The NE8 Conference golf tournament was held Saturday at Cobblestone G.C. in Kendallville. Bellmont entered the tourney as the fifth seed having accumulated a 3 – 4 record in regular season play. Under chilly and windy conditions, the Braves put together a very solid score of 326, good for third place overall. Tournament favorite Leo followed up an undefeated regular conference schedule to win the event with a 305 total. Columbia City finished second with a 322 score, just four strokes in front of Bellmont. Host East Noble shot 329 to take fourth place and Huntington North took fifth with a 336 total. Norwell at 353 and New Haven at 468 rounded out the team placements.
“Before the round, we talked about overcoming some of our earlier losses in the year” stated Bellmont coach Ty Razo. “They came through in a big way showing how hard they have been working and what we can still accomplish.”
By finishing ahead of East Noble and Huntington N. the Braves avenged narrow losses to the duo during the regular season.
Individually, Bellmont’s number one player, Winston Brown had another great day as he toured the Par 72 course in just 71 strokes. After an even par front side, Brown bogeyed two of the first three holes on the back. However, he kept his composure and birdied three of the last five holes for his one-under total. The score held up as the best of the day until Columbia City’s Andrew Hedrick also came in with a score of 71 and a playoff ensued for the Conference medalist honors.
Brown and Hedrick each had solid pars on the first two holes of the playoff. On the par 5 third hole, Hedrick hit the green in two setting up a rather lengthy eagle putt. Brown calmly stuck his third shot to five feet. The CC golfer two-putted for his birdie, forcing Brown to make his to extend the playoff. With ice water in his veins, Winston drained the putt and they went to the fourth hole. Hitting first, Brown stuck his tee shot to 15 feet on the par 3. Hedrick showed his moxie by knocking it even closer to ten feet.
Neither golfer made their birdie, however and the playoff advanced to the fifth hole, a short par four with trouble in front and behind the green. Hedrick would win the playoff and medalist honors when Brown caught his second shot thin and found the hazard over the green. It was a great display of golf from two great players.
“What can I say about Winston? It’s not often you have a player that a coach can count on to be there every time you need him. He was pretty upset after the playoff, but if he keeps putting himself in pressure situations, he will get stronger from it.”
Brown wasn’t the only Brave to have a great day. Owen Minnick shot 75 to finish sixth and earn second team all-conference honors as a sophomore. He had his usual solid round going until he took a double bogey six on the ninth hole to shoot 39 on the front. He didn’t let it bother him as he birdied #10 and finished with an up-and-down from the sand on #18 for a birdie to shoot even par 36 on the back.
“Owen came through in a big way today coming back from the double on nine. The growth he has shown this year hasn’t gone unnoticed and I can’t wait to see what he does in the postseason.”
Giving Bellmont its third score was senior Gage Bressler with an 89. He toured the front in 44 strokes and found a way to shoot 45 on the back despite two triple bogies. Bryce Rickord finished with a 91 for Bellmont’s fourth score. He was on his way to a round in the eighties until a quadruple bogey on #17 set him back. He followed up with a par on #18 though as he kept his head in the game.
“The guys just battled today. It wasn’t easy out there and they stayed with it.”
The number five golfer for the Braves was Jayden Haines who has played well of late, but just couldn’t overcome a few bad holes on his way to a 98.
Following Hedrick and Brown were two Leo Lions for third and fourth overall. Justin Hicks shot even par 72 and Wes Opliger 74. Also shooting 74 and finishing fifth was Javin Gray of Huntington North. Those five golfers earn first team all-NE8 honors for their top five placements.
Bellmont will travel to McMillen Park to take on the Heritage Patriots on Monday for their final match of the regular season. They then will prepare to defend their Sectional title on June 2 at Timber Ridge in Bluffton.