PREBLE COUNTY — A trio of Preble County golfers are headed to Columbus to compete at the state tournament after successful performances at their respective district tournaments last week.
Eaton’s Sarah Willis, the defending Division II state champion, will look to defend her title after winning the PipeStone district with a 3-under par 69, tying a district record.
Twin Valley South’s Nathan Osborn shot a 1-under par 71 to win the Division III district at Glenview Golf Course.
Twin Valley South finished eighth as team with a 372.
Makenna Jones, who was second-team all-Ohio last year with a top 10 finish, is also headed back to the state tournament after placing second behind Willis at PipeStone. Jones, shot an 81, despite battling an illness.
As a team, National Trail finished 12th with a team scored of 441. Savanna Abner shot a 110, Caitlin Gilland shot 123 and Michelle Massa shot a 127 for the Blazers, who competed at the district level as a team for just the second time in program history.
“Defending a title is always difficult and you put pressure on yourself and it showed on the 1st hole,” Eaton coach Tim Appledorn said of Willis, who bogied her first hole at the district tournament. “She miss hit two shots and made bogey. After that the nerves settled and she made four birdies coming in. She had a game plan coming in and she followed that to a tee. She struck the ball nicely and missed only one or two greens. She putted really well and not every putt went in but they were right there near the hole.”
Osborn has been playing well of late and coach Darcy Robinson is looking for more success from the junior.
“I could not be more proud of him. He has worked so hard to get to where he is today with his golf game,” she said. “In my 34 years of coaching, I can count on one hand, the number of athletes whom I would call ‘elite’ — maybe even on 2-3 fingers, and he is one of them. It is a privilege for me, when I can have the opportunity to be involved with an athlete of his caliber. His focus is so clear and his goals are so high; he doesn’t ever need me to push him to work. I’m just glad I’m getting the opportunity to have a front row seat to his high school career. I feel fortunate to be able to do this even though I’ve retired from teaching. I know that a lot of people say that it’s an honor just to make it to state, and it is, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he went over to Columbus and won it all. He is playing that well right now. But as I’ve said before, golf is a crazy game and anything can happen that goes your way, and anything can happen that goes against you. Hopefully he can put together two really good scores next weekend. Obviously whether he does or doesn’t, won’t change how proud I am of him.”
Osborn shot a 1-under par on his first nine holes and played the last nine even par. He nearly chipped in on 18 for an Eagle.
As a team, Robinson said she was happy with the way they finished the season and is looking forward to next year.
“As for the rest of the team, we finished 8th out of 12. Not where we want to be, but it’s a start. The fact that we made it out of sectionals as a team this year, while we failed to do that the past two years, is evidence of how hard all our guys have worked to improve,” Robinson said. “So we’ll take that this year, and hope to do even better next year when the majority of my team will be seniors. It’s nice that we won’t have to lose anyone to graduation this year.”
Overall, she said it was a successful season.
“Looking back over the season, we are all very pleased. We finished 13-1 in head-to-head matches, only losing to Newton. We finished in second place in the CCC and fourth place in the sectional. We’ll take that — for now,” she said. “Nate had a phenomenal season, being beaten just one time. He finished in 4th place at the Brookville Invite, but then was the Medalist for the Tri Village Invite, the CCC Tourney and the District Tourney.”
Willie Bowman was the Panthers No. 2 player all season and shot a 92.
”Willie Bowman had a very good season as well. He put together an amazing match when we played Ansonia, allowing him to beat Nate in that match. I’m sure it is tough sometimes to always appear to be second fiddle on a team, but he has handled that well and has posted some great scores that contributed to our overall team success,” Robinson said.
The trio of Chance Parks (113), Cole Peterson (104) and Connor Bradley (105) were a key to South’s run in the postseason.
”Chance, Connor and Cole have improved so much over last year. If I had to put my finger on the difference of our team from last year to this year, it is those three guys. If they don’t improve, we don’t come in second in the CCC or advance out of the sectional,” Robinson said. “Luke Petersen and Jayden Bassler also contributed in good ways throughout the season. Their biggest issue right now is consistency. Once they start coming out match after match and produce good scores, they will both be in the thick of things, as far as the team goes. Our other two freshmen besides Luke were Steve and Ben Bitner. Steve really helped us out that first week of the season when we had people on vacation, early in August. He really helped get us through that first week and off to a good start. He has significant potential, if he starts really focusing on his game. The same could be said about his brother, Ben. Golf was new to both of them, so hopefully as they work, they will get better.“
Trail coach Troy Ferguson said Jones was battling an illness but was able to fight through a tough first nine holes to fire a 1- over 37 on the front nine and finish with an 81.
“She fought through a couple of shots where she wasn’t happy with and was able to get on a roll about hole 4 (her 13th hole) and had a great shot on the par-3 4th that she came within inches of getting an ace,” Ferguson said. “As she got closer to the end of her round we thought she had a shot to make it back to Columbus and she made some good shots down the stretch to secure that spot.”
Tri-County North sophomore Ethan Kelley shot an 85 and finished 15th ovearll in his second trip to the district tournament. Last year, he was part of the Panthers qualifying team.
The Division II girls and the Division III boys state tournaments will both be held at Scarlet and Gray Course at Ohio State on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 13-14.
Osborn will tee off on hole No. 1 of the Scarlet Course at at 10:50 a.m. on Friday. Then, depending on how he does on Friday, he’ll tee off at either 10:40 or 10:50 on Saturday.
Willis will tee of on hole No. 1 at 10:50 a.m. on the Grey Course and Jones will tee of on hole No. 10, also at 10:50 a.m. on Friday.