Faith McIlvain and the Marriotts Ridge golf team find themselves in an all-too familiar position following the opening round of the 1A/2A state championship golf tournament that was held Tuesday at the University of Maryland.
McIlvain fired a one-over-par round of 72 to take a 10-shot lead in the girls individual competition and her performance spearheaded the Mustangs to a team total of 310 — good enough for a 19-shot lead on second-place River Hill.
It’s the 10th straight year that Marriotts Ridge has held the lead in the team competition following the first day at states, with the team winning each of the last six times after letting the first three opportunities slip through its fingers. A victory this year would make it seven straight and extend what is already a state-record for consecutive titles.
“You establish the expectations and set those goals, and I think collectively each and every one of these kids takes pride in trying to reach them. There’s a tradition now that they are trying to uphold,” Marriotts Ridge coach Mark Dubbs said. “Really what’s remarkable is that we do have several first time players here and there are nerves, but they find a way to get through that, weather the storm and play their game.”
McIlvain, meanwhile, is comfortably ahead for a second straight fall. Last year, after an opening-round 71 put her nine strokes ahead, she cruised to a two-day total of 147 and the first state crown of her career.
This year, she’s hoping for an even stronger second day on the way to repeating — both individually and as a team.
“It’s definitely amazing how much we’ve won these past six years and hopefully we make it seven this year,” McIlvain said. “It’s definitely been fun and especially with the teammates that I have gotten closer with over the past years that I’ve been on the team.”
Behind McIlvain, Oakdale’s Elizabeth Tucci shot 82, Patterson Mill’s Paula Moon posted an 84 and Sparrows Point’s Rhianna Stitt also made the cut for day two with an 86.
Overall, the opening day saw plenty of success for nearly all the Howard County golfers in attendance.
In the individual boys competition, River Hill’s Kevin Hickey posted a four-over-par round of 75 to sit alone in third place and Glenelg’s Caleb Taylor was right behind him with a 76. Behind them, Marriotts Ridge’s Akash Marakath (T6. 78), Justin Allen (T8. 79) and Isaac Kim (10. 81), along with River Hill’s Cam Deiuliis (T8. 79) are all in the top 10 as well after day one.
Even Manny Guillen of Marriotts Ridge and Adam Fairbanks of Oakland Mills made the cut for day two as individuals after posting scores of 84.
The final round of the state tournament for all classifications is scheduled as a shotgun start Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. It is a two-day cumulative score.
While the final score showcased a dominating performance over the 1A/2A field, McIlvain had her fair share of adversity to battle through early on.
She double bogeyed her first hole and then made a bogey on her second, quickly putting her in a two-shot hole against Moon. But a clutch par putt on her third hole steadied the ship and then she birdied the par 5 13th to flip her day into a different gear.
“It was kind of hard to pick myself back up, but after the third hole — after I made that par putt — it was kind of motivation for me to keep going and just look forward to the next hole,” McIlvain said. “Paula was doing well that first nine, so I think that also motivated me to keep going and keep pushing myself throughout the round.”
As McIlvain picked up steam, those around her faltered. Moon made double bogeys on the 15th, 16th and 18th holes to close out the front nine and fell well off the pace. Tucci, meanwhile, made just two pars on her front nine to sit seven behind McIlvain at the turn.
On the back nine, the Mustangs’ junior offset a pair of bogeys with a pair of birdies (holes five and eight) to finish strong and extend her cushion to the current 10-shot margin.
River Hill makes history
Marrriotts Ridge stole the headlines, with McIlvain leading the girls and the team’s other three scorers all putting themselves among the top 10 in the boys competition. Both Allen and Kim are making their first appearances at the state tournament.
But it was also a historic day for the River Hill program, which posted a team total of 329 to qualify for the final day as a team for the first time. Hickey and Deiuliis were backed up by Robbie Graham (86) and Jackson Graves (89), combining for a score 10 shots better than third-place Oakdale (339).
