Scarlet course proves to be test for Eagles at state tournament

A few years ago, Jack Nicklaus, one of the greatest golfers in the history of the sport, decided to redesign the Scarlet Course at his alma mater – Ohio State University.

The John F. Kennedy golf team isn’t too thrilled he did that.

The Eagles shot 171 through the first nine holes of the Division III Boys State Golf Tournament on Friday morning, but the back nine proved to be a tougher task. Kennedy finished with a solid score of 350 through the first day, good for eighth place out of 12 teams.

“I wanted a 340 – that’s what we were shooting for,” Kennedy coach Jim St. George said. “I was pretty happy at the turn, but this course, the deeper you get into it, the tougher it gets. It’s more Jack Nicklaus-like – a lot more bunkers, a lot more positioning, a lot more elevation, a lot more up and down. But still, they hung in there.”

Ryan Fowler led the way with a 78 – he’s tied for sixth overall. Senior Billy Phillips carded an 86, junior Daniel LaPolla hit a 92, freshman Ryan Theis added a 94 and sophomore Zach Shoaf scored a 98.

Fowler shot 1-over on the front nine, but he too struggled with the final nine holes – shooting 6-over to finish with 7-over par.

St. George said the Eagles fed off a large gallery that came out for a near-perfect day for golf.

“There was a big crowd to get them going – just a positively great day,” St. George said. “Ryan had a beautiful round on the front. He started out rough on the back with a triple, but he came in with a 41. He was mad because he had a couple bad holes, but everyone had a couple bad holes. He’s very much in the hunt.”

St. George said Phillips, the Eagles’ lone senior and their lowest scorer at the district tournament (78), suffered a back injury early in the day, but he continued to golf, and St. George expected him to be able to finish the tournament – the second round begins at 9 a.m. today.

The top five finishers are named to the All-Ohio first team, and the next five are second team all-state honorees. Jeg Coughlin of Powell Village Academy was the overall leader with a 73. Columbus Gahanna Academy led the team standings with a 323.

The Eagles, who are at state for the second straight year, wanted to give themselves a better chance at a high finish than they did last year, when they placed eighth. The unfamiliarity with the course (they played at North Star Golf Resort in Sunbury last year) and the difficulty of the track made that a tough assignment. St. George said despite Kennedy’s experience, nervousness is unavoidable.

“It’s still a big stage,” he said. “It’s a bigger venue (than North Star). If you’re not nervous, there’s something wrong with you.”

The course got the best of a lot of good teams on Friday. St. Thomas Aquinas, which won the northeast district tournament, finished with a 359.