Teams turning focus to sectional
At the start of the season, Hilliard Davidson High School boys golf coach Monte Rhoden wasn't sure if his team would develop into a legitimate contender for the Division I district tournament.
Having watched his team gradually improve over the past six weeks, he now is cautiously optimistic heading into the sectional Tuesday, Oct. 2, at Darby Creek.
The top four teams and top four individuals not on a qualifying team advance to district Oct. 9 at Apple Valley.
Davidson is seeded 10th in the district and will be the fourth-highest seed competing at Darby Creek, behind Dublin Coffman (fifth), Olentangy Liberty (sixth) and Lancaster (eighth). Also competing at the sectional site are Westerville North (11th), Marysville (16th), Big Walnut (17th), Bradley (23rd), Buckeye Valley (24th), Pickerington Central (28th), Darby (29th), Worthington Kilbourne (30th), Westland (37th) and Franklin Heights (40th).
Last year, Davidson placed second (317) in the Darby Creek sectional behind Coffman (296), as senior Cameron Hunt shot an 83.
"In my (23) years coaching, this is the least amount of experience one of my teams has returned, and we started the season shooting scores in the 340s," Rhoden said. "But the kids kept improving and, as of late, we've been shooting in the low 320s and high teens. If we can keep that up, I think we have a good chance to qualify out of our sectional.
"But it won't be easy. Dublin Coffman and Liberty are very strong and Lancaster, Westerville North, Big Walnut and Bradley can put up real good scores on any given day."
Davidson shot a 346 to finish fourth in the fourth round of the OCC-Central Division tournament Sept. 19 at The Players Club at Foxfire behind champion Upper Arlington (309).
Jacob Newtown led the Wildcats with an 81, followed by Nick Schad (89), Josh Stimmel (91), Matt Riffle (88) and Andy Munson (88).
Davidson finished fifth in the final OCC-Central standings at 12-16, behind UA (27-1), Coffman (24-4), Liberty (21-7) and Thomas Worthington (13-15) and ahead of Marysville (11-17), Central Crossing (4-24) and Westland (0-28).
Newton was third-team all-league with an 82-stroke average and Hunt was honorable mention all-league with an 80 average. Hunt was not eligible for higher league honors because he did not compete in the final round.
"We haven't been lower than third in the OCC in a number of years, but we were sixth in the first two OCC tournaments so we just did our best to move up from there," Rhoden said. "We've had six or seven of our kids be our (team) medalist this year, and if we can get them all connected on the same day, we could shoot a very low score."
Darby boys looking to fare well at sectional
Darby boys coach Brent Bower is optimistic that his team will fare better than it is seeded in the sectional at Darby Creek, as senior Joo Lee has returned to the lineup after missing a significant portion of the regular season while competing in U.S. Junior Golf Association events.
Last year, the Panthers finished sixth (347) in the sectional at The Players Club at Foxfire behind champion Dublin Jerome (300), but Lee shot a 78 to qualify for district as an individual.
At district, Lee shot a 75 to tie Dresden Tri-Valley's Austin Beyers, Lancaster's Trevor Cohen and Granville's Nick Contini for the third and final individual state-qualifying spot. Cohen earned the spot on the second playoff hole.
"Even without Joo, we were becoming a better team and shooting more consistent scores, but when Joo plays with us, it makes us a much stronger team," Bower said.
The Panthers shot a 329 to finish fourth in the fourth round of the OCC-Cardinal tournament Sept. 19 at Darby Creek behind Jerome (285), Westerville North (324) and Westerville Central (328) and ahead of Bradley (332), Westerville South (342), Kilbourne (352) and Dublin Scioto (359).
Lee led the Panthers with a 75, followed by Jimmy Booker (84), Ethan West (85), Alex Herman (85) and Sean Delaney (89).
The Panthers finished sixth in the final OCC-Cardinal standings at 9-19, behind Jerome (28-0), North (23-5), Central (21-7), Bradley (14-14) and South (12-16) and ahead of Kilbourne (4-24) and Scioto (1-27).
Booker made third-team all-league with an 87 average and West was honorable mention all-league with an 87.5 average. Bradley's Noah Fernandez (85.8) was third-team all-league and the Jaguars' Damon Birkhead (88.5) was honorable mention all-league.
"Joo Lee only got to play in one round of the OCC tournament and he made a big difference in where we finished and helped us move up the OCC standings on the last day," Bower said. "All of our guys played well."
Bradley girls looking to qualify for district
The Bradley girls team finished second in the final OCC-Capital standings at 17-7, behind Coffman (24-0) and ahead of Marysville (16-8), Kilbourne (12-12), Westerville Central (11-13), Westerville South (4-20) and Westerville North (0-24).
Jillian Bell was first-team all-league with an 81.3 average and Zoe Banagg was second-team all-league with an 89.5 average. Also competing in the league tournament were Caitlin Silva (98 average), Olivia Headlee (98), Alyssa Parkin (99) and Brooke Boring (107.5).
"I think we did about as well as we could do in the OCC tournaments this year," coach Doug Grieble said.
Seeded seventh, the Jaguars will compete in the Division I sectional tournament Tuesday, Oct. 2, at Oakhaven.
They will be joined at the site by top-seeded Jerome, Watterson (fourth), Olentangy Orange (12th), Olentangy (13th), New Albany (21st), Dresden Tri-Valley (23rd), Logan (26th), Pickerington Central (27th) and Westerville North (28th).
The top three teams and top three individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the district tournament Oct. 9 at Cooks Creek.
Last year, Bradley shot a 391 to finish fourth in the sectional at Oakhaven behind district-qualifiers Coffman (332), Gahanna (338) and Watterson (354).
Bell shot an 89 at sectional a year ago to advance to district, where she shot a 97.
"We need to stay focused and do our best to stay with Coffman and Watterson because they're two of the best teams in the state," Grieble said. "We'll need to play well to stay ahead of the Olentangy teams for a top-three spot because they're good and this is one of their top courses. If we keep our wits about us and shoot well, I think we could make it to district as a team for the first time."
In the OCC-Ohio tournament, Davidson finished 11-17 and Darby went 0-28 to place sixth and eighth, respectively.
Pickerington North (28-0) won the league title, with UA (24-4), Watkins Memorial (20-8), Thomas (13-15) and Gahanna (12-16) rounding out the top five. Lancaster (4-24) was seventh.
Davidson's Katie Lease made first-team all-league with an 81.3 average.