CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston Catholic saved the day from being a complete misfire for Kanawha Valley teams at the state high school golf tournament.The two-time defending Class A champion Irish held a nine-shot lead following Tuesday's opening round of the 36-hole event on the par-72 Robert Trent Jones course at the Oglebay Resort in Wheeling.Led by senior Aaron Persily and sophomore Nick Casingal, the Irish posted a first-day total of 236, giving them a healthy lead over Madonna (245) and St. Marys (256).In AAA, Wheeling Park (237) brings a seven-stroke lead over Cabell Midland and Shady Spring (244) into today's final round, while Roane County (228) holds a whopping 23-shot advantage over Ritchie County in AA.Catholic junior Christian Casingal, the Class A medalist as a freshman in 2011 and the individual runner-up last year, shot an 81 Tuesday but remains just four shots off the pace set by Persily and Madonna's Michael Rogers, who each fashioned a 5-over 77."We're fortunate having those two guys at the top,'' Irish coach Bill Gillispie said during a telephone interview about Persily and Christian Casingal, the team's best golfers this season."They're just steady and confident and they play well here. They've really not ever had a big number here. Christian wasn't as good today as he normally is, but he's still only four off the lead.''
Persily, who placed fourth as a freshman, second as a sophomore and third last year, seeks his fourth straight all-state spot (which goes to the top eight in each class).Gillispie said the effort of Nick Casingal - Christian's younger brother who's alone in third with a 78 - was an unexpected bonus on a day when just one golfer in the entire three-class field shot better than 76."It's his first state tournament,'' Gillispie said, "and he's the one who got us going. His dad [followed him around the course] and said he really, really played well. Our depth is going to help us.''Irish freshman Cameron Blakely stood in a tie for eighth at 86.
That was about all of the good news for Kanawha Valley schools, however.Two other teams that figured to be in the running - AA Poca and single-A Buffalo - struggled to keep pace.The Dots, who have finished as team runner-up each of the last three years by margins of three, three and five strokes - soared to a 261 Tuesday, 33 shots behind Roane, putting them in sixth place. Scott (253) is tied with Westside for third.Poca's Travis Covert, who placed third last year, just two shots behind eventual champ Alston Spears of Roane, managed only a 90 on Tuesday, putting him 18 behind Spears, who had the day's best round in any class, an even-par 72.
The Dots' best score of 83 was turned in by Alex Hamrick. Scott's Evan Butcher is tied for fifth at 80.In Class A, defending medalist Cory Hoshor of Buffalo was tied for 13th with an 87, the same score shot by teammate Bradley Harris. The Bison, which finished one shot out of second place last year and was considered a contender this year, stands fourth, 31 strokes behind Catholic.Spears' scintillating round was four shots better than the low men in Class AAA, as Parkersburg South's Alex Schreckengost and Wheeling Park's Cole Hand had 76s."They're playing it at 6,700 yards,'' Gillispie said of the Jones course, "and they told us they double-cut the greens and rolled them. They're an 11.5 on Stimpmeter. That's the fastest we've ever seen. You can tell by the triple-A scores. There's a lot of high scores.''The forecast for today is much like Tuesday's weather - a high near 70 degrees under sunny skies with light winds."It's probably the best weather we've had here in five, six years,'' Gillispie said.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or email@example.com.