Aaron Sorkin got himself into two championship tournament playoffs last season, and each time the Westminster High School standout had to settle for second place.
The Owls junior joked before this fall the biggest thing he needed to work on was winning playoffs. Perhaps Sorkin was only half kidding — he got another crack at winning the county tournament, in a playoff for the second time in as many tries. And this time, Saturday at Links at Gettysburg, his steady strategy paid off.
Sorkin tied with Winters Mill senior Brian Inglis at 7-over par 79 through 18 holes, then carded two pars to earn the individual county title before Inglis missed a par putt on the second extra hole (the par-4 11th).
Inglis did his part in leading Winters Mill to the Carroll County Athletic League team crown, however. The Falcons won the county tournament title by one stroke over Westminster, 331-332, and claimed their third championship in four seasons.
Winters Mill had 12 points heading into the tournament (two points for each official regular-season county win) and Westminster had 10, and with Saturday’s win the Falcons earned five more points thanks to order of finish. The Owls got four points for coming in second at the tournament, and totaled 14 for the county title chase.
A playoff was needed to determine first and third, with WM’s Emil Serafin and Westminster’s Cory Campbell each shooting 80. They joined Sorkin and Inglis on the par-4 10th tee for the first playoff hole, and Inglis went with a driver for his tee shot.
Inglis watched his drive miss the fairway far to the right, but the ball landed on a flat, clay surface beyond a dune covered in tall grass. Sorkin, safely in the fairway, felt good about his chances — only to watch Inglis land an iron shot about 25 feet from the hole.
(Kyle Walker, Manchester Valley coach and longtime county tournament director, said Inglis’ approach was one of the best golf shots he’s ever seen.)
The rivals each made par and moved onto the 11th hole. Again, Sorkin got close enough for a par. And when Inglis couldn’t drop a 5-foot putt to keep things going, Sorkin clinched the title.
“Just play par golf, that’s what my mentality is,” Sorkin said. “Throughout the whole season, throughout the whole year. ... Just keep it in play.”
Serafin earned third when he used driver on No. 11 and launched his tee shot about 300 yards, to within a short chip of the sloped green. An uphill 15-footer for birdie was pure, and the WM senior took bronze.
Ethan Wolbert, another senior, shot 82 to help the Falcons’ championship cause.
“It was nice to be county champs, but also it was nice to win this too,” said WM coach Kirk Kucharski. “The seniors, they’ve played a lot of golf. It’s not like they just fell into it, they’ve put a lot of time and effort into this.”
Winters Mill missed out a few weeks ago on qualifying as a team for the upcoming Class 2A-1A state tournament, but Kucharski said he was proud of how the Falcons responded. They clipped Westminster two days after the district tournament, finished 6-0 in CCAL play, and landed a win against Marriotts Ridge on Monday — the Mustangs are seven-time reigning 2A-1A state champs.
Inglis, the Carroll County champ in 2016, said capturing another team title was satisfying.
“I think we were all disappointed that we [didn’t qualify for states],” Inglis said. “We were motivated to finish strong.”
Sorkin fell short at the 2018 county tournament when South Carroll’s Ryan Stankewicz edged him in a playoff. Sorkin got to another playoff at the 4A-3A state tourney before Edward Coffren of Northern (Calvert) clipped him at University of Maryland’s course.
“I didn’t really have any goals in mind, maybe just to win states,” Sorkin said about this year. “But as the season went on, I had more goals, which was to win this. It’s a tough course, and a really nice course. Probably my favorite that we play here.”
1. Winters Mill 331, 2. Westminster 332, 3. South Carroll 372, 4. Liberty 378, 5. Century 381, 6. Manchester Valley 405.