North earns first state appearance
The Pickerington High School North boys golf team will be making its first trip to the state tournament following its runner-up finish in the Division I district tournament Oct. 8 at Apple Valley.
Dublin Jerome shot a 299 to win the district title ahead of North (305) and New Albany (308), as the top three teams and top three individuals from non-qualifying teams advanced to state Friday, Oct. 18, and Saturday, Oct. 19, at Ohio State's Scarlet Course.
The Panthers were the district's top seed for the second consecutive season. Jerome was the second seed, with Dublin Coffman third, New Albany fourth, Upper Arlington fifth and St. Charles sixth.
"It comes down to how our No. 4 and No. 5 guys do and they both had 84s, which was good enough to get out this year," North coach Casey Milligan said. "Our top three guys played lights out."
Sophomore Nick Montes led the Panthers with a 72, followed by senior Scot Sapp (74), senior Alex Weiss (75), senior Zack Goodchild (84) and senior Andrew Ruehle (84).
Individual state qualifiers were Delaware sophomore Grant Godfrey (73), St. Charles junior Eddie O'Brien (73) and Dublin Coffman senior Nick Sparling (74), who won a two-hole playoff over Granville senior Nick Contini.
Sparling won the individual state championship last season.
At district, depth was an important ingredient for Jerome, and it might play a big part if the Celtics win a third consecutive state title.
"Anytime you shoot below 300 on a course like (Apple Valley) and throw away a 78 (as a high score), you have to be happy," Jerome coach Craig Zesiger said.
Junior J.D. Fletcher led the Celtics with a 70, followed by senior Brady Bohl (76), sophomore Grant Lewis (76), freshman Jack Herceg (77) and sophomore Adam Stephens (78).
Coffman ended up fourth (312) in the 12-team district tournament, with St. Charles fifth (314) and UA sixth (315).
Thanks in part to senior Avery Schneider's district-medalist score of 68, New Albany qualified as a team for the second consecutive year.
Senior Jackson Kallner was next for the Eagles with a 77, followed by junior Austin McNutt (81), senior Jackson Moss (82) and junior Matt Wininger (86).
Last year at state, Jerome won with a 630, one stroke better than Centerville. Coffman was third (641) and New Albany fourth (644) in the 12-team tournament.
Central Ohio schools have won eight of the past nine Division I state titles. Cincinnati St. Xavier won in 2008, with Jerome finishing two strokes back.
Jerome won in 2012, 2011, 2007 and 2005, St. Charles won in 2010 and 2009, UA won in 2006 and Watterson won in 2004.
"It's a meat-grinder just to get out of this district," Milligan said. "They could take a couple of more teams out of (Apple Valley) and they would have a chance to win (at state). (Pickerington North) has been on the other side looking in, (so) it feels great to finally get there as a team. These guys deserve it."
Central's Howell ends year at district
Rodney Howell of Pickerington Central shot an 88 at district, falling short of advancing to state.
Howell, the Tigers' only senior, qualified for district by shooting a 74 in the Turnberry sectional Oct. 1. He tied for third overall with Westerville North's Ryan Pannell, as the top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced.
Central finished ninth (335) at sectional behind champion Pickerington North (299).
Howell was Central's first district qualifier since Shane Eltzroth in 2011.
The Tigers expect to return juniors Matt Katona, Nate Meek and Andrew Sikorski and sophomore Daniel Dembski from their top five. Howell averaged 81 per 18 holes, followed by Meek (84.8), Katona (88.6), Sikorski (88.8) and Dembski (90.9).
Central was 81-87 overall and finished 9-15 in the OCC-Ohio, behind North (24-0), Gahanna (18-6), Grove City (17-7) and Lancaster (12-12) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (4-20) and Newark (0-24).