The epitome of focus, Wissahickon's Jalen Griffin lines up his putt during the PIAA state playoff match at Golden Oaks Golf Course in Oley, PA. Rick Kauffman/Times Herald Staff (Rick Kauffman/Times Herald Staff)
FLEETWOOD — Those who wore sweaters and long pants to Golden Oaks on Tuesday morning may have found that they were overdressed. A cool autumn morning grew to a robust afternoon in the Oley Valley as the state's best high school golfers competed in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Eastern Regional Tournament. For the AAA boys, 24 out of the 50 competitors will qualify for the state tournament next week. On such a nice day, it wasn't surprising that the cut was set at three-over. Kevin Connors of Bishop Shanahan walked away with the medal for the tournament, shooting an astounding five-under, with two eagles and two birdies on the front nine. Now he and 23 others look forward to the real dance.
Brandon Vance of Methacton looks down the fairway before teeing off on the third hole at Golden Oaks Golf Course in Oley, PA during the PIAA Eastern Regional Tournament. Rick Kauffman/Times Herald Staff (Rick Kauffman/Times Herald Staff)
Locally, the Suburban One Champion, PAC-10 Champion and District One Champion all shot par or better, and they're all looking to add one more crown."The whole day was just the same thing that was been going on for the last two months, playing really consistent golf,' said Suburban One co-Champion Jalen Griffin, of Wissahickon.On hole nine, the third hole of the day for Griffin, he sank a birdie-two in which the ball crept to the edge of the cup and dropped. It was eerily reminiscent of his five-or-so similar instances in the District tournament where the ball would sit on the lip and instead of falling in would look back and curse him.
It seemed like his luck had changed after that putt, but then after leaving the ball hole-high on the 10th and missing a birdie putt by inches on the 11th, Griffin blew his first putt ten feet passed the hole and three putted for bogey. And that's when things started going downhill."I was very shaky, I made a couple bogies,' Griffin said.Into the back nine, Griffin left a number of putts again sitting on the edge of the hole.
The golfers competing in the PIAA Eastern Regional Tournament approach the third green at Golden Oaks Golf Course in Oley, PA. From left: Jake Reilly, Austin Green, Brandon Vance and Sawyer Wolfers. Rick Kauffman/Times Herald Staff (Rick Kauffman/Times Herald Staff)
But, he managed to work back to even par, and then on the par-5 fifth (his final hole), Griffin got to the green in two and two-putted for birdie. Griffin finished at one-under in a tie for third place."That brought a lot of confidence back,' Griffin said.
Putting woes were the theme of the day. Early in the morning the ground was damp and the green ran slowly, but as the temperature rose the surface sped up and forced the golfers to adjust. The Vance brothers from PAC-10 champion Methacton, the older brother, Brandon being the PAC-10, and younger brother Kyle winning the District One title last week, had been doing extremely well, shooting three- and four-under respectably with four holes to play. Then, the two, by some sort of unconscious misstep, both shot double- and triple-bogey almost simultaneously four holes apart. Brandon Vance's drive into the trees with four holes to play led to a seven on the par-4 first.
"I just got a bunch of unfortunate lies on that hole,' Brandon Vance said. "But, you got to just forget about it and move onto the next one.'
And as if preordained, the brothers backed up those holes with a bogey on the next, bringing them back to even par where they finished in a tie for sixth. While good enough to qualify, the younger Vance, Kyle, had come in with intentions for more.
"I wanted to win. I went for everything like I usually do ... but I didn't get the win today unfortunately,' Kyle Vance said.