athletic League preview. Fairlawn won the SCAL tournament. Anna is the defending Division III sectional champions.
So, who is the team to beat when the D-III sectional tournament tees off at Shelby Oaks Golf Course on Tuesday?
They all are. And then some.
One of the most competitive seasons in recent SCAL memory continues into the high school golf postseason. The SCAL grabbed all four qualifying spots for the district tournament in 2019. League teams are favored to do it again.
“I don’t know that there is a favorite,” Anna coach Brandon Cobb said. “We, the league schools, have kind of taken turns beating each other since early August. I’m not familiar with the other teams coming in outside our league. But based on the success of our league teams in non-league matchups I do see four Shelby County teams advancing.”
Non-SCAL teams Lehman, Mechanicsburg, Riverside, Troy Christian and Triad also compete in the sectional at Shelby Oaks. The SCAL holds home-course advantage with Anna, Botkins, Fairlawn, Houston and Jackson Center using Shelby Oaks as their home course.
Anna used that familiarity to win the 2019 sectional championship. Fort Loramie, Botkins and Fairlawn also qualified for the district championship.
“As I have told the kids all year and will tell them before the tournament, we are just happy to be able to have a somewhat normal season with everything going on during 2020,” Fairlawn coach Todd Heckman said. “Each day that we get to play golf is a good day! We have been preaching the approach one swing at a time, one hole at time, and one round at a time.
“There are honestly five or six teams that could win it. We hope to be right in the mix in of what is arguably the strongest field this tournament has seen in a very long time. This is a very exciting time for area golf with the level of excellent play by these kids and schools.”
Fairlawn seniors Kyle Peters, Jackson Jones, Skyler Piper and Drew Maddy, junior Matt Mullen and sophomore Seth Jones won the SCAL tournament shooting 327.
Fort Loramie was second in the tournament, good enough to earn the overall league championship behind seniors Carson Barhorst and Devin Ratermann, sophomores Adam Ballas, Aiden Wehrman and Austin Pleiman and freshman Noah Mannier.
“Getting into this final third of the season with five guys who have experience from last year will be a big help to us,” Fort Loramie coach Brad Turner said. “The key will be for them to let their games come to them and to avoid the urge to try to make things happen. We’ll be ready and we will have to be because the league is full of teams and individuals who want to accomplish the same things we are wanting to accomplish. It’s going to be fun!”
Anna senior Spencer McClay and juniors Bryce Cobb and Carter Gordon were members of Anna’s sectional championship team. They’re joined at this year’s sectional by sophomores Landon Cobb and Ethan Maurer and freshman Seth Hegemier.
“The goal is simply to survive and advance, especially in a year like this with our league so strong,” coach Cobb said. “Top to bottom, I do not think the league has been this good in 20 plus years.”
And, in a year like 2020 where it seems anything can happen, don’t count out teams like Jackson Center. The Tigers finished seventh at the preview and sixth at the SCAL tournament. They draw inspiration from a team like Fairlawn, which finished sixth at the preview and leaped the field to win the SCAL tourney.
“We would like to compete at a high level and put together a solid round from our one man all the way to our five man,” Jackson Center coach Aaron Klopfenstein said. “We’ve consistently hovered around the upper 360s for our 18-hole competitions, but we would love to be able to break into the 350s for sectionals. Given the level of competition among the area teams, a team may shoot in the 340s and not qualify for districts. We want to be able to control what we can control regardless of what other teams are scoring.
“You don’t need to look any further than the SCAL tournament last week to realize how narrow of a margin there is among the seven teams, especially those teams towards the top.”