LIMERICK -- Methacton senior Kyle Vance didn’t win a third District One Class AAA title Tuesday at Turtle Creek Golf Course, but he might have given his pal, Spring-Ford junior Ben Pochet, an inadvertent shove toward the district crown.
Pochet, runnerup in the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Christman Cup this summer, had opened with an even-par 72 in Monday’s opening round and had just reached 1-under for the tournament by sinking a 10-foot birdie putt at the par-3 11th, his fourth birdie of the day offsetting a bogey at six and a double bogey at the ninth.
Pochet’s approach at the 325-yard, par-4 12th left him with a decent look at birdie from 20 feet. As Pochet and his playing partners lined up their putts, though, a ball suddenly dropped out of the sky, landed softly and came to rest five feet from the hole.
The spectators watching Pochet’s group wondered where the ball had come from. Pochet figured it out pretty quickly.
“I knew it was Kyle, I was just wondering if he hit driver or 3-wood,” Pochet said after firing a 3-under 69 over the 6,518-yard, par-72 Turtle Creek layout that gave him a 3-under 141 total, one shot better than Bishop Shanahan’s Ryan Conners and two shots clear of Vance.
Vance, a Kansas State recruit, had indeed launched a high draw with a driver from 325 yards away on the sharp dogleg left and landed it five feet from the hole.
“I wasn’t sure how he was doing, but I’m thinking he’s going to make that for eagle – I later found out he missed it – and I might need birdie to stay ahead of him,” Pochet said. “He’s such a good player, especially on this golf course.”
Pochet promptly drained his birdie putt and then added a short birdie putt on the 13th hole after nearly reaching the 478-yard, par-5 in two. The three straight birdies, at 11, 12 and 13, gave him the cushion he needed to hold off Conners and Vance.
“I was trying to get some momentum going all day and wasn’t quite getting there,” said Pochet, a member at nearby Spring-Ford Country Club. “But getting those three straight birdies really gave me the momentum I needed.”
Pochet’s round also led the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Rams to the Class AAA team title on their home course. Jon Lumley added a 73, Connor Boham had a 74 and Chase Armor had a 78 to give Spring-Ford a 294 total. The Rams were able to toss Thomas Freed’s 79. The Rams will represent District One in the PIAA Class AAA team championship in two weeks at the Heritage Hills Resort in York County.
Unionville finished second at 302, Methacton was third at 304, Wissahickon was fourth at 306, Conestoga was fifth at 307, defending district team champion Radnor shared sixth place with Central Bucks East at 308, Bishop Shanahan was eighth at 309, Council Rock South, Holy Ghost Prep and Pennsbury finished tied for ninth at 316 and Downingtown East was 12th at 320.
Bonham will join Pochet as they try to qualify for an individual berth at the state tournament in the PIAA Class AAA East Regional Monday at Golden Oaks Golf Club. Bonham’s 74 gave him a 5-over 149 total and left him in a tie for 10th.
Pochet will take the same approach to Golden Oaks that made him so successful at the Turtle.
“I hit the ball well here,” Pochet said. “I probably hit 12 greens today and I hit 13, I think (Monday). My putting wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t like I was leaving myself with a lot of long putts.”
Conners, who had opened with a 1-under 71 Monday, looked like he had fallen out of contention when he made a triple bogey six on the par-3 ninth and made bogeys at 11 and 12 to fall to 3-over for the tournament.
But he closed with a rush, making birdies on five of the last six holes. He needed eagle at the par-5 18th to force a playoff with Pochet, but could only manage his seventh birdie of the day. It gave him a 1-under 71 and a 36-hole total of 2-under 142.
Vance did indeed lip out that eagle try after reaching the par-4 12th with his epic tee shot. The birdie put him very much in contention at 1-under, but he fell back to 1-over with bogeys at 13 and 16 before making birdies at 17 and 18. That gave him an even-par 72 and a 1-under 143 total.
Not only did I get to see the eventual winner by following Pochet’s group, I also got to see a remarkable putting performance by Radnor sophomore Jake Calamaro. The left-hander struggled all day with his ball-striking and a double bogey at the par-5 13th and a triple bogey at the par-5 13th resulted in a 77.
