Driving force

His teams have qualified for the district tournament in half of his years coaching. So, it’s safe to say Jack Hutchison knows how to lead a group’s success.

Monday, it wasn’t so easy. But it sure was thrilling.

“As a team,” Hutchison said, “they almost gave me a heart attack.”

Instead, the Howland girls golf team earned him a fifth trip to the Division I district tournament in his 10th year coaching. The Tigers placed fourth with a score of 360 at Tamer Win in a D-I sectional tournament. Geneva, though, also scored a 360. Going to the fifth scorecard, Howland’s Mo Preston bested Geneva’s Caitlin Skufca. Preston shot a 100 and Skufca shot a 103.

The top four teams and the top four individuals not on qualifying teams advance to the district tournament next week.

The Tigers’ normal No. 5, Nicole Bullard, had a 95.

“She’s a grinder,” Hutchison said of Ballard, a senior. “She works hard at it and gets everything out of her game coming through. (Monday), she just kept grinding it out.”

Ballard improved from a 51 on her first nine holes (Howland started on the back nine) to a 44 in her final nine.

“She knew in her mind that she was going to pull through and she was going to pull it out,” Hutchison said.

Fellow senior Hannah Buzulencia “played maybe the best round of her life,” Hutchison said.

She tallied an 86 with seven pars. Sophomore Sarah Brindley tallied a 99 and Howland’s No. 1, Angelica Maggio, turned in another impressive round in her senior year with an 80, placing her sixth overall.

“Angelica has worked hard at the game,” Hutchison said. “She’s always wanted to improve and I think she’ll do well at the districts. At districts you have to fly the ball to the greens and just roll it up.

“Angelica hits her approach shots real well to the green so that will be great for her.”

In Tamer Win’s sixth year of hosting a sectional tournament a new team-low was set at 308 by Kent Roosevelt. Its No. 1, Kasey Nielson, led the field with a 70. Canfield, led by Christina Cooper’s second place 73, was second in the team standings with 331. Kenston placed third at 351.

After the turn, the Tigers looked to be in a battle for fifth or sixth place and within reach of fourth.

“And we ended up getting it,” Hutchison said.

“I thought we were doing OK by the middle of the first nine, not as well as I thought,” he added. “It put the pressure on us for the second nine, but they came through. I honestly thought they we wouldn’t be able to make it as a team. Hannah shooting what she did on the second nine and Nicole coming up well pushed us. I was surprised and obviously happy.”

Howland will play in Friday’s Trumbull Country Club Invitational and rest over the weekend for the Division I district tournament, which is Oct. 7 at Legends of Massillon Golf Club.