The district title gives coach Jim Albanese and his Jonathan Alder golf program a berth in the state tournament in Columbus next weekend, and despite the near miss for Bexley, Will Morris did qualify with a round of 76.
Perhaps the day’s top story was the play of Ironton’s Nathan Kerns. The junior – who scorched the Ironton Country Club earlier this fall when he equaled the course record with a round of 60 (8 birdies, 1 eagle, and 9 pars adding up to a 10-under par round) – had it going again at Cooks Creek. Kerns fired the only red number of the day – a one-under par round of 71 – to capture the individual district title.
After Kerns birdied the second hole, he immediately gave the stroke back with a three-putt bogey at three; however, he then settled in with pars at four, five, and six before making a birdie-four at the par five seventh. Kerns then made par at eight and nine to go out in 35.
“Hole seven is a hole that I have struggled with in the past,” Kerns said. “I felt like coming into the round I needed to play that hole smart, so I went with an iron off the tee and three shots later I was fortunate enough to make a birdie.”
Kerns carried this momentum to the back nine making par at 10 and birdie at 11, but errant tee shots at 12 and 14 led to two bogeys, and it appeared at this point that a great round was in jeopardy. Fortunately for Kerns his next swing was one of his best all day. Kerns threw a dart into the par 3, 15th hole and as the junior enjoyed an easy tap-in, birdie-two he once again saw the momentum of his round take a positive turn. This momentum eventually resulted in a back-nine of 36 to complete the day’s low round.
“That tee ball really helped me gather some momentum,” Kerns said of his near ace at the 15th. “I felt like the course played tough today. I just wanted to keep it in play, keep the big number off my card, and I was fortunate to have it work out that way for me today.”
Ironton head coach Jeff Kerns, Nathan’s father, was extremely please with his son’s play and he is also excited about what the future holds for his Ironton golf program.
“Obviously I am very proud of how Nathan played today,” Jeff Kerns said. “He has worked really hard on his game and it is all starting to come together. He had struggled a little bit during the spring and summer, but I thought he really got focused and found his game early this fall. He rolled his sleeves up and went to work and now that work is paying off.
“I think Nathan has a chance to compete really well next week in Columbus. It is also exciting to think that we have four freshmen coming back with him next year during his senior season, so I think this is a group that has the potential to do some nice things.”
At the Marietta Country Club on Tuesday, the Division III district qualifying teams and individuals took to the tight, difficult course to battle for an opportunity to play at state. Toronto shot a 336 to capture the district title, and Belpre’s 348 was three shots better than South Webster and four better than Fort Frye to secure second place.
The Scioto Valley Conference – an eight-team conference that combined to put seven teams into district play – had a difficult 48-hour stretch. Huntington, Adena, and Southeastern found themselves in three of the final four spots in D-III on Tuesday, and Wednesday proved to be equally disappointing for Unioto, Westfall, Zane Trace, and Piketon.
Huntington had captured last week’s sectional crown while posting a score that was 27 strokes better than second-place Belpre; however, Tuesday’s round saw Belpre return the favor as its second-place finish was 28 strokes better than Huntington and good enough to put the Tri Valley Conference member in next week’s state tournament.
Unioto, this year’s SVC champion, entered Wednesday led by the SVC player of the year Tyler Hammond with high expectations, but Wednesday just wasn’t meant to be for the Shermans as they finished nine shots back in fifth place. Hammond – the defending individual district champion – shot a 10-over par 82 as his fine golf career came to an end.
“We struggled on the front nine today (Wednesday), and even though we got it going a little later it just wasn’t quite enough,” said coach Dan Drummond who led his Unioto team to the school’s 10th league title in 15 years. “I know our seniors took today pretty hard, but I am proud of what they accomplished in their time here at Unioto.”
D-I SECTIONAL: In D-I sectional action at Valley View Golf Course in Lancaster earlier this week, it was Warren firing a 306 to capture the title. Brandon Fivecoat’s round of 73 led the victors. Marietta and Athens also advanced with rounds of 311 and 321, respectively. Marietta’s Nick Hughs matched Fivecoat’s 73 as did Hillsboro’s Mike Morgan. Jackson’s Morgan Dobbins was one stroke back with a round of 74.