Still, his 6-over 150 total gave him a ticket to Golden Oaks. And he earned it with par-saving putts of eight feet at the sixth, 10 feet at the seventh, five feet for a remarkable up-and-down at nine, 10 feet at the 10th, 10 feet at 11, six feet at 12, 12 feet at 15 and 10 feet at 16.
His teammate and fellow sophomore David Colleran, the reigning GAP Junior Boys’ champion, did not fare as well. Colleran made five birdies, but shot 3-over 75 to finish a shot behind the cut line of 151 at 8-over 152.
Another member of the Pochet-Calamaro foursome, Norristown’s Caleb Ryan (74-72), joined North Penn’s Andrew Lombardo (76-70) and Upper Dublin’s David Kim (75-71) in a tie for fourth at 2-over 146. West Chester Rustin’s Luke Shevlin, the first-round leader with a 2-under 70, fell back with a 77 and joined Kennett’s Evan Brown (71-76) in a tie for seventh at 3-over 147.
North Penn’s Ron Robinson, winner of GAP’s Jock MacKenzie Memorial this summer, fired a 1-under 71 Tuesday to finish alone in ninth place at 148. Downingtown East’s Wills Montgomery (76-73) joined Spring-Ford’s Boham in a tie for 10th at 149.
Pope John Paul III’s J.T. Spina (77-73) joined Radnor’s Calamaro in a tie for 13th at 150. The final two tickets to Golden Oaks went to Council Rock North’s Connor Welles (77-74) and Unionville’s Nick Gianelos (75-76), who finished in a tie for 15th at 151.
In Class AA, Lower Moreland’s Daniel Galbreath captured the district title, adding a 78 to an opening-round 83 for a 161 total. He finished a shot ahead of Devon Prep’s Bryan Donato, who matched Galbreath’s 78 after opening with an 84. Donato nabbed the final AA berth to Golden Oaks.
New Hope-Solebury claimed the Class AA team title with a 304 total. New Hope got a 2-under 70 from Nina Kouchi, the district girls champion in AA, a 77 from Ben Wiseman, a 78 from Clay Asplundh and a 79 from Nate Hiriak. New Hope was able to toss a 104 from Bobby Wannemacher. Devon Prep was the runnerup with a 335 total.
On the girls side, Conestoga sophomore Samantha Yao was right at home at the Turtle, which measured 5,695 for the girls, firing an even-par 72 to capture the Class AAA title with an 8-over 151 total.
Yao struggled a little with an 8-over 79 in Monday’s opening round at Gilbertsville Golf Club’s Red and White nines. But, much as she did when finishing in a tie for third as a freshman a year ago, Yao, a member at White Manor Country Club, found the Turtle fit her game.
Yao had just one birdie and one bogey and 16 pars. She couldn’t recall which hole she birdied – it was the par-4 seventh – nor which hole she bogeyed – it was the par-3 11th – she just knew she was happy she made as many pars as she did.
“I just wanted to get it on the green and make my par and get to the next hole,” said Yao, who fired a 3-under 69 at the Turtle in the Central League Tournament two weeks ago. “I did get it up and down for pars a couple of times.”
Radnor’s Kim sisters, Gabby, a senior, and June, a freshman, finished second and third, respectively. Gabby Kim, who will defend her East Regional title at Golden Oaks Monday, had a 78 for a 155 total while June Kim had an 83 for a 161 total.
Hatboro-Horsham’s Cassidy Gavaghan (81-81) finished fourth at 162, Central Bucks East’s Sophia Mancuso (77-86) was fifth at 163, Wissahickon’s Cristea Park (81-83) was sixth at 164 and West Chester East’s Sofia Amoroso (82-83) and Downingtown East’s Liddie McCook (81-84) grabbed the last two tickets to Golden Oaks as they finished tie for seventh at 165.
New Hope-Solebury’s Kouchi had the best round of the day among the girls as her 2-under 70 gave her a 149 total and the Class AA title. It also gave her the lone Class AA berth out of District One to the East regional.