Wheeling Park’s Obecny seeks to become first three-time champ
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - There are two defending individual medalists and two defending team champions among the 120 golfers and 24 teams in Wheeling to begin play today in the 36-hole State Golf High School Championships on Oglebay Park's Robert Trent Jones Course.
Wheeling Park junior Thadd Obecny is seeking his third consecutive Class AAA individual crown while the Patriots are trying for their third straight team title on the par 72, 6,605-yard hillside layout.
No Class AAA player has ever won three titles in a row and Cabell Midland junior Seth Kinker isn't sure Obecny won't be the first.
"The kid strikes the ball so well," said Kinker, Cabell Midland's No. 1 who will lead the Knights in their ninth consecutive State Tournament appearance. "He's an unbelievable golfer at his age. He reminds me of my brother."
Kinker's brother is Nathan Kinker, a 2005 graduate of Cabell Midland and a 2009 graduate of Marshall University. The older Kinker finished tied for fourth at the 2004 State Tournament and was a two-time Mountain State Athletic Conference Tournament medalist.
"(Obecny) never drops a shot, and, of course, he's definitely going to play well like he always does," the younger Kinker said. "I don't expect him to be beaten on his home course up there at Oglebay."
Each region is represented by two teams and four individuals. Four players participate for each team, with the high score being thrown out.
While Obecny and the host school are favored to seal the deal on third consecutive crowns, there are some obstacles in the way of the Patriots.
George Washington, making its fifth consecutive State Tournament appearance, was third last year and features returning qualifiers Will Evans and Kris Webster. Evans was fifth last year, 12 strokes behind Obecny.
University was sixth last season, but welcomed transfer Trent McPherson into the fold, leading to a win over Wheeling Park last week in the Region 1 championships at Kingwood's Preston Country Club.
McPherson, a senior and 2011 qualifier for the U.S. Amateur, spent his first three years of varsity golf in Pennsylvania before returning to the Mountain State. He moved to Venetia, Pa., after his eighth grade year at Charleston's John Adams Middle School.
McPherson, Evans and Obecny finished first, second and fifth respectively at the Stonewall Resort Challenge back on Aug. 8.
Eric Wirth finished 18th at states last year and Cale Wheeler, then a sophomore, was 22nd for the Hawks.
Wheeler played in the State Amateur this year. Senior John Matheny also played in the State Tournament last year and rounds out University's roster.
Obecny and teammate Cole Hand finished first and second, respectively, last year to help Wheeling Park win by 27 strokes over second-place Bridgeport. The Indians, who dropped to Class AA this year, failed to qualify after playing in the event eight consecutive seasons in Class AAA (2004-11).
Cabell Midland is making its sixth consecutive appearance and is led by Kinker, sophomore Mark Wilcox and senior Jacob Beahrs.
Washington, making its second consecutive appearance, finished seventh last year but has Ryan Mumaw back. Mumaw finished seventh last year.
Shady Spring, a Class AAA newcomer, finished second in Region 3. The Tigers have three players back - Ryan Albaugh, Landon Perry and Drew Green - who were in the Class AA field in 2011.
Making his second career appearance is Winfield's Chris Williams. Williams won the Webb Simpson Junior Championship Aug. 13-16 and returns to Wheeling for the first time since his sophomore season (2010).
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.