St. Marys wins state golf title

Photo by Joe Albright Ravenswood’s Gavin Fox won the single-A individual title.

WHEELING — Ravenswood senior Gavin Fox ripped the biggest stick in his bag well all day. His driver helped him to an 82 and two-day score of 165 at the Class A state tournament at Oglebay’s Jones Course. So as he teed up on hole No. 1 for the second time Wednesday in a sudden-death state championship playoff with Webster County’s Rigel Wilson, his best wood again got the call.

“I knew I wanted to smoke one right in front of everybody, but my heart was racing,” said the Red Devil senior.

Fox delivered a dagger.

The member of the 2017 Class A state championship team and his club meshed together for a picturesque tee shot. One he appreciated more three swings later as he two-putted his way to an individual state title.

“That 120 yardage for my second shot was actually perfect for me and I practice those every day,” he said.

Photo by Joe Albright Above: The St. Marys Blue Devils won the Class A state golf tournament team championship Wednesday at Oglebay’s Jones Course in Wheeling.

Fox’s lengthy drive set the bar high and Wilson couldn’t keep up or keep his ball out of trouble. The Highlander shanked his tee shot then played in the trees for two of the next four shots it took him to get on the green. Wilson even wondered why he marked his ball on the dance floor.

As far as advantages go, Fox being able to three-putt and still win the title was a pretty big one.

The Red Devil though wasn’t happy how “my dream since the beginning of the school year” played out, but he will take the victory.

“I wanted him to hit a good shot (off the tee) and not have it (the title) handed to me,” said Fox. “I wanted to be given a run for my money.”

It seemed fitting the Red Devil wanted a challenge as the conference’s player of the year. He finished one shot off the lead in the Class A Region IV championship, as well.

While Fox had to worry about a playoff, St. Marys barely broke a concerned sweat after the final scores were tallied at the scorer’s table. First-year head coach Catie Hamilton and her Blue Devils captured the state championship by 21 strokes over Ritchie County.

Hamilton’s young team reacted well to an inspirational pre-round pep talk from Hamilton.

“I just told them to go out there and have fun because that is the biggest thing. We are out here to have fun and they have played well all year long. I knew if they went out there and played their best they would be fine.”

Freshman Ethan Davis took the message and ran with it as he cut seven strokes off his opening day 100. Swings helping erase the disqualification of teammate Luke Webb. Grant Barnhart and Brandon Lawhon brought home the beef with an 85 and 91, respectively.

“I was so proud of him (Davis). I kept talking to him throughout the whole round and I knew it could come down close and are all five players are phenomenal and can come in with low scores on any given days. I kept talking to him and gave him some motivation and confidence and he kept parring holes and following through and you could tell he was gaining momentum as he was playing. It was great to see that energy from him,” said Hamilton.

Barnhart’s last four holes provided even more breathing room as he went par-par-bogey-bogey. “I hadn’t had very many pars on the front and it just really the whole day it took me on and it was a big jolt for me,” said Barnhart. “I just chunked a shot before the par and it was a great energy booster.”

The chance to repeat exists as every state qualifier returns for the Blue Devils.

Ritchie County, though they lose senior Krista Davis, remains on the heels of their conference mates.

Marsha Knight’s group entered the day nine shots out of the lead, but the young team fell out of the running for first after several high scores from young golfers.

“Our kids are going to work at it and they are disappointed today,” said Knight. “But anytime you come home with a trophy from a state tournament you have had a successful week. Our kids will play on the Callaway next summer and hopefully we can build off this and keep getting better.”

Another young player hoping to build off his success likely will be Parkersburg Catholic’s Blake Lewis. The tiny Crusader freshman recovered from a rocky opening three holes, including a nine on his opening hole, for a two-day score of 170 good enough for all-state honors.

His short game saved him during his 86. “I am really happy about what is going to happen in the future,” said Lewis, who would not have predicted his all-tournament status at the beginning of the year.

The Crusaders’ birdie on the par 3 fourth hole set the early tone in turning around his day.

His performance led to a tip of the cap from Catholic head coach Chris Baker.

“His short game is the best short game of any kid I have seen of his age in my life,” said Baker. “It is evident from his success with the chip and putt tournaments. His ceiling is as high as he wants it to be.”

Lewis joined Barnhart, Fox, Wilson, Ravenswood’s Gavin Raines, and Williamstown’s Xavier Caruthers on the all-tournament team. Magnolia’s Trey Blain pushed the MOV representation on the elite group to six of the 10 players.

In Class AA, Roane County slipped from sixth to a seventh place finish. The Raiders first return to the state tournament as a team since 2016 finished with Garrett Simon shooting the only double-digit round of day with an 80.

Ripley’s Andrew Manley finished with a 181 as the Vikings’ lone representative in Class AAA.