Prep golf: Charleston Catholic eyes another state title
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The scenario is almost perfect for the Charleston Catholic golf team.
The Irish enter today's Class A Region 4 championships at Big Bend Golf Course two tournaments away from joining five schools that have won three consecutive state titles.
What's more, junior Christian Casingal returns to seek his second individual crown in three seasons, and senior Aaron Persily has finished no worse than sixth in three trips.
The six-time state champions are heavy favorites to come out on top in Monday's regional. Catholic will be joined by Buffalo, Gilmer County, Parkersburg Catholic, St. Joseph, Wahama, Williamstown and Wirt County.
The top two teams and the two top players not from the qualifying teams earn spots in the State Tournament Oct. 8-9 at Oglebay Resort's Robert Trent Jones-designed Spiedel course in Wheeling. Also, four players will compete for each team with the highest score being thrown out.
Class A begins the day at 9 a.m. at Big Bend. Class AA also gets started at 9 a.m with its Region 4 championship also at the Tornado course.
Charleston Catholic and Buffalo are the defending Region 4 team qualifiers, while Parkersburg Catholic's Ben Collie returns as one of the individuals to qualify last year.
Charleston Catholic's Bill Gillispie, who is in his 10th season and was named the National Federation of High School Association West Virginia Coach of the Year, said he's hoping for a state title and some breaks for Persily.
"It would mean a lot to me for him (Persily) to win individual honors, just for the fact that he's put in so much work," said Gillispie, who has coached during four of Catholic's six state titles. "He's always a team-first guy. He'd rather see the team win than see himself win."
Last year, Buffalo's Cory Hoshor won overall honors as a junior in Class A, finishing two strokes ahead of Casingal and three strokes ahead of Persily. The Bison, behind Hoshor, Bradley Harris, Blaik Caplinger and Drew Patton, reached the State Tournament and finished third - 22 strokes behind - in the team standings. Buffalo returns all four from last year's state tournament-qualifying team.
"To have two guys with the ability to win, and, for some reason, him and Christian play well there," Gillispie said. "You don't find kids who play well at Oglebay very often."
Persily and Casingal are driven, but it's Persily who has the most motivation.
The senior finished sixth at the State Tournament in 2010, second in 2011 and third in 2012. He's a three-time All-State player who hasn't quite gotten over the hump and into that top spot.
This has been Persily's best summer, during which he qualified for the State Amateur for the first time and made the cut.
"Ever since the school year started I've been spending a little more time on my calculus than I have on my golf," Persily said. "But, I'm taking care of that. Right now, I'm not where I was at the start of the State Amateur, but I'm getting there.
"I feel like time's running out. The State Tournament's my favorite thing of the year. To think of this as the last time ... I can still remember every shot I ever took at the State Tournament. It's crazy to think I'm getting to be an old man."
The Irish's roster is close after Casingal and Persily, with sophomore Nick Casingal - Christian's younger brother - Cameron Blakley, Allie Persily - Aaron's younger sister - Jackson Ellis and Peri Bailey.
ALL BUT ONE regional will be contested today, with the Class AAA Region 3 championships set for Tuesday at Berry Hills Country Club.
Teams competing at Berry Hills are defending regional champion George Washington, as well as Capital, Oak Hill, Princeton, Ripley, Riverside, Shady Spring, South Charleston and Woodrow Wilson.
IN OTHER regionals, University (2012 state champion) and Wheeling Park (2010, '11) - winners of the last three Class AAA state team titles - will battle in the Class AAA Region 1 championships at Parkersburg Country Club.
The Hawks return Colin Wirth and Cale Wheeler, a pair of 2012 All-State players who finished third and fourth respectively at last year's State Tournament. Wheeling Park, meanwhile, includes junior Cole Hand, the Class AAA medalist in 2012. Senior Thadd Obecny, individual Class AAA medalist in 2010 and 2011, isn't playing high school golf this season.
Included in Region 1 are Brooke, John Marshall, Morgantown, Parkersburg, Parkersburg South and Preston. The head golf pro at Parkersburg Country Club, Scott Davidson, will serve his first year as director of the state tournament this season, replacing Stonewall Resort pro Randy Hernly.
Although the Hawks and Patriots are the favored in Region 1, Parkersburg and Parkersburg South also are expected to contend to team honors. The region includes two of the state's better female golfers in Parkersburg's Lauryn Davidson - the daughter of Scott Davidson - and South's Adeena Shears.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at email@example.com or 304-348-4837.