By Tim Rogers
WESTFIELD CENTER: It seemed inconceivable that the members of the Northern Ohio PGA team could improve on – or even equal – their first day performance when the second day of the inaugural Junior Ohio Cup began on Sunday on the South Course of Westfield Country Club.
Afterall, the weather on Sunday – deplorable seems a fair assessment — was significantly worse than on Saturday when the NOPGA built a commanding lead against the SOPGA with some stellar play during the Four Ball competition.
Yet, Day II Singles turned out to be just as good – if not better – than Day I Four Ball and it led the NOPGA to a decisive 16-8 victory in a event drew rave reviews from both teams.
Once again, the girls’ side was dominant as it produced enough individual victories to clinch the Cup before the first boys’ match made the turn.
In fact, the girls stole the show both days as they produced 11.5 of the team’s 16 points. In the 12 matches – four in Saturday’s Four Ball (aka Best Ball) and eight in Sunday’s singles – the girls went 11-0-1. If that’s not dominance then Annika Sorenstam was a flash in the pan.
Despite temperatures falling faster than the Stock Market crash on the same weekend 94 years ago – you can look it up – the NOPGA girls were astounding.
Brooklyn Millard (Aurora), Gracyn Vidovic (Aurora), Serena Wu (Solon), Emily Burling (Hudson) and Kristina Chill (Columbia Station) combined to win 18 of their first 25 holes to quickly eliminate any anxiety that might have existed.
“About the only thing that could have gone better was the weather,” said NOPGA Captain Drew Pierson. “It’s not easy playing in this stuff and the kids all performed great. They all seemed to let it roll off their shoulders. They kept their heads in the game and didn’t let it distract them. They didn’t make it a disadvantage for them.”
While giving credit to each of his players, Pierson felt Brooklyn Millard’s match – the first of the day – was a key.
“To get Brooklyn out there and set the tone, that was a big plus,” said Pierson.
The 17-year-old Millard, a senior at Aurora High School, won the Junior PGA Section Championship at Oberlin GC this summer. She needed just 11 holes to defeat Paige Weiss, who finished in a tie for fourth place in the recent Division II state tournament while playing for Westfall High in Williamsport, about 40 miles south of Columbus.
“It was Brooklyn and then the rest followed,” he said.
Pierson said he did not need to deliver any Knute Rockne pre-game speeches to his team. He felt they were self-prepared.
“The only message I delivered to them was to keep momentum on your side,” he said. “If you get a big lead, keep the momentum. If you get two-up or three-up, try to get four-up. If you get four-up, try to get five. Also, the opposite. If you get one-down or two-down or three-down don’t worry about it too much. Focus on trying to get it to two-down, then one-down and then square it up and try to get one-up, two-up. Take it one hole, one shot at a time.”
The strategy, needed or not, worked. While Millard needed just 11 holes to end her match, Burling and Chill needed 13 holes, Annelise Stencel ended hers after 15 holes. Vidovic ended it at 16 and Wu at 17. Only two of the eight matches went the full 18 holes.
Stencel’s 4-and-3 win over Cadence Monroe-McCoy gave the NOPGA a clinching 12.5 points and when Julia Van Bokkelen earned a halve with Rebekah Hartley in the final girls match to finish, the NOPGA led, 14-2.
Mathematically, that made all the boys matches a moot point. Moot, maybe. Insignificant? Certainly not. A matter of pride still existed and New Philadelphia’s Nathan Menapace upheld that with a 6-and-5 victory as the lone boys’ win.
Westlake’s Sion Park, North Canton’s Daniel Gambone and Dover’s Trey Lautenschleger all earned half-points and in team match-play a tie is infinitely better than a loss.
Eight of the team’s 16 players have at least one more year of high school. There were four juniors, three sophomores and one freshman. That could be a strong building block for 2024 and beyond.