High school golf: Catholic, Poca ahead of pack at State Tournament
WHEELING, W.Va. -- Things are falling in line for Charleston Catholic in Class A at the State High School Golf Tournament, but there was a bit of a snag in Wheeling Park's plans to win a third consecutive Class AAA championship.
In Class AA, Poca took the first-day lead with a score of 246 in its quest to give Coach Doug Smith his first title in 27 years guiding the Dots.
The final 18 holes on the challenging par 72, 6,673-yard Robert Trent Jones Course at the Oglebay Resort could lead to a photo finish.
"Tomorrow is going to be interesting," said the 63-year-old Smith, who plans to retire from teaching at the conclusion of this school year.
It shouldn't be that way for the Irish, who have five titles but none consecutively. Coach Bill Gillispie's team has a score of 236, 15 strokes ahead of second-place Madonna.
Last year's Class A medalist Christian Casingal shot a 75, with the 2011 runner-up, Aaron Persily, shooting a 76 for Catholic. Buffalo's Cory Hoshor's 79 represents the only other sub-80 score.
"We can't let the idea of winning it in one hole get to us," Casingal said. "We just have to play solid."
Two-time defending Class AAA champion Wheeling Park has the leader in sophomore Cole Hand with a 72 and junior teammate and two-time defending Class AAA medalist Thadd Obecny with a 73.
However, the Patriots' No. 3, freshman Dylan Wojcik, broke a club after hitting it against his bag, leading to a disqualification. While Wojcik is permitted, by rule, to return for the second round, Coach Don Headley opted instead to bring his No. 5, Hunter Bryan, to play in Wojcik's spot today.
"He just hit it against his bag and hit it in the wrong spot and it broke," Headley said. "Our five will play (today)."
The Patriots trail Region 1 rival University by four strokes, hardly an insurmountable margin even with the Hawks having three players scored in the 70s.
"We're OK," Headley said. "Our one and two guys are playing well, we just have to get a good score out of our three and four."
University put the pressure on after defeating Wheeling Park in the Region 1 championship. The Hawks' Eric Wirth (74) and Cale Wheeler (74) are tied for third and their No. 1 - Trent McPherson - shot a 77.
It matters to Wheeler that the Hawks close out the championship.
"The regional didn't matter as much to me because I knew we just had to finish in the top two," said Wheeler, who played in the State Amateur for the first time this past summer. "To beat them here, everybody has to play well because you know they'll play well because they play here everyday.
"If me and Eric stay where we are and Trent comes in low, I'm positive we'll win. I wish our lead was bigger, but any kind of lead on Park makes it that much better, because I don't like them. Teach them a lesson."
Cabell Midland is third, 10 strokes behind, while George Washington is 13 strokes behind with a 238.
The lead group in today's final round will feature Wheeling Park teammates Hand and Obecny and University teammates Wirth and Wheeler.
Only four strokes separate the eight players in the two groups teeing off on No. 1 today. Winfield's Chris Williams shot a 74 to tie for third after the first day, while George Washington's Will Evans shot a 75. They'll be joined by Cabell Midland's Jacob Beahrs and Oak Hill's Craig Buchanan beginning on the second hole in the shotgun format.
Poca received a 78 from junior Travis Covert, who shares the lead with Ritchie County's Sydney Snodgrass and Bluefield's Evan Smith. Those are the only three players with sub-80 scores, but it's Covert's that propelled Poca to the lead.
"I'll have to play a little bit smarter, especially on the back nine because you have to hit the ball on the right tiers on these greens and I didn't and had some tough putts and tough up and downs," Covert said.
Roane County sits in second place in Class AA with a 249, while Grafton is third at 254 and Fairmont Senior is fourth with a 257. Scott is fifth with a 260.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.