WHEELING — Tied for second place just two shots back of first-round-leader Wheeling Park, Capital and Huntington came into the final day of the state tournament still very much in it.
But once play began during Wednesday’s final round, the two teams went in drastically different directions.
Jacob Perry fired an 8-over 79, Tanner Dorsey turned in an 81 and Connor Campbell followed with an 85 as the Highlanders rode a hot start past the Patriots and cruised to a six-shot win over Park in Class AAA on the Jones Course at Oglebay Resort. It was Huntington’s first golf title since 1999.
“We played awesome on the front nine and the wheels started to fall off on the back,” Huntington coach Travis Austin said. “But Oglebay is so tough and on the back nine today I saw every team in the final group struggle. The boys knew every shot was going to count. No matter how good or bad things go, you’ve got to play one shot at a time. The scores aren’t pretty, but this course is tough.”
The Highlanders finished with a team total of 492, placing ahead of Park (498), Greenbrier East (503) and Capital (518).
The day was a struggle for the Cougars as a team score of 271 on Wednesday was 24 shots worse than their opening 247 on Tuesday which put the team in prime position. After posting three scores at 84 or better on day one, Capital came in with a pair of 90s and a 91 from seniors Joe Kramer, Noah Mitchell and Jace Ranson on Wednesday.
Still, making the program’s first state-tournament appearance since the early 1990s, coach Michael Terry said it was a special feeling to send his upperclassmen off with a state-tournament trip.
“For those kids to come up here and get fourth place, they did a great job,” Terry said. “I’m so proud of my team. They conducted themselves well, they represented the school well, we just came up a little short today. Huntington deserves a handshake.”
All four of the Highlanders that played on Wednesday are seniors and Austin also said sending his class off with state-tournament gold was an emotional feeling.
“This group of seniors, I absolutely love them and I’m going to miss them next year,” Austin said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them. I’ve been with them for three years and they’re just fantastic kids. They’re fun to be around and they like each other and that makes it really easy.”
Brooke’s Ryan Bilby followed an opening round of 3-over 74 with an even-par 71 on Wednesday and took Class AAA medalist honors by 10 shots over Park’s Noah Seivertson. Washington’s Ethan Hardy (157), East’s Berkley Adwell (162), Martinsburg’s James Dailey (164) and East’s Norris Beard (165) joined Huntington’s Perry (158) and Dorsey (165) on the All-State team, which goes to the top eight plus ties in each class.
George Washington’s Anderson Goldman, playing as an individual, finished just one shot away from the All-State team with a 166, good enough for ninth. Hurricane’s Sam White finished in a tie for 16th with Kramer at 174.
Charleston Catholic matched its score of 279 from Tuesday and couldn’t make up any ground in trying to chase down first-round leader St. Marys as it settled for third. The Blue Devils shot a team total of 532 to win the Class A crown with Ritchie County (553) finishing second.
The Irish’s third-place finish wrapped up the four-year coaching career of Sam Helmick, who took over for long-time coach Bill Gillispie and won a state title in his first season in 2016. That was the sixth and final consecutive championship for Catholic at the time, though Helmick has guided the Irish back to the state tournament in each of his final three years.
This team, comprised of multi-sport athletes, made drastic improvements over the course of the season and like most other coaches in Wheeling on Wednesday, it was an emotional time for Helmick as his son Bryce finished his final season.
“It has been fun,” Helmick said. “We’ve had lots of great kids, my goodness. I could go on and on. Good quality kids, good golfers, good people, they’re all doing great things in college and I’m so proud. And then to be able to coach my son … it’s kind of emotional for me. I’ve been blessed to be able to follow him around for four years.”
The small-school medalist race came down to a one-hole playoff with Ravenswood’s Gavin Fox defeating Webster County’s Rigel Wilson in a one-hole playoff after the two finished with identical two-round totals of 165.
Catholic’s Evan Sayre finished in a tie for seventh with St. Joseph’s Deuce Vance, Tygarts Valley’s Andrew Holbrook and Ravenswood’s Devin Raines at 174 with all of them earning All-State nods. Magnolia’s Trey Blaine (170), Parkersburg Catholic’s Blake Lewis (170), St. Marys’ Grant Barnhart (171) and Williamstown’s Xavier Caruthers (172) rounded out the squad.
Like St. Marys, Fairmont Senior (504) also increased its first-round lead, shooting a second-day 247 to win by 35 shots over North Marion (539).
Shady Spring’s Todd Duncan won medalist honors by eight shots, finishing with a two-round total of 150 to help push the Tigers into third place. He was joined on the All-State team by Petersburg’s Nick Fleming (158), Bridgeport’s Matt Aman (161), Grafton’s Caden Moore (161), Wyoming East’s Ethan Bradford (163), Fairmont Senior’s Clark Craig (165), Zach Morgan (169) and Gannon Satterfield (170) and Robert C. Byrd’s Alex Hawkins (170).
Winfield’s Chase Milbee improved by five shots on day two, carding an 84 to finish at 173 in 12th. Poca’s Jacob Blizzard and Herbert Hoover’s Bryson Beaver finished in a tie for 13th, one shot behind Milbee.