JOHNSTOWN — On its best days, Clover Valley Golf Club can be a challenging course, and it played especially tough on Wednesday following heavy rain in the morning.
Granville sophomore Sam Pfau, however, remain undaunted. It may be his favorite layout (he fired 1-under 71 there recently in the final Licking County Junior Golf Association event), and through 14 holes Wednesday, he was also at 1-under. He cooled off down the stretch, but still finished at 2-over 74, three shots better than his closest competitor and good for medalist honors in the first Licking County League boys event of the fall.
Senior teammate Carter Budreau has held the hot hand opening the season, and Wednesday, he tied for second with 77 (40-37). Their combined effort propelled the Blue Aces to the title with 320 strokes to 326 by Newark Catholic, which had been sizzling of late with rounds of 301 and 308 and titles at the Newark Catholic Invitational and 22-team Warrior Classic.
"We picked a good day to have our best round of the season, and Newark Catholic didn't have its best round," said Granville coach Marvin Bright. "We played extremely well." Senior Steven Zurawick added a varsity best 83 (38-45) and sophomore Alex Organ chipped in with 44-42 (86).
"Our previous best was 324 at Turnberry, and we hadn't even been close to that," Bright said. "This is a good start, and we'll go from there. Carter has had a great start to his season. He just had a 73 at Champion for runnerup medalist, was top five at Turnberry with 76 and top five at Chapel Hill with 71."
Wednesday was Pfau's day to shine as he posted 35-39.
"I like how you can reach the fairways here, and the greens roll very nice," he said. "The course still played pretty tough. My putting has improved. I was probably at 30-32 putts today. I had a chance at a PR but missed some putts. I'll still take 74. I'm not long off the tee, but I hit it straight. I'm working on my irons and trying to hit the greens more often. Hopefully, I can win the LCL and keep it under 80 as much as I can."
NC, which recently had six golfers in the 70s, was led by junior Brian Luft's 78 (41-37), while Jack Rehbeck shot 79 (39-40). Nathan Riggleman added 84 (40-44) and Brogan Sullivan posted 85 (42-43).
"The course was soaking wet and the air was thick, so the ball was not flying as far," Luft said. "A lot of holes here will eat you alive. I was 2-under on the back when I got to 17 and was starting to reel it in, but I hit a couple of bad shots. Sometimes you have to play it safe and I might have gotten greedy, but I heard my team was down at the turn and I wanted to help them come back. We've been playing so well, so it (an off round) is bound to happen. It's how you respond. I still think we have the best team out there, and I wouldn't want to play with anyone else."
Heath, paced by David Link's 78 (39-39) and Ben Ridgeway's 86 (45-41), placed third with 336, while Watkins Memorial finished fourth at 340 and Johnstown was right behind with 341. Seniors Skyler Graham of the Warriors (36-41) and Clay Bruning of the Johnnies (39-38) tied Budreau for runnerup medalist honors with 77. Chase Boroff added 83 (41-42) for Johnstown, while Maddox Tanzillo (42-43) posted 85 for Watkins. Ben Rodichok (45-41) carded 86 for Utica, which was sixth with 373 strokes.
After struggling a bit at the recent LCJGA event at Clover Valley, Graham was excited with the way he bounced back on the course Wednesday. He had two birdies on the front nine, hitting within five feet on No. 3 and draining a 60-foot putt on No. 5.
"It was pretty cool, definitely a big momentum builder," he said of the long putt. "I was more confident in my iron game today. I was 3-over through two holes, but just told myself I was going to really trust my game. I was 3-iron off a lot of tees, leaving me a 6, 7 or 8-iron to the green. That leaves me behind a lot of guys, but I can still make it work."
Bruning was not overjoyed with the 77 on his home course, but knows he can do better. He rolled in a long birdie putt from the fringe on No. 18, ending the round on a positive note.
"I just kind of struggled, and my swing was off a little bit," he said. "I had a 72 (at NorthStar in the Warrior Classic), which was pretty good on a harder course. I should be around par, every round."
This article originally appeared on Newark Advocate: Granville boys golf rules first LCL tournament at Clover Valley.