The road ahead may be difficult, but Fairfield High School boys golf coach Nick Gray isn’t conceding anything.
His Indians earned a third-place finish in the Division I sectional tournament Wednesday at Miami Whitewater Golf Course, which means they’re headed for next week’s district event.
Can Fairfield advance another level to state?
“I’ve told everybody I’ve talked to all year — and I still think it’s the case — that we have not had a day where all of our guys have played to the best of their ability,” Gray said. “So if we can get four or all five guys clicking, we’ll see. I don’t think anything’s out of the realm of possibility.”
Sophomore Mason Hamilton took the lead role for the Indians in the sectional, shooting a 4-over-par 39-36—75 to finish tied for fourth place in the individual standings.
Hamilton said he struggled off the tee, but made up for it in other areas.
“A lot of good short-game things. I got up and down quite a bit,” Hamilton said. “I didn’t place myself where I should (on tee shots) … I could’ve scored better. But overall, not a bad performance.”
St. Xavier (300), Elder (307), Fairfield (324) and Hamilton (338) took the top four team positions and will compete at next Thursday’s district tournament at Glenview Golf Course.
Talawanda senior Vincent Whitehead and Monroe sophomore Alex Gomia garnered district berths as individuals.
“It’s an absolutely incredible feeling for our guys to accomplish their goal,” said Hamilton coach Justin Beck, whose team is headed to district for the third straight year. “All year long we were kind of set on making it out of sectionals again, and I think a lot of people probably discounted our chances to make it. But this group had a belief that we could make it, and they came out today and did it.”
Seniors Trace Thomas (41-38—79) and Eric Roberts (40-40—80) paced Big Blue, while juniors Gabe Stephens (47-41—88) and Daniel DeJesus (47-44—91) also scored.
“We lost a lot of guys last year, so it’s great to prove ourselves this year,” Roberts said. “We were expecting to get the fourth spot, even though we knew it was going to be a dogfight. The greens were playing a little tough. I couldn’t get any putts to fall today, and I think a lot of our guys had the same problem.”
HHS started out with a 163 on the back nine before totaling 175 on the front.
“We faced a little bit of adversity on the last nine, but we got through it,” Beck said. “This was our best 18-hole tournament of the season. We increased our tournament schedule this year, and part of that was to prepare for the 18-hole experience.
“I’d like to think this is the best district in Ohio. You’ve got some really high-caliber programs in the Southwest District. We’re going to prepare and do the best we can next week.”
Fairfield showed some consistency with nobody higher than 86. Seniors Matthew Lewis (42-40—82) and Luke McFarland (40-43—83) were in the scoring, as was sophomore Chandler Kellum (43-41—84).
Gray praised St. X and Elder and said third place was “right where we should be.”
“We played pretty well today,” he said. “It was actually kind of a weird start for us. Our 1 and 2 guys started off real well and 3 through 5 kind of struggled. Then about five holes in, the tables turned.”
The Indians played in the Best of the West Invitational at Miami Whitewater last Saturday. Hamilton’s individual score was an 86, so he was eager to get back to the course and raise his game in the sectional.
“I’m not going to make any excuses,” Hamilton said of his weekend performance. “My head was right today, and I just played my own game.”
Talawanda’s Whitehead is returning to district after barely missing a trip to state last year. He described Wednesday’s round as “an interesting one.”
“I was putting great all day, but I couldn’t get any birdie putts to fall,” Whitehead said. “If I had to make a par save or a bogey save, those putts were dead center. But whenever I had a birdie putt, it always seemed to burn the edge. I had about a 10-footer on the last hole to make it to state last year, and that one burned the edge too. I guess there’s a trend there.”
He double-bogeyed the 18th hole after an errant tee shot, yet still finished as the No. 2 individual district qualifier behind La Salle’s Matt Witzgall (43-35—78).
“That was a bit of a hiccup at the end, but I’m proud of myself for holding it together,” Whitehead said. “I’m playing by far better this year than last year, so I’m really confident going to district, and I love the golf course that we’re going to be playing.”
Monroe’s Gomia shot a 37-46—83 and tied with Princeton’s Grant Lohmeier (44-39—83) for the last district-qualifying spot, so they had to have a playoff. Gomia carded a bogey-5 on hole No. 1, and Lohmeier had a 6.
A crowd developed for the playoff. That only added to the pressure.
“I shut my mind and just closed my eyes and swung. I was just hoping it went straight,” Gomia said. “It felt pretty good when it was over. I could finally breathe.”
He was 5-over-par on the last three holes before squaring off with Lohmeier. Both players caught a break when another golfer in the field had an 81 on the board, but was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.
“I had a rough finish,” Gomia said. “I shouldn’t have been in the playoff. I got lucky.”
Monroe was eighth in the team standings, while Talawanda placed 10th and Ross 13th. The Rams were led by sophomore Logan Hollander (46-45—91).
Top Four Advance To District
1. St. Xavier 300; 2. Elder 307; 3. Fairfield 324; 4. Hamilton 338; 5. Harrison 349; 6. La Salle 350; 7. Oak Hills 351; 8. Monroe 362; 9. Princeton 363; 10. Talawanda 367; 11. Colerain 369; 12. Walnut Hills 371; 13. Ross 378; 14. Northwest 456
Top Five Individuals
1. (tied) Jack Baker (Elder) 37-36—73; Cameron Frazier (St. Xavier) 36-37—73; 3. Lucas Palicki (Elder) 37-37—74; 4. (tied) Mason Hamilton (Fairfield) 39-36—75; Oscar Zimmerman (St. Xavier) 38-37—75
Individual District Qualifiers
9. (tie) Matt Witzgall (La Salle) 43-35—78; 11. (tied) Vincent Whitehead (Talawanda) 38-41—79; 14. Allen Nienaber (Oak Hills) 41-40—81; 17. (tied) Alex Gomia (Monroe) 37-46—83
Note: Gomia won a one-hole playoff with Princeton’s Grant Lohmeier for the final district berth
Local Team Results
Fairfield: Mason Hamilton 39-36—75; Matthew Lewis 42-40—82; Luke McFarland 40-43—83; Chandler Kellum 43-41—84; Logan Murphy 43-43—86
Hamilton: Trace Thomas 41-38—79; Eric Roberts 40-40—80; Gabe Stephens 47-41—88; Daniel DeJesus 47-44—91; Braden Hubbard 47-46—93
Monroe: Alex Gomia 37-46—83; Devon Manning 47-41—88; Brayden Green 51-44—95; Jacob Watkins 45-51—96; Kevin Kepner 57-46—103
Talawanda: Vincent Whitehead 38-41—79; Trey Hubbard 46-47—93; Nick Vandenberg 52-45—97; Dylan Slager 50-48—98; Charlie Faler DQ
Ross: Logan Hollander 46-45—91; Adam Bosse 50-45—95; Ben Hannon 49-47—96; Tyler Stenger 48-48—96; Cole Gronas 50-50—100