PICKERINGTON — Brian Luft has established himself as one of the best golfers in Ohio. More importantly, Newark Catholic is one of the best teams in Ohio.
The Green Wave proved it again Wednesday. Despite a rare off day from Luft, his teammates picked up the slack as NC totaled 307 at Turnberry Golf Course to win its third consecutive Division III district championship.
"Coming into today, we knew we didn't have to do anything special. We just had to play our game," said junior Nathan Riggleman, whose 75 tied classmate Max Vanoy for tournament runner-up honors. "A couple of us had a good day. Others not so great, but it's a team sport. The depth we have on our team is unreal. Anyone can come in super low."
NC plays in the state tournament Oct. 14 and 15 at NorthStar Golf Club in Sunbury. The Green Wave finished third in last year's state tournament and take the same five next weekend.
Luft’s school-record 66 helped NC finish 22 shots ahead of runner-up Mechanicsburg to win the sectional title. This time, the Green Wave used a balanced effort as sophomore Brogan Sullivan added a 77 before Luft, a junior, and senior Jack Rehbeck rounded it out with 80 apiece to finish 19 strokes clear of Mechanicsburg and 24 of third-place Worthington Christian.
NC has played at Turnberry several times, including last Saturday, this season, and that experience paid off. Starting on No. 10, Riggleman was even par through 12 holes, and Vanoy was only a few short putts away from grabbing medalist honors won by Delaware Christian sophomore Gabe Scherer, who shot 73.
"We have played this course five or six times this year because we really wanted to be prepared for today," Vanoy said. "Obviously, it helped. We shot really low. ... It boosts everyone's confidence when we know everyone's doing well."
As has been the case for the last decade, only one team and one individual earned the state berth. The Green Wave had no problem playing under pressure.
"This is the most pressure-packed tournament we play all year," NC coach Phil West said. "You have to win to get to your real prize. This group has their goals set pretty high. It's fantastic to watch these guys come around and the growth they've shown. I love this team. They are the real deal."
Rodichok contends for berth
Jonathan Alder’s Brady Fox took the Division II state berth and ran with it, but Utica senior Ben Rodichok was in position most of the day just in case Fox stumbled.
Fox shot 68 to take medalist honors, and Rodichok, who was within a couple shots most of his round, recorded a 76. Coupled with a 75 at last week’s sectional tournament, Rodichok delivered two of the best rounds of his career given the circumstances.
"I am normally better under pressure," said Rodichok, who tied for fifth overall, also trailing Fairbanks' Cole Eger, who shot 71 and two from champion Columbus Academy. "I do enjoy playing with the top guys."
Rodichok bounced back from a string of three consecutive bogeys on front nine to record birdies on Nos. 9, 12 and 15. His one hiccup was a triple-bogey on No. 17, and he acknowledged access to the live scoring application being used might have distracted him down the stretch as he chased Fox.
Johnstown senior Clay Bruning shot 81, and classmate Evan Harper followed at 85.
Heath totaled 346 and finished fifth. Senior David Link led the Bulldogs at 82, and junior Riley Baum 86, senior Ben Ridgeway 88, junior Keenan Kelly 90 and senior Hunter Byers 91 followed.
This article originally appeared on Newark Advocate: Newark Catholic keeps firm grasp on district boys golf title