Warwick trio advances to District Golf Championships
BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor
, Staff Writer
Walt Pelensky found himself in an early slide Monday afternoon.
Competing at the Lancaster-Lebanon League Boys Golf Championships, the Warwick junior had three straight holes in which he went bogey, double bogey, bogey.
"I thought for sure after that string of three bad holes," Pelensky said, "I was going to be running into some major troubles, especially that early in the round."
Fortunately, Pelensky had time to turn it around, which is exactly what he did. Buoyed by a solid 1-over on the front nine, Pelensky went on to finish with a 7-over par 77 at Overlook Golf Course while placing fourth overall and punching his first-ever trip to the District 3 Triple-A Championships, set for next Friday and Saturday, Oct. 4-5 at Briarwood East Golf Course.
"It’s a sign that he’s maturing as a golfer he able to play through (the early struggles)," Warwick coach Rob Fisher said. "Finishing fourth in a field of outstanding golfers is fantastic."
Pelensky wasn’t the only Warwick golfer who came up aces at Leagues. Senior Ian Hart capitalized on his final opportunity to make Districts, overcoming a pair of triple bogeys to finish tied for 13th with a 12-over par 82. Hannah Riden, meanwhile, took sixth in the League Girls Championships, shooting 99 to earn a sixth-place finish and qualify for the District Three Girls Tournament, to be held Oct. 4-5 at Briarwood West Golf Course.
"I can tell you it’s what I hoped would happen," Fisher said of his golfers’ performances. "But often times what I hope will happen doesn’t match reality. But today was fantastic … I could not be happier. Fantastic day. Even Evan (Havemann), who didn’t make (Districts), shot his best match round."
Havemann ended up shooting a solid 17-over par 87, just four strokes from the cutoff.
Considering the elements weren’t ideal for golf, with the competitors dealing with winds and fast greens, their accomplishments looked even more impressive.
"It was windy and that held up a lot of balls, especially on, like, hole five," Hart said. "Five is already a long hole and putting it into the wind, shortening your drive, was harder."
Township’s Ryan Dornes won the boys title with a 1-under 69, seven strokes ahead of Solanco’s Connor Sheehan and the Blue Streaks’ Andy Butler, who tied with a 76.
"I thought the field was going to be a lot lower than high-70’s," Pelensky said. "It played very tough, especially with that wind. When you’re going to an uphill green and there’s wind in your face, it’s just a game of guessing and I think that’s what threw a lot of people off today."
After opening with a par and birdie on holes 10 and 11, Pelensky was thrown off a little bit on his next three, leaving him at 3-over par through five holes. But things began to turn around for him a short time later on the 400-yard par-4 hole 17.
"I had a really hard chip," Pelensky recalled. "It was to a down-the-hill green, through a tree and I put it to at least a foot and I was able to make par. And then that really got my morale back up."
In the meantime, he continued to drive the ball well and putt with solid accuracy. Then on hole four, Pelensky chipped in for par and the Warwick junior was officially back on track. He finished out at 1-over with four pars.
"After (hole four), I was good," he said. "It really helped (playing on Warwick’s home course, Overlook). Last Wednesday, I really just used that match as a practice round, being in competition mode so that I would be able to play in competition mode for Leagues and get in the right mindset."
It wasn’t until he finished that Pelensky realized where he was sitting on the leaderboard. His score of 77 was one stroke better than his average of 78 in two matches at Overlook this fall.
"Honestly, my goal was to just make it to Districts and I was thinking hopefully a 77, which is what I shot," Pelensky said. "That’s usually my average for that course, I would say."
"(Walt) deserves it," Fisher said. "He’s worked hard the last couple of years and he’s been like one shot out (of Districts) each year."
Hart, too, deserved good fortune on Monday. In just his third year of playing golf, he was averaging 88.5 over his past two matches entering the League Tournament.
"Ian has probably had the most consistent year of anyone. He’s really hitting the ball good right now," Fisher said.
Starting on hole two Monday, he opened with three straight pars. Shortly thereafter, on par-3 hole-6, Hart scored the first of his two triple bogeys.
"I had two triples, which is what killed my round," he said. "If I could have cut those both down to be bogeys or pars, it would have been like a 76 or 77."
He ended up 7-over on the front nine, then closed it out at 5-over on the back. In fact, Hart had a stretch in which he shot par on six of seven holes, riding a solid effort off the tees.
"The back nine, I think, is a lot easier at that course," Hart said. "There’s a drivable par four and a par five you can reach in two almost every time … My driver is what kept me in play today. It was just making sure my second shots were close enough to get pars and that was my issue. I just wasn’t putting my mid-range irons close enough to give myself a good chance to make birdies."
Within four or five feet, however, Hart was golden with his putter.
"I think I was like 9-for-10 today for them," he said. "They were rolling in for me."
While Hart no doubt would have liked to improve on the triple bogeys, he reached his goal nonetheless.
"I wanted to make Districts because this is my last year," Hart said, "so I wanted to go out as a senior trying to do my best."
Riden is also a senior and she broke the cutoff score (104) by five strokes to give Warwick a third District qualifier. Starting on five, she scored a 6-over on the front nine, carded par on hole 12 and held on for a berth at Briarwood.
"She kept it together," Fisher said. "With girls, it’s different. You have to shoot 104 or under (to advance), so it messes with your mind a little bit and she knew exactly where she was."
Last Wednesday, Sept. 18, Warwick completed the regular season with an 0-6 finish at Overlook. Walt Pelensky shot a 79 to lead the Warriors, who had a team score of 359 while finishing with a record of 5-37.
Ryan Dornes and Andy Butler each shot a 68 to claim top individual honors, helping Manheim Township (292) complete an undefeated season. Hempfield (327) was 35 strokes behind the Streaks, followed by Ephrata (332), Conestoga Valley (335), Cedar Crest (345), Penn Manor (345) and Warwick.
Rounding out the Warriors’ top four were Ian Hart (83), Evan Havemann (94) and Nate Merrill (103).
More WHS GOLFERS, page B-10