BOWLING GREEN — After nearly seven hours of golf Thursday afternoon at the Stone Ridge Golf Club in Bowling Green, it was amazing how tight the battle was for a spot in next week’s state tournament.
And when all the scores were posted and a playoff completed, two local individuals found themselves advancing to next week’s Division III state golf tournament in Sunbury at the North Star Golf Resort.
St. John’s senior Nick Kayser and Kalida senior Neil Recker were the only two players completing Thursday that were fortunate to advance to state. It was a bittersweet day for Recker, though, as his Wildcat teammates found themselves finishing in fifth place one shot short of advancing to state as a team.
Kayser qualified for state after shooting a 78, then finishing second in a 1-hole playoff to grab one of two individual spots up for grabs. Recker shot a 74 to qualify for state.
Kalida finished fifth in the 18-team tournament shooting a 333, tied them for fifth place with Parkway, and one shot behind fourth-place Van Buren at 332.
Lima Central Catholic won the Division III golf tournament shooting a 308 while Ottawa Hills was second at 318 and Ashland Crestview was third with a 320. Ottoville was 14th shooting a 361.
Kayser had a long day in Bowling Green as he was playing as an individual and finished his round around 2 p.m. With a score of 78, Kayser had to sit around and wait for all the teams to finish which was around 5 p.m. Once all the scores were posted, Kayser still had more waiting to do as three players were tied with a 78 and there were only two spots left to qualify for state, meaning there would be A playoff for the two spots.
Kayser, Fremont St. Joe’s Connor Dudley and Seneca East’s Nathan Phillips headed out to the 18th tee for the playoff. All three golfers put their tee shot in the fairway, with Kayser having the longest drive. Kayser sent his second shot over the green and chipped on to within 15 feet of the cup, while Dudley’s second shot was off the green to the right and Phillips put his second shot in the water; that led him to shoot a seven on the hole. Dudley’s chip shot ran long past the cup, stopping on the fringe before he sank a 10-footer for par. With Phillips struggling, Kayser used two putts for bogey to secure the final qualifying spot to state.
“It was kind of agonizing; a lot of nail-biting waiting for all the scores to come in,” Kayser said. “I’m really happy to be going to state.”
Kayser got off a rough start being 3-over after the first three holes that led to him shooting a 41 on the front nine. He played much better from then on, shooting a 1-over par 37 on the back nine to finish with a 78.
“I started out 3-over after the first four holes and I had to pick my head up,” Kayser said. “I ended up with a 41 on the front nine and really turned it around on the back. I had some good birdies on the back nine and finished with a score that was on the bubble to make it to state. I’m glad to be going. After the ninth hole, I missed a short putt and was mad at myself but I felt I could go on the back nine and shoot mid-30s; nothing was going to stop me.”
Kayser had an attempt at eagle on the par 5 14th hole but left his eagle putt a couple of inches short of the cup.
“I give him a lot of credit for what happened on the front nine, then pulling it together on the back nine,” St. John’s coach John Klausing said. “He has been playing really well all year; it’s nice to see him go to state. He played the playoff smart. Once he saw the one kid hit a shot in the water, he played a safe shot to the green, then chipped it back on to within 15 feet of the cup. He played smart and qualified to state.”
Recker also had a solid back nine to help him earn his trip to state. Recker finished with a 42 on the front nine, then shot a 4-under par round of 32 on the back side to finish with the low score of the day. Recker and Ashland Crestview’s Josh Brooks tied for the low round of day with 74 as they shared medalist honors. Recker felt his turnaround was putting himself in a position to make birdies or eagle.
“I was hitting a lot of greens throughout the day but on the front nine, I struggled putting,” Recker said. “On the back, it seemed every approach shot was within five feet. It was just awesome. I had one birdie on the front, two on the back and an eagle. It was a great feeling knowing that I get to advance.”
Recker eagled the 14th as he hit his approach shot — from 230 yards — to within two and a half feet of the cup.
Although Recker was going to state, he found it hard to enjoy as his teammates would not be joining him.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,“ Recker reflected. “We are really close. We were looking to going down there and having some fun down. The last three years we have been so close but have just missed out on advancing. I think it’s a total of 10 strokes the three years that have separated us from going to state.”
Cody Mathew shot an 82 to back up Recker, while Zach Erhart had an 84 and Austin Horstman a 93. Brady Mathew finished with a 95.
“You can go back and make up that one or two strokes any place,” Kalida coach Ken Schnipke said. “Neil just played lights out on the back nine. He turned it around and really played well. His uncle said he has never seen anyone play tee to green like he did on the second nine. As far as the team ,you can go back to any shot and say if I hit it just a little better that would have helped. But that’s golf.”
Ottoville struggled with the Stone Ridge Course all afternoon as their golfers were unable to get close to their average. Zach Weber led the way with an 85 and Craig Odenweller had an 88. Derek Schimmoeller and Wesley Markward both had a 94, while Logan Kortokrax had a 104.
“Conditions seemed to get pretty tough for my kids and had some things not go our way. I knew it was going to be tough when my number one man started double, triple, triple and couldn’t put it back together,” Ottoville coach Jim Brown said. “It was a tough course on a windy day. As well as we played last week, that is how well we didn’t play today. Still, I was proud of the kids. They had a great season.
Fort Jennings’ Kurt Warnecke finished with a 93 and Columbus Grove’s Kody Griffith had a 98 playing as individuals.
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1. Lima Central Catholic 308; 2. Ottawa Hills 318; 3. Ashland Crestview 320; 4. Van Buren 332; 5. Kalida-Parkway 333; 7. Woodmore 340; 8. Fremont St. Joe 342; 9. North Central 344; 10. Minster 347; 11. Allen East 351; 12. Wayne Trace 354; 13. New Riegel 358; 14. Ottoville 361; 15. Norwalk St. Paul-Wynford 362; 17. Patrick Henry 382; 18. Stryker 383.