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Howard County golf sweeps individual, team titles at District V Championships

Windy conditions elevated scores at Monday's District V Championship event at Fairway Hills, but that didn't stop Howard County from pulling off a rare clean sweep.

Between the team titles — Marriotts Ridge (318) won in 1A/2A and Atholton (321) won in 3A/4A — and the individual crowns captured by Marriotts Ridge's Bennett Buch and Mt. Hebron's Josephine Jung, this marks only the second occasion that Howard County has had sole possession of all four District titles at the same time.

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"It's a testament to how far the county has come in a very short period of time because it wasn't long ago that it used to be Anne Arundel County dominating this event," said Marriotts Ridge coach Mark Dubbs, whose team is chasing a third straight state championship this fall.

"The overall play across the board has just steadily improved, especially among the females. You have a lot of young kids that are coming in and playing well right away and a lot of that is a testament to how much of a priority has been placed on junior golf in the area and getting these kids ready to compete at a high level."

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After finishing second at the county championship tournament in late September, Buch showcased tremendous resolve down the stretch on Monday to capture the second District title of his career.

Heading into the back nine, after shooting 37 (2-over par) on the front, Buch actually found himself trailing the leader by three shots. But he steadied the ship to the tune of six pars and a birdie between holes 10-15 to close the gap on South River's Griffin Cosgrove and create a late-round showdown for the title.

Cosgrove, whose round included three straight birdies on the front nine to surge into the lead at the time, ended up stumbling to the finish with three consecutive bogeys. Buch, meanwhile, avoided trouble with three straight pars and won going away.

"It was fun coming down those last couple holes knowing I was in position where I had a good shot at winning," Buch said. "I know I only lost by one at counties, but I was three back with two (holes) to play, so being tied coming down the stretch this time was different. I felt like I was more in control.

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"I knew those closing holes were tough and pars were going to be good scores."

Buch ended up shooting one-under on the back nine for a total of 71 on the day (one-over), putting him two clear of Cosgrove (73).

Glenelg's Steven Segrist, who was coming off a victory at the county championship, finished with a 74 to take sole possession of third. Other county individuals in the top six, qualifying them for states, were Centennial's Matt McShane (76) and Mt. Hebron's Patrick Hardy (77).

The last two years the trend has been that the District V champion has gone on to win the state championship as well, with Buch doing it in 2012 and then Segrist following suit last year. Buch is hoping history will repeat itself.

"It's a great step, no question," Buch said. "It's a pretty good feeling to have, knowing that you are going to states with some confidence and also knowing that you've done it before."

Buch's efforts also spearheaded Marriotts Ridge as a team. Nick Mejia (79), Jackson Courtney (82) and John Szymanski (86) rounded out the team's scorers on the way to the crown.

While the team total of 318 was 17 shots worse than last year's Mustangs squad at the same event, Dubbs says it shouldn't have an effect on the team moving forward.

"Today's conditions were tough. The wind was doing some funny things and the scores reflected that … not a lot of low numbers," Dubbs said. "The silver lining, as I told the guys, is that if we were going to have a hiccup, better have it be today than next Tuesday or Wednesday at the state tournament."

For Atholton, which captured the 3A/4A trophy, making it to states as a team was the realization of a season-long goal. Amanda Petersen, who ended up losing the girls individual championship in a playoff against Jung, led the Raiders charge with a round of 75. She was followed by Max Rosenthal (78), Chris Robinson (82) and Nick Osterman (86) on the way to posting an overall score of 321, seven shots ahead of Broadneck.

"It's great for the kids because (three of them) are seniors and they have been pointing to this for years," Atholton coach Dave Appleby said. "They came out here with some resolve and they put things together. I'm happy for them that they will get to finish their careers down at College Park."

The race for the girls District championship may have been the most drama-filled of all. For the final seven holes, Petersen and Jung were separated by just one shot.

Jung had the lead by one going into No. 16, the second to last hole for the top girls group, when nerves seemed to kick in for each of the leaders. Jung missed two putts inside six feet and Petersen missed one of her own as the duo each walked away with a double bogey.

"There was so much more pressure today because it's a bigger tournament — districts leads to states. I also knew it was close … I actually didn't know exactly how close, but I knew every shot mattered," said Jung, who had cruised to a 10-shot victory at this year's county championship tournament. "I'm not even sure what happened on that (16th) hole, but it wasn't good."

Petersen came to the last hole of regulation knowing she needed a birdie to tie and proceeded to stick her approach on the par 3 to 15 feet left of the pin. Then, with the tournament on the line, she drilled the putt.

"It's senior year, last district match, and I wanted to go out with a bang," said Petersen, who had finished second at counties. "I went up with my wedge, which is my most confident club, and stuck it close. Then on the putt I was thinking, 'last hole, I know I've got one more putt in me.' It felt so good to see it go in."

In the playoff, the two went back to the 18th hole for a sudden-death head-to-head match-up. Jung ended up reaching the par 5 in two shots and two-putting for birdie, while Petersen had her downhill birdie putt from 12 feet miss just wide left and that left her a shot short.

Just like the county title three weeks earlier, the District championship was another first for Jung.

"All this means so much because I actually used to play soccer and I switched over to golf right before freshman year," Jung said. "I was lucky enough to get this really good swing coach — George Bradford — and he's really helped me get to a level that I never thought possible. I just feel like this is a huge accomplishment and now I can't wait for states."

Howard County qualified four other girls for the state championship tournament, which is scheduled to be played at the University of Maryland Golf Course from Oct. 27-29. Those other qualifiers are Wilde Lake's Tyler Teachman (83), Howard's Jackie Cherry (85), Reservoir's Erica Caporaletti (88) and River Hill's Lexie Hayward (88).

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