On Monday, Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Joanna Tabit made a final ruling in the Class AAA Region 3 matter, upholding a scoring decision made that ultimately sent Capital to the state tournament and sent George Washington home.
As for the Cougars? They had long since moved on.
On what is believed by many to be the first trip to the state tournament as a team, Capital already had shifted its attention to Oglebay Resort, Wheeling and the always-rugged Jones Course which will host the state tournament on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The top two teams and two individuals from non-qualifying teams earned spots into the field and the Cougars will be one of eight squads in a fairly wide-open big-school field looking to claim state gold. The Patriots won the team title a year ago.
“They’re really happy, we’ve just got to keep them focused on the opportunity they have and try to get them to play one shot at a time,” Capital coach Michael Terry said.
That is often easier said than done in Wheeling where a hilly, twisting, turning trek equipped with speedy greens awaits. Rounds often reach the six-hour mark during state tournament play, as the entire field across all three classes is lumped together at once with tee times scheduled from 8:30 to 10:50 a.m. on both the first and 10th tees. Adding to the difficulty already presented is over two inches of rain that fell on Sunday and Monday, leaving a once dry course sure to be soaked once play begins on Tuesday.
But Terry, who plays competitively himself in West Virginia Golf Association events, said more than anything his job is to keep his players in the moment.
“Golf is a game where you have to think about the shot you’ve got to hit, do the best you can, accept the consequences and move on,” Terry said. “At the end of the day, you add up the score you got. That’s just how you have to play golf. Focus on the shot you have in front of you, do the best you can with that shot, go to the next shot and do the best you can do.”
The Cougars are led by a trio of seniors in Joe Kramer, Jace Ranson and Noah Mitchell with sophomore Brooklyn Carpenter rounding out the lineup. The top three of four scores will make up team totals.
Here’s a look at other contenders in other classes:
The Generals clinched their second straight trip to Wheeling after finishing second to Chapmanville in the Class AA Region 4 tournament held at Big Bend Golf Course last Monday.
Winfield qualified with three of its four players (Emily Redford, Hannah Nunley and Kenzie Parker) being female. The team is led by Chase Milbee, a senior making his third trip to Wheeling.
The region as a whole was down this year and coach Kevin Robinson has realistic expectations for his team, though thinks Milbee has an opportunity to contend in his last go-round.
“I would be tickled to death if they finish mid-pack and I think that would be fantastic, especially with the girls and it being their first time up there,” Robinson said. “If [Milbee] plays to his potential, I think he should at least be All-State [top eight individuals]. I think he’s a top-five player in the state if he plays to his potential. He usually makes good decisions going around the course. Putting up there is at a premium and that’s what he’s working on as much as possible.”
With a brutally tough golf course, anything is possible, but more important for Robinson is that his team enjoys the experience.
“I’ve told them I want them to go and just experience going to the state tournament,” Robinson said. “Try to play free, don’t set your expectations too high. Keep the ball in play and take it from there. Mainly, I want them to have an enjoyable experience.”
The Irish claimed the Class A Region 3 crown, culminating a season of marked improvement for a relatively inexperienced squad.
Senior Bryce Helmick, son of coach Sam Helmick, is the only player from last year’s team and will be joined by David Zackwieja, Connor Blakley and Evan Sayre, as the Irish look for their first state title since its string of six in a row was broken by Ravenswood in 2017.
“I’m very proud of them,” Sam Helmick said. “This is a much different team than what we’ve had the past three years. We’re taking three brand new kids and they’re multi-sport guys and they got better and better as the year went on.”
Helmick’s first season came in 2016 as the Irish won their sixth straight championship. With his son graduating, he said that this season will be his last. Though Catholic may not have been the same team as it historically is during the regular season, Helmick believes there is a real opportunity to make some noise.
“We talked about it 10 minutes after regionals,” Helmick said. “Once we left the parking lot, that was behind us. The key to it is it’s a grind. It’s two days, one shot doesn’t win it and one shot doesn’t lose it. You’ve got to be able to have a short memory and put bad shots out of your head. We’re going to try to play conservative golf. We want to put the ball in the fairway, get it up on the green, try to avoid three-putts and get out of there and move on to the next hole. I don’t see us having a kid shooting 71 or 72, we’re going to have to have all three kids really close together.”
The Kanawha Valley produced four individual qualifiers in regional play a week ago with George Washington’s Anderson Goldman and Hurricane’s Sam White qualifying in Class AAA and Poca’s Jacob Blizzard and Herbert Hoover’s Bryson Beaver picking up spots in Class AA.
All but Beaver have state tournament experience. Goldman was a part of GW’s title-winning team a year ago with White and Blizzard each qualifying as individuals. Beaver lost a two-man playoff in Class AA Region 2 a year ago, but broke through this time around.