ST. MARYS — The Ridgway boys golf team has owned the District 9 Class AA Golf Championships in recent years, and Monday proved to be no different as the Elkers captured their fourth straight team crown at Bavarian Hills.
Things didn’t come quite as easy as they did a year ago when the Elkers completed a three-peat by beating Venango Catholic by 26 shots at the Pinecrest Country Club.
Monday’s title chase went right down to the wire, as Ridgway and Class AA newcomer Punxsutawney battled it out until the fourth and final score was signed off. The Chucks unofficially held a seven or eight stroke lead after the first nine holes.
But, the Elkers showed their championship pedigree and rallied to best the Chucks by four strokes, 350-354, as Punxsy game Ridgway all it could in its first year in AA after dropping back down from class AAA. Elk County Catholic (367) finished third.
No team title was awarded in Class AAA as none of the four teams — DuBois, Bradford, Clearfield or Somerset — met the team scoring average needed to compete in the postseason.
Somerset, the lone Class AAA in District 5, and its two golfers were forced to make the three hour-plus trek north to compete after being lumped in with District 9 by the PIAA for postseason play.
Ridgway seniors Ben Ames and Nick Simon fueled the Elkers’ run to a fourth consecutive title as they carded rounds of 80 and 84, respectively, to advance to Saturday’s final round in hopes of making it to regionals.
Ames enters Saturday as the leader in Class AA, while Simon finds himself in a three-way tie for third with Coudersport’s Chance Ramsey and Port Allegany’s Marcus Murphy. In between in second sits Elk County Catholic senior Jonah Meyer, who recorded an 83 Monday.
“District 9 did a great job of putting the team (competitors) in a row,” said Ridgway coach Eric Herzing. “We were all paired together, so it was easy for the kids to keep track. The wind was blowing, and a lot of kids were having a tough day out there, and it was close and came all the way down to our back nine.
“By my calculation after the front nine, we were losing by eight stroke, and everyone had too take that mental approach and say I have to make up two strokes, and they did. Golf is a hard game. You can play well and it came spiral, or you can being playing poorly and turn it around pretty quickly.
“What’s great about these four (guys), and the teams we’ve had before them, is when we get off the bus the first day of districts, they know its not for Ben Ames or for Josh Roselli (in past). Everybody the last four years has played for Ridgway golf, so when they found out (at turn) we weren’t in the lead, they said we need to do this for each other.
“It’s been tough for Nick (Simon) all year. He’s been struggling, but he came through (today). I think he improved his front nine by six strokes. It was a total team win, and the boys are pretty happy and I’m pretty happy for them.”
in Class AAA, DuBois saw both of its entrants finish in the Top 5 and move on to Saturday.
Senior Drew Canter put together a solid day given the conditions and carded an 85 to finish tied a top the leaderboard along with Bradford’s Hunter Fox. Fellow Beaver Senior Joe Hnat finished with an 89 and finds himself in fourth place going into Saturday.
“Drew had a rough stretch in the middle of the season, and he’s found success lately by limiting mistakes and showing good course management,” said DuBois coach Chris Taylor. “He’s got an even better round than today in him, and I’m looking forward to seeing if he can seize an opportunity on Saturday.
“Joe’s has had a low round at Bavarian Hills at their season-opening invitational the past two years, so I think 89 is an outlier for him. There is no reason he can’t put himself right back into contention if he plays his game in Saturday and gets a few breaks.”
Clearfield’s Alec Graham (88) and Somerset’s Jacob Vanlenten (92) finished third and fifth, respectively, Monday to collect the other two qualifying spots for Saturday.
Ames, Simon and Meyer will be joined in the Class AA final round Saturday by four other area golfers — DuBois Central Catholic’s Austen Cogley, St. Marys’ Ryan Bressler, Clarion’s Joshua Craig and ECC’s Gabe Kraus. All four reached the second day of districts for the first time in their careers.
Cogley fired an 87 to land in a tie for ninth, while Bressler finished tied for 11th with an 88. Craig (89) enters Saturday tied for 14th, while Kraus shot a 90 to end in a three-way tie for the 16th and final qualifying spot for Saturday.
Brookville senior Levi Roseman, a returning regional qualifier who placed sixth last year at districts, shot a 94 Monday and missed the second-day cut by four strokes.
A trio of golfers in the team competition — Ridgway’s Shilk (89), Punxsy’s Lucas Burkett (83) and ECC’s Ryan Newton (90) — all shot scores good enough to advance to Saturday, but thy weren’t eligible for individual play based on their season scoring average.
“Aaron Shilk (89) and the kid (Burkett) from Punxsy (83) shot scores good enough to make the cut, yet they will be at home Saturday which is a real shame,” said Herzing.
The top six individual finishers in Class AA Saturday, and the Top 2 in Class AAA, will advance to the PIAA West Regional to be played at Tom’s Run Golf Course in Blairsville on Monday, October 17.
Ridgway will compete against the District 10 Class AA team champ in the Western team subregional at Treasure Lake’s Gold Course on October 13. The winner of that subregional advances to states, something the Elkers just missed out on last year when they fell by one stroke to Saegertown.