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.