Catholic will be tested in bid to repeat state golf title
The cliche about age being nothing but a number certainly applies to this year's high school state golf tournament.
Between Charleston Catholic, Buffalo and Madonna - all teams that figure to be in the hunt for a state championship - there are exactly zero senior golfers taking part in this year's festivities.
Catholic, the defending small-school state champion, has returning individual champion Christian Casignal on its side in addition to two other players from last year's title team.
With the lack of upperclassmen on the rosters, Irish coach Bill Gillispie said this year's tournament, starting today at the Oglebay Resort's Trent Jones Course, could be a bit of a preview of the state tournament scene going forward.
"I believe that single-A golf just got very, very competitive between us three teams not having any seniors," he said.
In addition to Casignal, Catholic features Aaron Persily, Jordan Covelli, Jackson Ellis and Allie Persily. Aaron Persily is the only junior in the group, but the Irish's youth does not mean the team lacks experience.
"We think our experience is our biggest asset," Gillispie said. "Those two guys [Casignal and Aaron Persily] coming back give us a bit of leadership and experience. Three of our four from last year are back. We're hoping it will make them a little less nervous on the first tee."
Allie Persily, Aaron's sister, will be making history for Charleston Catholic. Gillispie said she will play in the No. 4 spot on the second day of the tournament and is the first female in school history to play golf at the state tournament.
Buffalo is led by regional medalist Cory Horshor and also has Blaik Caplinger, Bradley Harris and Drew Patterson playing in its quest to unseat the Irish as state champions, but as Gillispie mentioned the Bison are not the only team poised to make a run. Madonna beat out the Irish for the 2010 championship and has played well head-to-head against Catholic.
"We played them and split," he said. "They're the only single-A team we lost to. They beat us in the Catholic schools tournament in Weirton."
Despite Charleston Catholic's five team titles since 1999, the Irish have never repeated as champions and have finished in second place five times (2000, 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2010). If that streak is to stop this week, Gillispie said Casignal, Aaron Persily and the rest of the Irish will have to continue to play as well as they have leading in to this tournament.
"The main thing for [Casignal] and Aaron is they're both very consistent about hitting fairways and greens in regulation," Gillispie said. "Those two things are the biggest - the ability to keep the ball in play and keep the big number out of play."
Class AAA also features a competitive field with two-time defending champion Wheeling Park leading the way.
The Patriots have three-time individual state champion Thadd Obecny looking to become a four-time champion, but Obecney could receive a challenge from several players. George Washington's Austin Florence fired a 70 in the regional tournament with teammates Will Evans and Kris Webster each shooting 71. Other than Obecney, Oak Hill's Randel Rosiek (who shot a 64 at regionals) and the trio from GW, no Class AAA golfer shot lower than a 75 in regionals.
The team side of the competition features both Patriots teams - Wheeling Park and GW - in addition to University, Washington, Elkins, Cabell Midland, Huntington and Shady Spring.
The Class AA field is comprised of Roane County, Grafton, Fairmont Senior, Lincoln, Westside, Scott, Wyoming East and Poca. The Dots, runners-up a year ago, feature the only team to have all four members shoot below 80 in the regional tournament, but they lost 2011 individual champion George Hamrick to graduation.