Marriotts Ridge’s golf team may have captured its third consecutive 1A/2A state championship trophy on Wednesday at the University of Maryland golf course, but Mustangs coach Mark Dubbs still found himself getting as emotional afterward as he did following the program’s first crown.
Having been on the other end of things with two runner-up teams in 2009 and 2011, Dubbs choked up as he tried to put into words what this string of titles means.
“You know, every single one is special because you see that excitement in the kid’s faces … that never gets old,” Dubbs said. “They have started a tradition of signing and giving me a ball from the round with their score on it and they also sign the back of the trophy. It’s their mark on history.
“To think where we are now as a program and what it took to get here … all the hard work, all of it has paid off.”
The Mustangs, which had opened up a 29-shot lead over South Carroll after the opening round, cruised to a two-day total of 631 that was 55 shots better than the second-place Cavaliers (686). It was the second-largest margin of victory during the team’s string of championships, as last year’s squad won by 71 shots over Poolesville.
This time, it was junior Bennett Buch leading the way with a two-round total of 146 (4-over par) that was good enough to earn him sole-possession of third place — one shot behind Churchill’s Dylan Rotter (145) and five behind champion Graham Hutchinson from Walt Whitman.
Buch, who won the boys individual title in 2012 and has been a member of all three Marriotts Ridge championship squads, says it’s been a special ride so far.
“I’ve been extremely fortunate to have come in and had three straight years where I’ve been on teams with other really good players and we’ve been able to keep this going,” Buch said. “Three in a row is awesome, now we can start thinking about four.”
While Marriotts Ridge returned to the winner’s circle, the other winners were new faces. Churchill won the 3A/4A team title with a 603 total after finishing as a runner-up last fall. Hutchinson was the boys champion for the first time, while Wootton’s Delaney Shah came back from a five-stroke deficit to win her first girls title with a two-day total of 148 (5-over-par).
Buch’s one-under-par round of 70 was the low score of the day Wednesday.
1A/2A Team Championship
Over the course of the two-round tournament, no Marriotts Ridge player shot worse than an 84. Buch was the team’s top player, followed by Jackson Courtney (T26. 157 total), Nick Mejia (T40. 162 and John Szymanski (T63. 166).
On day one the Mustangs had posted 313, giving them a sizable lead that Dubbs says took all the pressure off in the final round.
“Yeah we still had to finish it off, but there wasn’t that feeling of having to press after a bad hole that you might have otherwise,” he said.
With its third straight state title, Marriotts Ridge becomes just the third team to accomplish the feat. Urbana was the most recent team to do it (2009-2012) and the other was Churchill, which is the record holder with five straight championships from 2002 to 2006.
Dubbs doesn’t want to get ahead of himself, however, with this year’s team featuring one junior and three sophomores, the record is definitely in the back of the team’s mind.
“The guys know that the potential is there to reach that mark … that’s something that drives them. As a coach, it’s my job to try and keep them in the moment, but that big picture and being mentioned as one of the all-time great teams is something they’re definitely striving for,” Dubbs said.
As the team basked in the glow of another title and took pictures with the trophy, Dubbs made sure to not forget about those past Mustang teams that barely missed.
“The toughest thing is hearing back from the guys like Chris Yoo and John Kim and having them say how they wish they could have done this with all those teams that finished second before we put this run together,” Dubbs said. “You know, they started all this and changed the program to help get us to this point.”
Boys individual championship
Walt Whitman’s Hutchinson had a one-shot lead entering the final day following an opening-round 69 (2-under par) and that cushion was up to two shots following the second hole.
And although he did not making a single birdie through his first 15 holes, the sophomore was able to stay in the lead thanks to a great short game.
“I was scrambling all day, forcing myself to get up and down, but in a situation like that where I’m trying to defend a lead I knew that pars were not bad scores,” Hutchinson said.
But because Hutchinson was grinding it out, that left the door slightly ajar for some of the players in the trail groups to potentially get themselves back in it.
Aside from Rotter, who was playing in the top group, the two other players that seemed to take advantage were Buch and Glenelg’s Steven Segrist.
Segrist, who fired an opening-round 74, played his first 13 holes on the final day even par and — following a bogey by Hutchinson on No. 14 — found himself all the way back within three shots with five holes to go.
But Segrist proceeded to make an untimely bogey of his own on the par 5 13th hole and the wheels came off after that. Three more bogeys in a row later and he was suddenly well off the pace.
“I knew I had to make birdie there, so to turn around and walk away with bogey … I knew my chances were over. Then I ended up making three more bogeys and that just made it even worse,” said Segrist, who ended up tied for seventh (74-75: 149).
Buch was charging the hardest of all the players behind the top group and, after an opening day 76 (5-over), he needed to. Following a birdie on the 13th hole, he was back to four-over-par for the tournament and, for a brief moment, within four shots of the leader.
“After I shot five-over on the back yesterday, I was pretty bitter. But by this morning I was over it and ready to go,” Buch said. “I just knew I had to put up a good number, something low if I wanted to have any chance, and that was my approach. And, honestly, I gave myself a lot of really good looks at birdie today.”
But just as things appeared to be tightening, Hutchinson dealt the clinching blow on the par 5 16th hole. After his second shot found the greenside bunker, he got up and down for his first birdie of the day to push himself back to one-under for the tournament.
“Off the tee there, I was definitely thinking that was a birdie hole,” Hutchinson said. “I knew I just needed one good hole and as soon as my second shot found the bunker next to the green, I felt really good about my chances.”
Hutchinson closed with two straight pars and had himself a four-shot win over Rotter.
Outside the top 10, Howard County featured several strong efforts. Centennial’s Matt McShane followed up his opening-round 79 with a 76 to finish in a tie for 18th. Atholton’s Max Rosenthal (T33. 160 total), Mt. Hebron’s Patrick Hardy (T37. 162) and Atholton's Chris Robinson (T40. 162) were also in the top 50.
Girls individual championship
Following an opening-round 70 (one-under par), Westminster’s Jordan McKelvin had staked herself to a five-shot lead over Wootton’s Delaney Shah.
By the time the two girls reached the 11th tee, that lead was down to one. Shortly after, it was gone completely.
Shah ended up firing a closing round of 73, giving her a two-day score of 148, and pulled away down the stretch for a four-shot victory over McKelvin (152).
“The whole day, I knew where both of us stood and I just tried to play my game. I knew in the back of my head that if I played steady, one shot at a time, I was going to be right there,” Shah said. “It was hard not to feel bad for Jordan, especially because I have known that girl for seven years and she’s one of my best friends … but I knew I also had to focus on what I was doing the best I could.”
Shah had finished runner-up to Atholton’s Bryana Nguyen each of the last two years, so the breakthrough was extra special.
“It’s funny because Bryana called me two days ago and was like ‘play your game and you got this … it’s your turn.’ And now, to actually do it, I’m obviously really excited and happy,” Shah said. “I feel like all my hard work finally paid off this year.”
McKelvin was second and Churchill’s Lena Capoccia placed third (156). In a tie for fourth was Churchill’s Hanna Jia and Mt. Hebron’s Josephine Jung (160).
For Jung, the finish included a final-round 77 — tying her for the second-best final round among the females — and by far the best state finish of her young career.
“This is a huge accomplishment because last year I didn't even qualify for the second day,” Jung said. “Now to place, that’s really big for me. I think it just shows how much I’ve improved.”
Howard County’s only other female to make the cut was Wilde Lake’s Tyler Teachman, who finished 19th with a two-day total of 184.