BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR SPORTS — The third time’s a charm.
For seniors Ian Briars, Myles Murphy and Logan Sutto, their third and final trip to the Division I state golf tournament was just the ticket – netting the Anthony Wayne Generals their first state title in 20 years.
“Me, Ian and Myles have been (to states) the last three years together. We always joked, ‘Imagine if we won the state championship,’” said Sutto, whose 70 in the first round and 66 in the second for a combined 136 also earned him second place in the state individual rankings.
Played on October 20-21 at The Ohio State University’s Scarlet golf course, the D-I tournament was definitely challenging, with wind, drizzle and difficult holes.
“There’s nothing easy about the course. It was hard to make the fairways and hard to make the putts,” said Murphy, who had an 82 and a 78 for a combined 160. “We never play there except when we go to states.”
Briars netted a 75 and 76 for a combined score of 151 for the weekend.
“It was pretty good considering the difficulty of the course and the situation we were in,” he said. “We definitely thought this year was our best chance to win the championship.
“We were pretty focused and serious about what we had to do. We had only one goal, and that was to win, but we knew we were going to have fun.”
AW coach Pat Phillips noticed a difference in the team’s attitude.
“The biggest thing was our confidence and how relaxed and loose we played at the state tournament,” he said. “The kids did not seem nervous at all, which is very unusual. They were joking around right before they teed off. They all hit very good tee shots the first hole – which is an indication they’re loose.”
The tournament did have some tense moments, the teens admitted.
Michael Distefano, a sophomore who had a 153 (81, 72) for the weekend, said the first day he was a little unsteady, but he had received some pointers from those who’ve played the course before.
“We’re all kind of close and practice together over the summer and through the offseason. Even when we’re playing bad, we count on each other,” he said.
Junior Ted Robertson, who scored 158 (82, 76), agreed.
“The first day there was a lot of nerves. We definitely felt a lot of pressure to make sure we would have a chance to win the second day,” Robertson said, noting that Phillips’ talk helped put things in perspective.
On the second day, Robertson recalls making a double on his second hole.
“That was hard to overcome,” he said. But he focused and didn’t pay attention to the score, and that helped him make a birdie from a “not very good position” on the 12th hole and turn things around.
Not paying attention to the score kept Murphy calm as well.
“I didn’t realize how well we were doing until the 14th hole or so,” he said. “On the 18th tee box, I looked at the score and saw that we had a three-shot lead and everyone else was pretty much done. I was so shocked to see that.”
Day 2 saw some momentous shots for the team.
For Briars, it was on hole 8, where he used a seven iron to get within 5 feet of the hole and then birdied.
“That really helped me get my round back on track,” he said.
Sutto was on a roll during the first nine on day two. He was making birdies within 5 feet of the hole each time.
“On the back nine, I made an insane birdie on hole 12. Then on 13, I made a 40-footer and got the crowd wild – that was my best. It’s usually a pro shot,” Sutto said.
Watching the day play out, Phillips knew after nine holes when the score was phenomenal that the team had a chance to make it.
“A couple of the kids made some big putts and I got kind of emotional. The kids said, ‘Coach, that’s the most emotion we’ve seen out of you,’” Phillips admitted.
Phillips has been coaching boys golf for 16 years. Last year, the team finished sixth during its second trip to states.
“It’s very awesome,” he said. “I woke up Sunday and saw that trophy and shook my head. We did that. Holy cow.”
He sees the excellence and cohesiveness of the players as one of the big reasons why the team won – in addition to a very tough regular season this year. While in a normal season the team would play about 10 tournaments in the area, he upped the ante.
“We played a lot more tournaments out of town. We chose to play some more challenging golf courses against better teams in the state to get ready. I think that was the thing that put us over the top this year,” the coach said.
Murphy has committed to play golf for the University of Findlay, while Sutto is committed to Butler University. Briars is still weighing his options.
“With Logan, Myles and Ian leaving, we’ve got some big shoes to fill leadership wise and playing wise. Me and Ted have to do a pretty big job at that,” Distefano said.
“Ted and Michael played outstanding. We had our four other varsity players go to support our team and get the experience watching. Three of those other kids are not seniors and should contribute for us next year,” Phillips said, referring to Trevor Campbell, Cole Reese, Ethan Anstine and Tyler Shaw.
“They’re all very talented kids, too.”