Overcast skies and soft greens created prime scoring conditions for the opening round of the 1A/2A state championship golf tournament Tuesday at the University of Maryland, resulting in a tightly packed leaderboard in both the individual and team competitions.
La Plata’s Gavin Ganter (72) set the pace for the boys and Patterson Mill’s Paula Moon (80) posted the top score for the girls. Overall, however, there are currently nine boys and three girls within four shots of the respective leaders.
La Plata and Linganore tied for top team honors with combined totals of 323, sitting 14 shots ahead of third-place Oakdale — the only other team to qualify for the final round, which is currently scheduled for Thursday.
Ganter’s day, which included six birdies, a handful of bogeys and two double bogeys, was a pretty accurate snapshot of the kind of emotional rollercoaster that faced many of the leaders. After making a double-bogey on the par 4 12th hole, Ganter rebounded to birdie three of his final four holes to surge into the lead.
He currently sits two shots ahead of Fallston’s William Creery and Century’s Liam Wolf, who each fired rounds of 74.
Creery is no stranger to being around the lead at states, having finished in second place in 1A/2A each of the last two seasons. As a senior, he’s determined to make this year the break through.
“I really want this badly and the last two year’s are absolutely motivation for me. I’m happy to get myself into that final group, happy to be [near] the lead … now I’ve got to finish it off,” Creery said. “I know exactly what I have to do, now it’s just a matter of doing it.”
Like Ganter, Creery finished strong by playing his final nine holes in one-under par.
“I was struggling with the grain of the greens early on … but I did make some good putts as the round went on and I was able to keep it together,” Creery said.
Wolf, on the other hand, finds himself in a bit of uncharted territory. The Knights’ senior has qualified for states each of his four years in high school, but prior to this fall his best opening round was an 82.
This time around, he capitalized on birdies on the ninth and 13th holes to steady himself after a couple early bogeys.
“Compared to those previous years, I’m extremely happy … and even more so because I am coming off an 87 at counties, which is just not good at all,” Wolf said. “But today I hit a bunch of fairways and that put me in position to score well. Now if I can just focus on my approach shots and putting, I feel like I will have a chance.”
Winters Mill’s Ethan Wolbert is part of a four-way tie for fourth after shooting a 75 and he said his round was all about sticking to the game plan. He hit lots of irons off the tee, opting for position golf instead of pulling out driver like other members of his group.
“I came into today wanting to play conservative, stay out of trouble, and it was definitely tough at times when the other guys were putting it way out there … but I stuck with it,” Wolbert said. “I got my irons going on the back nine and I feel like my game plan paid off in the end.”
Wolbert made birdies on both of the par 5s on the back nine.
Howard County tournament champion Caleb Taylor of Glenelg is in a tie for eighth following his opening-round 76. A double bogey on his 14th hole threatened to derail his title hopes, but the Gladiators’ junior rebounded down the stretch by birding his final two to get within four of the lead.
“I was definitely getting frustrated, but I realized that I had to put it in perspective. I still have another day and the biggest thing was just to make sure I didn’t play myself out of it,” Taylor said. “Finishing birdie-birdie was huge, not just in terms of my score but also to give me something positive to build on.”
In the girls competition, Moon is hoping for a break through of her own. She placed fourth last year, 21 shots behind champion Faith McIlvain of Marriotts Ridge.
Having that experience on the big stage, though, paid dividends in the opening round of this year’s event after a shaky start. Moon made a pair of birdies over her final 11 holes.
“For some reason, those first four holes I get really tense. Maybe it’s just not being used to playing with all these good girls, but today I was able to shake that off and find my swing and relax,” Moon said.
Moon’s nine-over par round of 80 currently has her one-shot ahead of Linganore’s Payton Smith and four in front of Oakdale’s Elizabeth Tucci. The other girls to qualify individually for the final round are Herford’s Martha Kaestner (87), Sparrows Point’s Rhianna Stitt (88) and Century’s Suzanna Martin (92).
The final round for 1A/2A is scheduled for a 9 a.m. shotgun start on Thursday at the University of Maryland.
On Wednesday, the 3A/4A teams and individuals will play their opening round.
Boys Individuals: 1. Gavin Ganter, La Plata, 72; 2. William Creery, Fallston, 74; 2. Liam Wolf, Century, 74; 4. Ben Chamberlain, Seneca Valley, 75; 4. Ethan Crabb, Linganore, 75; 4. Brady Leonard, Stephen Decatur, 75; 4. Ethan Wolbert, Winters Mill, 75; 8. Nick Amateau, South Carroll, 76; 8. Caleb Taylor, Glenelg, 76; 10. Landon Leatherman, Middletown, 78.
11. Chris Lee, Oakdale, 79; 11. Trevor Simpson, La Plata, 79; 11. Harrison Smith, Kent Island, 79; 14. Brooks Zarchin, Damascus, 80; 15. Jack Emmett, Fallston, 81; 15. Jaxson Schultz, Boonsboro, 81. 17. Austin May, Linganore, 82; 18. Jack Gleason, La Platat, 83; 18. Malachi Walker, Overlea, 83.
Girls Individuals: 1. Paula Moon, Patterson Mill, 80; 2. Payton Smith, Linganore, 81; 3. Elizabeth Tucci, Oakdale, 84; 4. Martha Kaestner, Hereford, 87; 5. Rhianna Stitt, Sparrows Point, 88; 6. Suzanna Martin, Century, 92; 7. Ally Abruscato, Glenelg, 94; 8. Sophia Fellner, Fallston, 95; 9. Abby Wesche, Stephen Decatur, 97; 10. Kamika Pichaikul, Carver A&T, 101.