By Chris Chaney
A stout Division II sectional at Sharon Woods Golf Course ended four Clermont County schools’ golf season on Sept. 26 as New Richmond, Bethel-Tate, Batavia and Clermont Northeastern all finished outside of the top-four in the team competition.
However, a trio of Clermont golfers advanced to the districts on an individual basis once those from the qualifying teams were taken out of the standings, but even that process wasn’t easily decided.
Bethel-Tate’s Mitchell McElfresh and Batavia’s Austin Conner tied for second among non-team-qualifying individuals with 11-over par 81s. The fourth and final individual qualifying slot was earned by New Richmond’s Bryce Kroeger after toughing out a six-hole playoff that sent home, among others, teammate Chris Mazzaro.
The trio of McElfresh, Conner and Kroeger will play their district tournament round today, Oct. 3 at Weatherwax Golf Course in Middletown with a chance to advance to the state tournament on Oct. 11 and 12 at NorthStar Golf Club in Sunbury, Ohio, just north of Columbus.
While Conner is the elder statesman of the trio as the lone senior, perhaps the most impressive advancement was that of the Bethel-Tate sophomore McElfresh.
“Being a sophomore and the No. 1 player on the team, it can be pretty tough on you,” Bethel-Tate head coach Brett Harris said. “Every round, he put extra pressure on himself and a lot of people at the courses (we play at) know he’s good, so that inherently puts pressure on him.
“To be able to play the round he played (at sectionals) after struggling last year, was impressive.”
Harris explained that after McElfresh shot a 4-over par 39 on his front nine, he was able to gauge what would be needed to advance by projecting which teams would advance and thus, which individuals wouldn’t be included in the individuals qualifiers.
“I had an idea after he made the turn that if shot 40 or better, he would probably make it, 41 or 42 would be close,” Harris said. “He struggled on the first couple holes (on the back), so I told him he would have to turn it on here and he went par-bogey-par (on the three toughest holes) and that set him off to make it. I thought he played one of his better rounds of golf under the pressure.”
McElfresh’s 39-42 round of 81 was very similar to Conner’s 38-43 round of the same total. Both players got off to good starts and held on to capture one of the coveted slots in the district.
For New Richmond’s Kroeger, the task was a little more nerve wrecking. Shooting nine holes scores of 43-40, Kroeger had to play off for the final spot in the district.
The playoff, which would go to the low scorer in a sudden-death format, took six holes to crown a winner and allowed Kroeger to advance as the lone representative for the Lions.
Mazzaro, the No. 1 player on the team all season, will have to wait until his senior season for another shot at the district tournament.
The three players will play with their fellow individual qualifiers in a foursome from the three other sectionals with the first tee time at 10:40 a.m. on Oct. 3.
Each competitor will play Highlands and Woodside, two of the four nine-hole courses at Weatherwax and must finish in the top four individuals of those whose teams do not advance.