Local golfers heading to Columbus

The success of the Newton Falls and John F. Kennedy boys golf teams can be attributed to a pair of coaches who just take the emphasis off of their sport.

“Golf is like being a field-goal kicker in football,” said Tigers coach Scott Kernan. “You’re only as good as your last field goal. You’re only as good as your last round of golf as a golfer.”

Zack Berry was like Adam Vinatieri in Super Bowl XXXIX. Berry’s round of 78 at Tannenhauf Golf Club, with a 35 on the back nine, advanced him to the Division III state tournament at Ohio State which begins Oct. 10.

The round was as clutch as Vinatieri’s 22-yard field goal and three extra points to lift the Patriots over the Eagles, 24-21.

“Every time I saw him, he was in the middle of the fairway and he hit greens in regulation,” Kernan said. “He stuck one tight on 18 with a tap-in birdie to finish a great match.”

Jim St. George is like a card shark with his Eagles, who advance to the state tournament for a second-straight year. Kennedy totaled a team score of 424 for second place. St. Thomas Aquinas won the district tournament with a 415.

“It’s a poker hand,” St. George said. “You get five kids and which four do you want and you have a great chance for nice top scores.”

Senior Billy Phillips was the ace on Wednesday with a 78 and Daniel LaPolla shot a solid 80. Ryan Fowler, normally the team’s No. 1 had an 81, while Ryan Theis and Zach Shoaf finished with 89 and 96, respectively.

“A lot of praise goes to Billy,” St. George said. “He’s been really steady these last five or six matches, while Daniel shot five shots better than his average.”

Fowler’s performance was seven shots above his average.

“He still grinded it out for a great round,” St. George said.

Newton Falls junior Jacob Harrah was 10 strokes above his practice round at Tannenhauf. He shot an 84 on Wednesday, but improved by strokes on the back nine (41) compared to the front nine (43).

“Unfortunately, it wasn’t his day,” Kernan said. “He’s got a bright future ahead of him. I know he’s going to use this as motivation for next year.”

Harrah plans to attend the state tournament in Columbus to get a taste of the big stage. He helped Berry, both juniors, advance to the tournament in the first place.

“Zack had the shanks a week and a half ago,” Kernan said. “You aim to go straight then you almost kill everybody standing to the right. Zack had a bad case of them. Ironically, Jacob’s the one who got him out of that. Jacob really helped him adjust and get through that. Zack started striking the ball really clean and pure ever since.”

While intimidating going against the best golfers in the state, St. George has realized that the state tournament is less intense than districts, especially in the Northeast district where just two out of nine teams advance.

“Districts are the pressure cooker,” he said. “The pressure’s off now. It’s business, but were not moving on anywhere. We’d like to improve on last year’s stance.”

The Eagles placed eighth in 2012 with a two-day total of 681 at North Star Golf Resort in Sunbury.

Chance Proverbs paced the Jackson-Milton team with an 81 on Wednesday, while Vince Hynes led Lowellville with an 82. Individually, Lordstown’s Steve Gill shot a 79, Maplewood’s Nate Spitler had a 90 and McDonald’s Mike Schuller totaled a 92. Western Reserve’s Ethan Grim had an 89.