NEWARK — John Carlisle stepped to the No. 1 tee at Burning Tree Golf Course on Saturday, part of a three-way, sudden death playoff for Heath Bulldog Shootout medalist.
So, how was the Johnstown freshman feeling?
“It was nerve wracking,” he said, as he prepared to go up against Heath junior Derek Hamm on his home course and Bexley senior Grant Murphy. All shot 4-over-par 75 in regulation.
But on the third playoff hole, Carlisle showed nerves of steel. Playing at the par-4 No. 1 again, he chipped out from under a tree to within three feet and sank his birdie putt, beating Murphy who had to settle for par. Hamm bogeyed the first playoff hole to drop out, with Carlisle and Murphy making par. They then each parred the par-3 No. 18.
Carlisle also won the Mid-Buckeye Conference pre-season tournament at Table Rock, and led his young Johnstown team to the Utica Invitational title at Echo Springs. So he had confidence. But he had never been a part of anything like this.
“I felt good coming in, but I didn’t expect to win,” Carlisle said. “I thought Hamm would probably come in at 72 or 73.”
Heath coach Mike Saalfield said Hamm struggled with his putting and “had a little case of the ‘hooksies.’ He wasn’t real strong from tee to green. But he was getting up and down from everywhere. He’s not hitting the ball real well, but he’s been able to hold it together, and that’s a real good sign.
“What a great experience for these three kids,” he added, as several of the 14 teams stuck around to see how the playoff would unfold. “They’re out there playing in front of all these people, and you could hear a pin drop.”
Murphy didn’t win the playoff, but he did lead his Bexley team to the championship as four Lions broke 80. Bexley easily won with 306 to 331 for runnerup Lakewood, which tied with third-place Newark Catholic but won a fifth-man tiebreaker. Johnstown also used that tiebreaker to claim fourth place over fifth-place Heath as both shot 334 on a day Burning Tree wasn’t yielding many low scores.
“It’s suffered stress from the drought, so conditions were inconsistent, which makes it harder to score,” Johnstown coach Chris Carlisle said.
“I felt good the entire way,” John Carlisle said. “You just have to adjust to it.”
The Johnnies, playing all freshmen and sophomores, have ridden an early-season roller coaster that has seen them shoot 314 at Echo Springs, but 350 in the MBC event at Table Rock. The 334 at Burning Tree was about where they should be at this point, coach Carlisle said.
“In any sport, you look for consistency,” he said. “As a coach, I have to learn to be patient, try to use my experience to help them overcome their anxieties on the golf course. You always like to measure yourself against the best, and Bexley is one of the best.”
John Carlisle said Johnstown can’t use its youth as an excuse.
“We’re young, but that doesn’t mean we can’t win,” he said.
Lakewood gained runnerup honors behind Nate Nicholson’s 79 and Cole Guyer’s 81. Michael Wells shot 84, while Chris Downs, Austin Middlemus and Reed Moran all came in at 87.
David Meurer and Will Nodo shot 79 and Sean Thomas posted 81 for Newark Catholic, while Madison Arnold had a 92.
For Johnstown after Carlisle, Paul Michel and Steven Thiel each had 85 and Dalton Hastings 89. For Heath after Hamm, Jacob Rhodes carded 84, Jacob Kennedy 87 and Collin Hall 88.
Sheridan finished seventh with 341 as Jacob Miller shot 82, Mason Conrad 85 while Trey Barber and Austin Dittoe checked in at 87.
Licking Heights placed ninth at 350 behind John Kenney’s 81 and an 83 by Andrew Bailey. Dylan Colopy posted 86 and John Righter 100.
First-year coach Todd Righter, John’s uncle, wasn’t discouraged.
“The course didn’t allow good scores,” he said. “We’ve already played a variety of courses and teams. We’re getting better, and we have the potential to hang tough in our league.”
Bailey, a senior and the Hornets’ No. 1 man, admits he’s been struggling.
“I just have to find it,” he said. “This summer, I played with a bunch of people who were either in the district or state, so I know what I have to do.
“As a team, we’re doing really well. Last year, we were always around 360 and we’ve broken that in three tournaments.”
Broc Stradley shot 80, Justin Doup 87, Clay Curtis 89 and Tyler Salyer 98 as Utica (354) was 10th. Licking Valley (359) got a solid 79 from Austin Skeese. Marshall Hall had 91, Bailey Hayden 94 and Andrew Buchbinder 96.