A little talk between teammates proved prophetic as the Lexington boys golf team earned a Division I district berth with its third-place finish in Tuesday’s sectional tournament at Eagle Creek.
Matt Barkett fired a 76 and Joey Zahn a 77 as the Minutemen finished with a 318 behind Bowling Green (314) and Westlake (315).
The Minutemen were able to put last year’s sectional washout behind them. Failing to make the five-team cut last year after winning the Ohio Cardinal Conference title was all the motivation Lex needed Tuesday.
Actually, the groundwork was laid Monday when Barkett and Zahn made a covenant. At a basketball open gym of all places.
“We looked at each other and said one of us was going to be low man for our team and the other was going to be second low man,” Barkett said. “No way were we not getting out (as a team).”
Barkett, the only senior in the lineup, shot 38 on both sides and just missed an eagle on the par 5, 525-yard fifth hole. Zahn, the sophomore son of coach Ryan Zahn, had two birdies, including a 25-footer on No. 15, a par 4.
Sophomore Kaleb Smith (82) and junior Charles Mikelait (83) also figured in the scoring for Lex. Sophomore Spencer Stierhoff finished with an 86.
Ashland’s Michael Woode earned one of the five individual berths in next week’s district tournament at Red Hawk with a 77. The Arrows finished seventh in the 18-team field at 333. Sandusky Perkins (322) and Avon Lake (328) grabbed the other team qualifying spots.
Madison, led by Austin Hallabrin’s 80, tied for eighth (334).
“The monkey was off our back, so the kids got on the bus and just kind of exhaled,” Ryan Zahn said. “As well as we’ve played the last two years and not to make it out of sectionals last year, to not do it again would have been disappointing.
“The thing that’s really exciting is that we’re one round away from the really big goal.”
Only two teams and two individuals not on qualifying teams will earn state berths in next Thursday’s district tournament at Red Hawk Run in Findlay.
“This was similar to this year’s OCC tournament (which saw Lex repeat),” Ryan Zahn said. “After the first nine holes we weren’t looking too good. On the back nine everybody played better.
“They did a good job of gutting it out. I instilled in them that this was a qualifier; they weren’t giving out trophies. We wanted to make the top five and qualify for next Thursday to see if we can turn a good season into a great season.”
The younger Zahn was five-over after four holes, but turned things around, shooting 1-over for his final 14 holes.
“We usually don’t get off to the best start and then we crawl back,” Joey Zahn said. “I’m not that nervous; it just takes me awhile to get going.
“The difference was definitely my driver. The first few holes I was everywhere, but then I got it straightened out. On this course, if your driver is working, you only have about 100 yards left to the green on most holes.”
Next to Westbrook Country Club, Red Hawk Run is a favorite course of many of the Lex golfers, which could bode well for next week.
“It’s a lot longer (than Eagle Creek) with less trees,” Barkett said. “Once you get to the green, there’s a lot of straight putts. Even though Eagle Creek is shorter, the putts are a lot harder. “
Ryan Zahn was proud of the way his golfers handled Tuesday’s task.
“We played a practice round on Sunday and I think the kids understood how they wanted to play the course and were comfortable with what they wanted to do,” Zahn said. “I told them to just stick to their round. You never know what score is going to make it. Just play your shots.”