Golf: Knights, Dons Are Crowned

WHEELING – There was a generous amount of smack talk being bantered back and forth on the No. 10 tee box Tuesday at the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference 1A and 2A golf tournament on the Crispin Course at Oglebay Park.

Gentleman’s game?

The tournament was by then all but decided.

Wheeling Central and Madonna had already easily, and as expected, wrapped up team titles.

There was one thing left to decide. The 2A medalist title.

The combatants were not in the mood for any polite talk. So the barbs ripped.

It was not an affront to the unwritten rules of golf. The two duffers are best friends.

As the final scores were being tabulated, Justin Leonard and Thomas Stanley waged a mano-a-mano duel for the coveted medalist plaque.

“I told him, ‘I hope you duff this chip,’ ” Stanley said, grinning.

“Secretly, I was hoping he would hit a bad shot,” Leonard shot back.

Aloud, Stanley was hoping for a little tightness in the backside during his teammate’s shot.

As it turned out, the aptly named Leonard won the hole, with a birdie, which was just fine by Stanley.

“Losing to my teammate and best friend on the team is OK,” Stanley said. “If it had been someone on another team I probably would end up leaving a little bit mad. I’m glad it was him. And he earned it with a birdie. I had a par.”

“I was a little nervous, but if I lost, and it was (Stanley) I lost to to, it would have been OK,” Leonard said. “We both had great rounds. And we won the team trophy. That was the important thing.”

Indeed, Central did win the 2A team title. With relative ease.

Leonard and Stanley had 73s while teammates John Haley and Sean McFarland had a 74. They were the top four All-OVAC 2A finalists. Bridgeport’s Zack Herink and Shadyside’s Jake Gregan had 79s and were also named t o the All-OVAC team.

“We’re a senior-led team and that was the two seniors in the (medalist) playoff,” coach Ed City said. “It was up to the kids to do th work and they did that. When you have two 73s and two 74s, that shows they were focused. I’m proud of them. They swing the clubs, they make the shots.”

Another team swinging the clubs was Madonna, which won its fifth straight OVAC 1A golf title.

Michael Rogers had his best round at Crispin, with a 70, to earn 1A medalist.

“It means a lot because I lost (the medalist title) to my teammate last year (Nick Mazur),” Rogers said. “To win it my senior year is special.”

Rogers’ finish was hotter than the blazing sun, which shot temperatures into the 90s. It did not affect Rogers, whose score settled at 70 when he birdied his final three holes.

He needed it to hold off Bishop Donahue’s Stephen Gretchen, who carded a 71.

Rogers was joined on the All-OVAC 1A team by Gretchen, teammates Thomas Gianni (72), Mazur (73), Beallsville’s John Deitrich (73) and Conotton Valley’s Brandon Busby (74).

“I’m not sure he knew he needed those final three birdies, but I did tell him it was close,” Madonna coach T.J. Brancazio said. “Coming in, I knew it was going to be close. That’s his second straight 70, so he is playing his best golf right now.”

So is Madonna, which made collected that fifth straight trophy.

“I’m very proud of these kids,” Brancazio said. “With these guys I never know who is going to shoot the low round. This is our conference title so there is always a high priority placed on it. The other teams are getting better. There were a lot of nice rounds by some other No. 1s today. We’re happy to be able to win it again.”

The Blue Dons did it with relative ease. Again. Of the schools fielding complete teams, Conotton Valley was the closest to Madonna is 1A with a 348, 56 strokes behind the winners.

“I had a feeling that I was going to have a good round,” Rogers said. “I felt good on the range and it followed me on the course. I’ve never played Crispin this well so I’m happy.”