Big Blue boys earn second straight district berth on links

Reid Ruhl of Hamilton hits a drive during the Division I sectional boys golf tournament at Miami Whitewater Golf Course on Wednesday. GREG LYNCH/STAFF
Reid Ruhl of Hamilton hits a drive during the Division I sectional boys golf tournament at Miami Whitewater Golf Course on Wednesday. GREG LYNCH/STAFF

Credit: Greg Lynch

Credit: Greg Lynch

The season will continue for Hamilton High School’s boys golf team.

Big Blue finished fourth in the Division I Cincinnati West sectional tournament Wednesday at Miami Whitewater Golf Course, earning their second straight trip to the district event.

“It was something that we wanted to work for all year,” said junior Trace Thomas, who paced HHS with a 6-over-par 39-38—77. “We were looking forward to having a round where we all played good on the same day, and we did that for the most part today.”

Senior Reid Ruhl (39-40—79) and junior Eric Roberts (43-36—79) were next for Hamilton, with senior Matt Miller (44-42—86) also adding to the final total.

Big Blue’s top four finishers were all part of a fourth-place sectional unit last year under coach Justin Beck.

“It just feels great to go back to back,” Ruhl said. “It’s been a team effort all year. All the guys bought in, and Coach Beck bought in on us. He’s changing the program around. It’s awesome.”

HHS struggled at last year’s district tournament. Beck is looking for a better showing next Thursday at Beavercreek Golf Club.

“I think this team is way more prepared than last year’s group just because it was a new experience for them,” Beck said. “This year, it’s not an unusual feeling. More importantly, I think there’s a confidence about them now. There’s a lot of good teams at districts. It’s going to take a special day for anybody to get out of there, but I’m excited for the opportunity.

“I couldn’t be more pumped. Two years in a row as a team (at districts), three years having representation there … this senior class has done everything for us and kind of laid the foundation for what Hamilton golf’s all about.”

St. Xavier (298), Elder (313) and La Salle (316) were also district qualifiers, with Big Blue taking the last spot with a 321 total. St. X senior Zachary Pavlin was the individual medalist with a 38-34—72.

Individuals snagging district berths were Oak Hills seniors Ethan McCarthy (37-38—75) and Bryce Sauer (38-39—77), along with a pair of Talawanda golfers — senior Charlie Winkler (40-38—78) and junior Vincent Whitehead (38-40—78).

It will be the second consecutive district appearance for Winkler.

“I’m thrilled,” he said. “I started off a little slow, but then I came back in the second nine, and I’m really happy about that. I hit some good iron shots. Mentally, I told myself to stay in it and know that I could make it to districts because I’ve done it before.”

Whitehead is a first-time district qualifier.

“It was up and down,” he said of his round. “I started pretty solid on the front, and things started swinging a lot on the back. I made two doubles and a birdie. I was just trying to keep it together.

“I did know that the opportunity to go to district was on the line, and I knew that I was going to be nervous. I didn’t want to give it more than it deserved. I just told myself to play my game and keep strong to the finish.”

Junior Ben Gunderson was seventh-place Talawanda’s fifth man with a 44-46—90, but he provided the shot of the day. Gunderson aced the 15th hole, a 240-yard par 3, with a 6-iron.

“I saw the coaches with their hands up,” Gunderson said. “I thought it went in the woods, but once I got there, it was in the hole. It was pretty surreal. I really didn’t know what to feel. It was pretty crazy.”

Hamilton’s team score was two strokes better than Greater Miami Conference rival Oak Hills for the final district berth.

“We had a great front side,” Beck said. “We made the turn in second place and just maintained throughout the back nine.”

Thomas tied for sixth place in the overall individual standings. He dealt with some early nerves before settling down.

“For the most part, it was just fun,” Thomas said. “I mean, it’s the state tournament, so you’ve got to enjoy yourself.”

Fairfield finished 10th and was paced by sophomore Adam Leugers (39-40—79). Junior Mitchell Riley (44-48—92) led 12th-place Ross.

Team Standings

Top Four Advance To District

1. St. Xavier 298; 2. Elder 313; 3. La Salle 316; 4. Hamilton 321; 5. Oak Hills 323; 6. Colerain 332; 7. Talawanda 332; 8. Harrison 332; 9. Walnut Hills 336; 10. Fairfield 339; 11. Princeton 355; 12. Ross 383; 13. Northwest 394

Individual District Qualifiers

Ethan McCarthy, Oak Hills, 75; Bryce Sauer, Oak Hills, 77; Vincent Whitehead, Talawanda, 78; Charlie Winkler, Talawanda, 78

Area Teams

Hamilton: Trace Thomas 39-38—77; Eric Roberts 43-36—79; Reid Ruhl 39-40—79; Matt Miller 44-42—86; Nathan Sweetland 46-45—91

Talawanda: Vincent Whitehead 38-40—78; Charlie Winkler 40-38—78; Trey Hubbard 44-43—87; Tyler Begley 44-45—89; Ben Gunderson 44-46—90

Fairfield: Adam Leugers 39-40—79; Mason Hamilton 43-39—82; Luke McFarland 43-46—89; Nathan Viverette 46-43—89; Matthew Lewis 50-46—96

Ross: Mitchell Riley 44-48—92; Cooper Shields 47-48—95; Jacob Halm 51-46—97; Tyler Stenger 49-50—99; Brett Hannon 50-54—104