For having just tied the best 18-hole score among 12 teams in the two-day Division I state tournament, Pickerington High School North boys golfers spent much of the late afternoon of Oct. 19 studying the leaderboard as if they were in calculus class.
No matter how many times they went over the numbers at Ohio State's Scarlet Course, the Panthers knew they had fallen short of unseating Dublin Jerome, which won its third consecutive state title. In its first state appearance as a team, North shot 328 in the first round Oct. 18 and 318 the next day to tie Cincinnati St. Xavier's first-round performance for the best 18-hole score of the weekend, finishing with a 646 that left the Panthers five shots shy of the Celtics.
"(On Oct. 18) we talked about decision-making and we did a much, much better job (Oct. 19) of that and contending with the elements," coach Casey Milligan said, referring to intermittent rain and wind chills that dipped into the low 40s by the end of the tournament.
"This is not a course you can go out and try to beat. You have to play the course. We did a great job of strategically playing holes and staying with a game plan. I told them to play smart and aggressive, and they did."
Sophomore Nick Montes' two rounds of 77 left him at 154, one shot ahead of senior teammate Scot Sapp. Both earned first-team all-state, and despite the team's runner-up finish were flashing wide smiles by the time North was presented its team trophy and all-state honors were announced.
"I gave it all I had. I knew it was the last round I'd ever play (in high school)," Sapp said. "I thought it was going to start snowing there on the back nine, but I just battled and gave it all I had. We knew we had a chance to win it."
Senior Alex Weiss shot a 169 and classmates Zack Goodchild (173) and Andrew Ruehle (180) also competed for the Panthers, who had been fourth after the first day.
Montes' weekend was highlighted by a 35-foot putt for birdie on No. 13.
"We fought back (as a team). We did all we could, really," Montes said.
"Finally being here was pretty cool. I guess we expected we'd be closer to winning. But it's pretty nice to be here."
North cruised to its eighth consecutive OCC-Ohio Division championship, the past five of which it went undefeated. The Panthers were 24-0 in league play, ahead of Gahanna (18-6), Grove City (17-7), Lancaster (12-12), Pickerington Central (9-15), Reynoldsburg (4-20) and Newark (0-24).
In the Turnberry sectional tournament Oct. 1, Sapp shot a 72 to share medalist honors and the Panthers carded 299 as a team to finish 10 shots ahead of runner-up Hilliard Davidson.
Montes' round of 72, Sapp's 74 and Weiss' 75 carried North to second (305) at district Oct. 8 at Apple Valley behind Jerome (299).
"We did have a great year," Sapp said. "(You) can't go wrong with second in the state."