Boys Golf: Pickerington Central looking to sustain strong start

DAVE PURPURA
dpurpura@thisweeknews.com
Senior Blake Bennett is among the top players returning for the Central boys golf team, which captured the title in the season-opening Pickerington Central Invitational on Aug. 5 at Turnberry.

The Pickerington Central boys golf team found a quiet space off to the side, away from the traffic in the parking lot Aug. 5 at Turnberry, before celebrating a long-awaited achievement.

Not only did coach Chris Cores present his team with the championship trophy of the season-opening Pickerington Central Invitational for the first time since the district split in 2003, but the Tigers earned the hardware in memorable fashion.

Junior Cole Crandall's round of 72 led Central to a team score of 298, one shot off the school record, and the Tigers finished two shots ahead of runner-up Olentangy Berlin in the 20-team field. Junior Carter Woodward shot a 74, ahead of seniors Blake Bennett (75) and Jaden Thompson (77).

"The message to them the whole time was how fortunate and lucky we are to be able to compete. I know a lot of teams don't have that luxury right now," said Cores, referring to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. "I was feeling really good about this. I didn't know we'd play quite this well. This is super cool. It's awesome to give yourself the trophy."

However, Cores, who is in his 16th season, was quick to tell his team that not only had it begun the season with a win, but it had set a standard.

The entire lineup returned from last year's OCC-Ohio Division championship team, the program's first since 2001, and the Tigers began their stint in the OCC-Buckeye with a strong performance in the first round of the four-round league tournament Aug. 6 at Apple Valley.

Crandall shot a 74 to lead Central to a team score of 311 and first place ahead of Rey-noldsburg (344), Lancaster (359), Newark (408) and Central Crossing (428). Groveport did not have a team score.

Also scoring for the Tigers were Thompson (75), Bennett (78) and Woodward (84).

The second round of the league tournament was Aug. 12 at Denison Golf Club.

Central's depth to start the year was partly illustrated by the fact that senior Aidan Allen, who came up short of a district berth last year in a playoff, played on the B team Aug. 5. He was edged out for the fifth spot by senior Jonathan Fries.

Sophomore Nick Moore also is expected to challenge for a spot in the top five.

"Aidan and Nick are both still in the fold," Cores said. "They'll battle to get into the top five. There very well could be movement because it is so competitive. I expect it to be that way throughout. I expect our top four scorers (to start the season) not to fluctuate much but there's definitely a chance for a lot of competition for the fifth spot. Those top four guys will be our horses."

Cores said the end of last season also serves as motivation. The Tigers finished sixth at sectional, two spots shy of a district berth, on their home course.

"We did not like the way we ended last season here. To come out at the start and shoot the score that we shot makes us super excited for the season," he said. "I know the guys are super excited."

Bellish back to lead inexperienced North

Division I state qualifier and defending district champion Carson Bellish returns to lead North, although a back injury forced him to withdraw from the Pickerington Central Invitational.

Bellish, a junior, shot a 65 during the first round of tryouts Aug. 1 at Turnberry. He shot a 70 at district last year and advanced to state as medalist from a three-player playoff, then shot two rounds of 80 in his first appearance at state to place 27th out of 72 golfers.

In Bellish's absence Aug. 5, the Panthers got rounds of 75 from junior Ethan Schwartz and 79 from sophomore Tyler Brockwell to finish seventh (330).

Juniors Haydn Hunt (87) and Ryan Schneider (89) rounded out the top five to begin the season.

"We have a lot of new kids to varsity. There are nerves. The game will slow down," sixth-year coach Steve Schill said.

"We're young. It's always different when you have seniors. It's always a different feel. Even though Carson is a junior and has competed at a high level, I don't know what it is but it's a whole new level of maturity and taking care of things (with seniors). We just feel so young. Hopefully the competition, where we play and who will play, will drive them to grow up fast."

Bellish shot a 73 in the first round of the OCC-Ohio tournament Aug. 6 at Darby Creek, leading North to a team score of 332 and fifth place behind Grove City (302), Westerville Central (311), New Albany (319) and Gahanna (325). Westland had no team score.

Also scoring were Brockwell (81), Schwartz (83) and Hunt (95).

The second round was Aug. 12 at Apple Valley.

The Panthers are seeking their first league title since winning the last of 12 in a row in 2016.

Among the competition in the new-look OCC-Ohio are Gahanna and New Albany, which has won the OCC-Capital each of the past nine years.

Grove City was OCC-Ohio runner-up last year, and Westerville Central finished third in the OCC-Buckeye.

"There are five teams that on any given day can step up and beat anybody else," Schill said. "Every team has really good players but I think the depth will come into play as to who is able to come out on top."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

At a glance

CENTRAL

*Coach: Chris Cores, 16th season

*Top players: Aidan Allen, Blake Bennett, Cole Crandall, Jaden Thompson and Carter Woodward

*Key losses: None

*2019 OCC-Ohio standings: Pickerington Central (16-4), Grove City (14-6), Gahanna and Pickerington North (13-7), Lancaster (4-16), Reynoldsburg (0-20)

*2019 postseason: Sixth at sectional

NORTH

*Coach: Steve Schill, sixth season

*Top players: Carson Bellish, Tyler Brockwell, Hadyn Hunt, Ryan Schneider and Ethan Schwartz

*Key losses: Tomasz Douangsy, Elijah Hale and Colin Mulligan

*2019 postseason: First at sectional, third at district