“It’s definitely a big deal. It’s the first time in 10 years that we’ve even gotten down here at all as a team, so to now be the first to make the second day … it shows a lot about this group,” Hickey said. “We’ve had some really good players come through here that haven’t been able to do this, so to be a part of the team that finally did it is pretty cool.”
The last time Howard County had two teams qualify for the final round at states in 1A/2A was 2012, when Glenelg joined Marriotts Ridge in the finals.
Hickey, Taylor in contention
Two of the county’s top players this fall have played themselves into the top group for Wednesday’s final round.
Hickey had one of the steadiest rounds of the tournament, making just four bogeys to go along with 14 pars to post his 4-over round of 75. He is currently three shots behind South Carroll’s Ryan Stankewicz, who opened with a two-over 72 that included a 5-under-par back nine that helped him surge into the lead.
Last year, Hickey posted an opening-day 81.
“Last year the big numbers killed me, it’s ultimately what tanked my first round,” he said. “So this year, I just tried to stay patient. I knew that as long as I put myself in play off the tee, I was going to be able to score well. I didn’t make any birdies, but I felt like pars were good enough today to put myself in position for tomorrow.”
Taylor, meanwhile, found himself having to regroup from a rough start. This year’s District V champion played his first six holes in 7-over par.
After that, however, he played the final 12 holes in 2-under par to get himself right back into the tournament.
“I think after I four-putted the green on my third hole, I had a feeling I was going to have to grind things out. It was just one of those starts,” Taylor said. “But, the nice thing was by the time I was walking down the seventh fairway, I think I realized there was still plenty of time left to get myself back into it. There are lots of birdie holes out here and it’s a 36-hole tournament … I just had to focus on the rest of the round.”
Taylor’s day included birdies on hole Nos. 9, 10 and 13.
Joining Stankewicz, Hickey and Taylor in the top 1A/2A group on Wednesday will be Fallston’s William Creery, who is currently alone in second place following an opening 74.
1A/2A Team Scores: 1. Marriotts Ridge, 310; 2. River Hill, 329; 3. Oakdale, 339; 4. Patterson Mill, 343; 5. Winters Mill, 362; 6. LaPlata, 363; 7. Damascus, 374; 8. Hereford, 386; 9. Kent Island, 389.
1A/2A Boys Individual Scores: 1. Ryan Stankewicz, South Carroll, 72; 2. William Creery, Fallston, 74; 3. Kevin Hickey, River Hill, 75; 4. Caleb Taylor, Glenelg, 76; 4. Chris Lee, Oakdale, 76; 6. Gavin Ganter, LaPlata, 78; 6. Akash Marakath, Marriotts Ridge, 78; 8. Justin Allen, Marriotts Ridge, 79; 8. Cam Deiuliis, River Hill, 79; 10. Isaac Kim, Marriotts Ridge, 81.
11. Justin Moreira, Hereford, 82; 11. Michael Montgomery, Patterson Mill, 82; 13. Brian Inglis, Winters Mill, 83; 13. Joey Weiland, Middletown, 83; 13. Joe Lesage, Oakdale, 83; 16. Liam Wolf, Century, 84; 16. Manny Guillen, Marriotts Ridge, 84; 16. Adam Fairbanks, Oakland Mills, 84; 16. Jake Ramsburg, Oakdale, 84.
1A/2A Girls Individual Scores: 1. Faith McIlvain, Marriotts Ridge, 72; 2. Elizabeth Tucci, Oakdale, 82; 3. Paula Moon, Patterson Mill, 84; 4. Rhianna Stitt, Sparrows Point, 86; 5. Martha Kaestner, Hereford, 95; 6. Kamika Pichakul, Carver, 98; 7. Anna Lime, Hereford, 99; 8. Adrenne Lesho, River Hill, 101; 9. Holly Haber, Kent Island, 104; 10, Suzanna Martin, Century, 104.
Reach Brent Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @BKBSunSports