McDonald's Mike Shuller had to pause and reflect before teeing up at the Division III sectional golf tournament at Riverview Golf Course on Wednesday.
"I was still kind of nervous," the senior said. "No matter what, it's my last chance."
A chance, based on a choice, that almost didn't happen.
With an 81, Shuller advances to the district tournament on Oct. 2 at Tannenhauf in Alliance. Lordstown's Steve Gill qualified with a 77 and Maplewood's Nate Spitler qualified with an 83.
The John F. Kennedy boys team won its fourth-straight sectional tournament with a 307.
Shuller has only been a McDonald golfer for two years. He played football in the fall through eighth grade and focused on basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring.
"I never golfed before in my life and me and a friend just came out for the team for fun before my junior year," Shuller said. "I didn't start off very well, I just had a $200 set of crap clubs.
"I actually almost ended up quitting last summer because I got frustrated early on shooting 48 and 49 most of the time."
Those scores decreased to the mid-30s for nine holes. Thanks to a re-newed spirit and brand new set of clubs: Callaway irons, Nike driver and an Odyssey putter.
"Over this summer I was out there every night until dark," Shuller said. "I shaved a lot of strokes off by just practicing all the time.
"Now, I love golfing. My biggest regret is not playing all four years of high school. If I can get to state, though, it would wipe that away, I'd be completely satisfied and it would be great. There's still work to be done."
For the past few years, the D-III district tournament was held at Seven Hills in Hartville.
"We're ready for a new challenge," said Kennedy coach Jim St. George. "We'll play 18 on Sunday and nine more on Tuesday before the tournament on Wednesday."
Ryan Fowler was the medalist on Tuesday with a 70 - one better than his sectional score from a year ago. Billy Phillips shot a 75, an improvement of two strokes and Daniel LaPolla recorded a 79, six shots better than last year.
Sophomore Zach Shoaf shot an 83 on Tuesday, "the round of his life," is how St. George put it.
"For us to pull through like that, thanks to our normal five-man, is fantastic," St. George said.
The Eagles improved on their team score, too. Last year, they shot a 311 at sectionals.
Newton Falls and Jackson-Milton are also advancing their teams to districts with a 332 and 343, respectively.