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GOLF: Park Players Have Busy Summers

July 21, 2012
By RICK THORP , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING - Prep golf season doesn't tee off for another couple of weeks for Wheeling Park. But that doesn't mean members of the two-time defending West Virginia Class AAA champions have kept their clubs idle.

''Everyone has put in countless hours of playing,'' said Don Headley, entering his fifth season as the Patriots coach.

''They've put in countless hours playing, competing in local, West Virginia and national events.''

Headley is more than pleased with what his players have done, especially this summer.

The Ohio Valley is ripe with opportunities for prep golfers to hone their craft. And, if they chose, opportunities are plentiful at the state and national level, as well.

And, according to Headley, most of his players are spending most of their summer on the course. But he said they don't get there alone.

''The parents of all these kids are to be commended, too,'' he said. ''They put out a part of their lives to take their kids around to these tournaments.''

And all of the hard work and long hours have paid off.

Headley, the reigning Golf Coach of the Year as selected by the West Virginia Coaches Association, can recite verbatim most of the accolades achieved by his players during the past few months.

It's a long list, but one Headley is much-obliged to detail.

Most of the sensational numbers belong to Thadd Obecny II. Now a junior, Obecny is considered a favorite to claim his third straight West Virginia Class AAA individual crown when the state tourney returns to Oglebay in October. No player has won four straight.

''He's always trying to get better with putting, his short game and ball striking,'' Headley said. ''He's played in West Virginia, Florida, North Carolina ... all over the place.''

Obecny has been a regular participant on the American Junior Golf Association tour. Recently, he finished tied for eighth (a three-day total of 5-under-par) the Golf Pride Junior Classic in Southern Pines, N.C.

Also this season, he tied for fifth at the Under Armour/Vicky Hurst Championship and, in May captured the West Virginia Golf Association's Junior Match Play Championship at Parkersburg Country Club.

Obecny, like many of his Park teammates, has also competed in some Ohio Valley Golf Association tournaments.

Cole Hand, a sophomore, was second last fall at the state tournament, right behind Obecny.

Monday, Hand will take part in a West Virginia Amateur Championship qualifier in Parkersburg, Then, Wednesday, he'll play in the Top Flite Junior Tour Championships at The Greenbrier before traveling to a Mid-Atlantic event in Blacksburg, Va. If he qualifiers for the Amateur, that takes place the following Monday.

''He's played in seven Top Flite events this summer,'' Headley said of Hand. ''He's also played in AJGA events in Kentucky and Ohio.''

Hand is second in Top Flite Boys' 14-15 Division.

Obecny and Hand will likely be No. 1 and No. 2 on the Park roster when the season begins. The next two spots are being contested by senior Scott Hand and freshman Dylan Wojcik.

Hand, older brother of Cole, has also participated in numerous Top Flite events, along with some local events. He will be the lone senior on the varsity roster.

''The team is really going to look for his leadership and for him to be consistent,'' Headley said.

Wojcik leads the Boys' 13-14 Division in Top Flite by 20 points. He's competed in 10 events and will also be competing in the championships at The Greenbrier. He'll also compete in Monday's Amateur qualifier.

Two other freshmen who could play pivotal roles for the Patriots include Hunter Bryan and Elizabeth Douglas.

Headley and his staff also worked with the younger players during three recent three-week coaching period.

''The freshmen will play an important role on the varsity team,'' he said.

On paper, Park's chances of three-peating in October after posting back-to-back runner-up finishes in 2008 and 2009 looks promising.

''We're hoping,'' Headley said. ''The name of the game is consistency with our lower players.''

Park's season begins Aug. 6 with the prestigious Pete Dye event at Bridgeport Country Club. The Patriots' rigorous schedule will also take them to Columbus twice and Cincinnati once for major tournaments involving some of Ohio's top teams.

''Playing at the Pete Dye right out of the box is wonderful,'' Headley said. ''It's a great golf course. We actually played a match there last year. It's a great place to play.''

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