George Washington didn’t end its 29-year championship drought on Tuesday, but it sure put itself in a great spot to do so on Wednesday.
The Patriots, led by an even-par 70 from top player Joseph Kalaskey, shot a combined 221 to grab a 10-stroke lead over Hedgesville in the Class AAA portion of the state golf tournament on the Jones Course at Oglebay Park in Wheeling.
A rain delay of around an hour and 20 minutes suspended first-round play in the evening. Only four of the eight teams in Class AA finished with play being stopped for darkness. Players still needing to conclude round one are due back at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday to finish before teeing off later for the second round.
After a brief lull in the middle of the round, GW matched a strong start with a strong finish to carry the lead and momentum into the final day.
“I’m a little bit relieved,” GW coach B.J. Calabrese said. “I’m happy. Mentally and physically this course is always a grind but to have a lead going into the second day, I’m pleased. Tomorrow is a new day and I’ve seen a lot of things in all my years at the state golf tournament, so you can’t take anything for granted.”
Depth has been the strong suit for GW all season and it showed up in spades again on Tuesday with Kalaskey being supported by a 73 from John Logan Taylor and a 78 from Anderson Goldman. The top three scores from each four-man team counted toward the team score, with Colt Gillispie adding an 85.
Defending Class AAA champion Washington struggled a bit despite a 73 from WVU commit and defending medalist Christian Boyd. Washington shot a 238 to sit in a tie for fifth with Greenbrier East. Wheeling Park (233) and Parkersburg (235) will enter Wednesday in third and fourth, respectively.
GW hasn’t won a state championship since 1989, and though Calabrese has won a title as a coach in a previous stint with Charleston Catholic, there was one goal in mind for his team entering the season with three out of four players that played in Wheeling a year ago. Now, his squad sits one round from accomplishing it.
“Hopefully we can finish it off, the school is due for one,” Calabrese, now in his seventh season at GW, said. “That was the goal when I took over the position was to win a state championship. They deserve it. They’ve always had talented teams.”
Wet conditions plagued the course throughout Tuesday, with players being allowed to lift, clean and replace their balls in the fairway.
GW, which lost just one match all season in a 1-stroke decision to Washington on the Jones Course early in the year, will now face the pressure of holding on to a lead. Calabrese said he began preparing his team for that at the season’s outset.
“This really all started last year,” Calabrese explained. “On the way home I was so disappointed with our finish and I said, ‘We’re going to come into this year with a new mindset.’ Number one, stop griping about the course, it’s not going to change. We were going to play the course as many times as we could leading into the state tournament and I was going to challenge them the first three weeks of the season in as many big tournaments as we could. Those three things really, really have helped us. The kids have been focused since day one.”
Kalaskey’s round of 70 also has him two shots clear of Wheeling Park’s Ryan Payne and three shots ahead of Boyd and Taylor in the medalist race.
Wheeling Central jumped out to a 12-shot lead over defending champion Ravenswood in the Class A standings with a combined total of 246. Derrick Harrison led the Maroon Knights, carding a 3-over 75, good for the individual lead heading into Wednesday’s final round. Central has not won a team championship since 2006.
Charleston Catholic is 24 shots off the pace at 270 in a tie for third with Williamstown. Jack Cimino and Wilson Meeks each shot an 88 to lead the Irish.
Central’s Derrick Harrison is the individual leader after posting a 75.
Grafton (233), Westside (236), Bridgeport (259) and Winfield (293) all finished their rounds with North Marion, Robert C. Byrd, Scott and Wyoming East still with two players to finish once play was halted for darkness Tuesday evening.
Despite the Generals’ team struggles, Chase Milbee put together a 76 and stands just three shots back of Robert C. Byrd’s Jimmy Hawkins for the individual lead with several players still yet to come in. Grafton’s Kolbe Kimbrew also shot a 76.