Whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. Or in the case of Glenelg sophomore Caleb Taylor, it makes you hungrier.
Less than one week after falling short of a county championship title in a three-hole playoff, Taylor came out Monday at Crofton Country Club for the District V Championship tournament as a man on a mission. Firing an even par round of 72, he bested the field by three shots and captured the first postseason triumph of his young high school career.
"It was tough to not close that one out [at counties], but it just left me eager to come and play today," Taylor said. "To put up a good round and close this one out feels really good."
Taylor's victory served as just one of many standout performances from Howard County individuals and teams at the qualifying tournament for the state championships, which are scheduled for Oct. 22-24 at the University of Maryland Golf Course.
Marriotts Ridge's Faith McIlvain shot a one-under-par 71 and rolled to a 10-stroke victory in the girls competition, helping lead the Mustangs to the overall team title as well. Marriotts Ridge ended up with a total of 306, edging second-place River Hill (313) and third-place South River (320).
Overall, of the 19 boys individuals that shot 82 or better — guaranteeing themselves a spot at the state tournament — 14 were from Howard County. And four of the top five girls — all shooting 90 or better — were from the county as well.
Additionally, Centennial (332) qualified as a team.
It's the second straight year that Howard County has three teams headed to the state tournament.
Last year, Glenelg's Taylor fired a round of 83 at the district tournament and missed qualifying for states by two shots. This year, he made amends.
After a bogey on his opening hole, he regrouped to play his final 17 in one-under and along the way made four birdies. None was more important than the bounce-back birdie on the par 4 seventh hole, following up a bogey on the sixth, to increase his lead from one to two with just two holes to play.
That poise under pressure turned out to be the difference.
"The last few holes, I just treated it like any other hole of golf," Taylor said. "It's something I learned from listening to interviews of professional players. They are in the Sunday of a major, walking down the 18th fairway, they just treat it like any other hole of golf. And that's what I tried to treat it like."
"It ended up calming me down and I hit some good shots near the end."
Taylor ended up hitting the green on the par 3 ninth hole and two-putting for par to put the finishing touches on his victory.
There was a three-way tie for second place behind him. River Hill's Kevin Hickey and Jackson Graves, along with Severna Park's Addison Wells, all fired rounds of 75. Centennial's Kenny Chaplain and South River's Eddie Sarrach were right behind that in a tie for fifth with 76s.
Rounding out the top 10 individually were Atholton's Branden Nguyen (77), South River's Joey Fidyk (77), Oakland Mills' Adam Fairbanks (78) and Marriotts Ridge's duo of Justin Allen (78) and Isaac Kim (78).
Other qualifying boys from Howard County individually were Marriotts Ridge's Manny Guillen (81), Reservoir's Justin Gutierrez (81) and Howard's Jason Wheeler (82).
McIlvain on top again
In a postseason that continues to build momentum, Marriotts Ridge's junior standout made things look easy on Monday.
On the strength of keeping the ball in play off the tee, McIlvain ended up with 15 pars, 2 birdies and one bogey. Her two birdies came back-to-back on holes seven and eight and helped open up the lead she never lost.
"I think the key to my game today was definitely in my tee shots," she said. "The course is pretty narrow so I think as long as I hit it pretty straight into the fairway, I had a pretty good hole."
Last year, McIlvain posted a 77 and was second at the district tournament behind Howard's Jacqueline Cherry. Taking that next step and finishing on top is something she hopes can catapult her to even more success at states, where she finished as the 1A/2A champion last fall as a sophomore.
"States definitely is up there in my goals and knowing that I shot one-under here, I want to try to set myself up for better scoring at states," said McIlvain, whose two-day total of 147 at states in 2017 was just one worse than the 4A/3A champion — Bailey Davis of North Point.
Arundel freshman Angelina Hwang ended up alone in second with an 81, while Centennial junior Morgan Taylor continued her own breakthrough season with an 85 to place third. Also qualifying among the girls and finishing in the top five were River Hill's Adrienne Lesho (88) and Howard's Logan Lurie (90).
Marriotts Ridge puts four in 70s
While McIlvain was the leader out front for the Mustangs, balanced scoring was ultimately what led the way to the team placing in first. Allen, Kim and Akash Marakath (79) were all closely grouped to round out the team's four scorers. Even the team's fifth player — Guillen (81) — ended up qualifying for states as an individual.
It's a performance that has the team riding high with hopes of winning the 1A/2A team championship at states for a record seventh straight year.
"The goal was somewhere in that 305-310 range and everybody played pretty much right to where we hoped the would," Dubbs said. "And I think our depth showed through again, where even if one of them would have stumbled a little bit, we still would have been in really good shape. But I am always impressed with these kids and their ability perform under pressure."
There were certainly potential stumbling blocks on the way to winning, including a slow start by Kim that saw him sitting at five-over par through seven holes. But he steadied the ship with three straight birdies and ended up finishing in the top 10.
Overall, none of the Mustangs' top four scorers made worse than a double bogey.
"We preach that idea of having a short memory … just let those bad shots go," Dubbs said. "You can't change the past … and these kids, year after year, really buy into that."
While River Hill didn't win, it did put together an impressive total that was more than good enough to advance to states for the first time since 2010. Hickey and Graves finishing in a tie for second went a long way, but just as important were the rounds of 81 and 82 from Cam Deiuliis and Robbie Graham, respectively.
"It's huge for us and I knew each of the kids were capable of shooting the scores we needed, it was just whether or not they could all do it together on one given day," River Hill coach Matt Graves said. "It was nice to see that everything was very stress free for them and they kind of all came out and did their jobs."
Centennial, led by Chaplain (75) and Ty Sams (84), was the second-best 3A/4A team and qualifies for states for the second straight year.
1A/2A: 1. Marriotts Ridge, 306; 2. River Hill, 313; 3. Glenelg, 355
3A/4A: 1. South River, 320; 2. Centennial, 332; 3. Arundel, 341; 4. Severna Park, 344; 5. Howard, 355; 6. Broadneck, 362; 7. Chesapeake, 393.
1. Caleb Taylor, G, 72; T2. Jackson Graves, RH, 75; T2. Kevin Hickey, RH, 75; T2. Addison Wells, SP, 75; T5. Kenneth Chaplain, C, 76; T5. Eddie Sarrach, SR, 76; T7. Branden Nguyen, Ath, 77; T7. Joey Fidyk, SR, 77; T9. Justin Allen, MR, 78; T9. Adam Fairbanks, OM, 78; T9. Isaac Kim, MR, 78.
T12. Brendan Heptner, NE, 79; T12. Akash Marakath, MR, 79; T14. Cam Deiuliis, RH, 81; T14. Manny Guillen, MR, 81; T14. Justin Gutierrez, Re, 81; T17. Robbie Graham, RH, 82; T17. Mason Jones, SR, 82; T17. Jason Wheeler, Ho, 82; 20. Kieran Walshe, B, 83.
1. Faith McIlvain, MR, 71; 2. Angelina Hwang, Ar, 81; 3. Morgan Taylor, C, 85; 4. Adrienne Lesho, RH, 88; 5. Logan Lurie, Ho, 90; T6. Ally Abruscato, G, 94; T6. Katrina Schultz, SP, 94; 8. Ingrid Wells, SP, 95; T9. Sydney Heuvel, Old Mill, 98; T9. Joanna Park, C, 98; T9. Alex Stone, G, 98.