HINCKLEY TWP. — Max Toom clenched the Pine Hills Division I District runner-up trophy with both hands for a picture. The senior already was thinking about the hashtag “#NewProfilePic” for his Twitter account.
Evan Gray couldn’t stand still, bouncing all over the place before eventually working his way to third-year coach Chad Thompson for a low-five and slap on the back while repeating the phrase “We did it!”
Cameron MacLellan, Matt Krivanek and Preston Levandowski were more subdued because that’s just how they roll, but the smiles as wide as the 18th green at Pine Hills Golf Club told the story.
History be damned. The Brunswick boys golf team exorcised 54 years of demons and is heading to the state tournament for the first time, fulfilling a goal set 38 months ago when the talented quintet and alternate Jon Cappellazzo slipped on blue and white jerseys for the first time.
“Right now, this is just exhilarating,” Toom said. “I’m still shaking a little bit and have been ever since I was on the 18th green. It’s just amazing to do this, first time in school history. There isn’t a different group of guys I’d rather do this with. It’s been one heckuva ride for four years, and it’s finally here.”
“Oh, wow. Complete excitement,” Gray added. “I couldn’t be happier. This is probably one of the happiest days of my life. Every single one of us has spent countless hours putting in work for this day. To even bring along hardware with it, it’s breathtaking. I couldn’t be happier for all of us.”
Soggy weather, slow greens and stellar efforts from Green (297), Boardman (306) and University School (311) didn’t faze the Blue Devils, who fired a 20-over-par 304 for the second-lowest score in school history.
Perhaps fittingly, the most experienced players carried the load in a monumentally clutch way.
First there was Toom, the battle-hardened veteran now with 1,098 varsity holes under his belt, setting the tone by holing the second shot of his round from 130 yards for an eagle. That provided the momentum needed for a 1-over-par 72 that was two strokes behind medalist Andrew Kaye of St. Ignatius.
Then there was Gray, Medina County’s consistent performer in the second half of the season, playing what he called a “boring” round with a 73 that featured 14 greens, 14 pars, three bogeys and one birdie.
Then there was the X-factor, MacLellan, who was 2 under after an eagle on No. 14 before settling for a career-low 73. No other team in the 20-school field boasted three players under 75, and Levandowski (86) completed the scoring.
“It was the perfect time to do it, that’s for sure,” Toom said of the top three players breaking 75 in the same round for the first time. “We all have the ability to put in some great rounds, and I’m just glad we did it today.”
Brunswick had a different approach after finishing seventh last season with a 316. That year, the Blue Devils hoped to advance. This time around, they expected to.
Now they’ll get to dance with the best in the state Oct. 20-21 on Ohio State University’s Scarlet Course, the home of the Ohio State Buckeyes and former stomping grounds of Jack Nicklaus.
“We were 100 percent there. Every one of us was ready for today,” Gray said. “There was nerves between all of us, which is highly expected, but we were 100 percent focused. I did not lose focus one time during that round.”
All-senior Highland made a gutsy run at its first state berth since 2001 but fell four strokes shy with a fifth-place 315, a score that would have moved on had the state not trimmed the number of qualifying teams out of Pine Hills from five to four. The heartbreak became bigger as the scores trickled in, placing Cooper Phelps (76) one stroke off a playoff for the final individual spot.
The Suburban League American Conference champion Hornets, who also got a 77 from Carson Wirebaugh, an 80 from Ross Scherler and an 82 from David Laib, were in position after starting on the back nine and making the turn with a 156, but a collective 5 over score on the 430-yard sixth hole — statistically the course’s toughest — was part of their undoing.
“I’m kind of disappointed I missed (state) by just one stroke,” Phelps said. “It sucks they only took four teams this year and not five since they did the re-district thing, but it is what it is. I could have played better, but everything happens for a reason, I guess.
“This year’s been fun. We’ve had a good senior year. We played good, broke some records — it’s always good to do that — but it would have been nice to get to state.”
Inexperienced Medina (340, 16th) couldn’t get any momentum en route to its second-highest score of the season. Junior Colin McClowry and sophomore John Varley fired 83s, while sophomore Blake Shienkaruk and junior Ian Dorman added 87s.
Buckeye senior Connor Thomas had an 83 while competing as an individual, and Wadsworth resident Tommy Witschey’s 82 helped Archbishop Hoban (322) to ninth place.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HINCKLEY TWP. — Results from the Pine Hills Division I District at par-71 Pine Hills G.C.:
Standings (top 4 advance to Oct. 20-21 state tournament): 1. Green 297, 2. Brunswick 304, 3. Boardman 306, 4. University School 311, 5. Highland 315, 6. St. Ignatius 315, 7. Rocky River 318, 8. Walsh Jesuit 320, 9. Archbishop Hoban 322, 10. North Royalton 324, 11. Jackson 324, 12. Mentor Lake Catholic 325, 13. Avon Lake 326, 14. Willoughby South 329, 15. Uniontown Lake 335, 16. Medina 340, 17. Hudson 340, 18. Kenston 342, 19. Painesville Riverside 342, 20. Olmsted Falls 355.
Individual qualifiers: Andrew Kaye (St. Ignatius) 70, Ben Basta (Hudson) 72, Roni Shin (Rocky River) 73, Brock Hawkins (Jackson) 75.
Brunswick (304): Max Toom 72, Evan Gray 73, Cameron MacLellan 73, Preston Levandowski 86, Matt Krivanek 87.
Highland (315): Cooper Phelps 76, Carson Wirebaugh 77, Ross Scherler 80, David Laib 82, Cameron Jean 83.
Medina (340): Colin McClowry 83, John Varley 83, Ian Dorman 87, Blake Shienkaruk 87, Caden Pittman 95.
County individual: Connor Thomas (Buckeye) 83.