Years from now, the freshman season for Marriotts Ridge's Bennett Buch will be remembered for the finish.
The last tournament of the high school season, the state championships at the University of Maryland in late November, was the official coming out party for one of the area's brightest young stars. Buch's two-day total of 138 (four-under par) not only made him the first freshman from Howard County to ever win the title, but also set a new state record.
Yet if you ask Buch, the defining moment of his first year of high school golf actually came several weeks earlier during a practice round. It was at the Timbers at Troy golf course, as Buch prepared for the county championship tournament, that he says things clicked.
"I went out there and shot a 69, but more important than that was that something clicked in my swing that took the entire left side out of play," Buch said. "I started hitting the ball solid and when I missed I knew exactly where it was going to go.
"I was suddenly a lot more confident."
That confidence translated in to a second-place finish at the county tournament and the first victory of his high school career a week later at the District V championship. Then, on the state's biggest stage, Buch delivered a memorable two-day performance that put both himself and the Marriotts Ridge team in the winner's circle.
It was because of that fantastic finish to the year that Buch has been named the Columbia Flier/Howard County Times Boys Golfer of the Year.
"As the season went on leading up to districts and states, we realized more and more that Bennett was that missing piece for us," Marriotts Ridge coach Mark Dubbs said. "He's just so good and such a solid kid. He kept getting better and better with each passing week."
An established player on the junior circuit, Buch came into the year with high expectations and, although he wasn't dominant during the regular season, he certainly was a key cog for a Mustang team that finished 9-2.
Under the modified Stableford scoring system, which awards four points for a birdie, three for a par, two for a bogey and one for a double bogey, Buch scored 23 points or better in five of his six nine-hole matches. He went for a season-high 26 points on two different occasions and finished with an average of 24.2.
But, as he proved during the postseason, he was still just scratching the surface of his potential.
At the county championship tournament, Buch fired a three-over-par round of 51 points at the Timbers at Troy to finish alone in second place.
Then, playing stroke play at Districts, Buch came from behind on the back nine at Fairway Hills to get himself into a playoff at two-over-par (72). He cemented his spot in the playoff by making a birdie on his final hole, one of the biggest pressure moments in his career up until that point.
"I proved something to myself right there knowing that I needed a birdie and being able to come out and do it under pressure," said Buch, who ended up going on to win the tournament on the second extra hole over good friend Steven Segrist of Glenelg.
At states, Buch fired an opening-round 68 (3-under-par) to put himself two shots back of the lead and in position for a final-round surge. And, using a quick start and a fantastic finish on day two, he ended up making history.
By tapping in for par on the 18th hole, Buch secured himself a final round 70 (1-under-par), a one stroke victory and the lowest two-day total (138) in Maryland state tournament history.
"It took a little while to sink in, but once I finally got away from the season and wasn't playing golf every day, it hit me how big of an accomplishment it really is," Buch said.
Named to the all-county first team:
Michael Dorsch, Marriotts Ridge. For a Marriotts Ridge program that broke through for its first state team championship this fall, Dorsch was a key contributor from day one. A junior that was a regular on last year's squad, he came out and shot 21 points or better in every regular season match. His highlights included a team-high 25 points in a one-point loss to county-champion Wilde Lake and a career-high 29 points in a victory over Long Reach at the Timbers at Troy.
In the postseason, he placed in a tie for 12th at the county championship with 43 points, followed by a tie for seventh (78) at districts and a tie for 28th at states (156 total). He was Marriotts Ridge's second-best male finisher at the state championships.