By VINCE PELUSO — firstname.lastname@example.org
After missing out on having a player advance to the district tournament for boys golf last year, Geneva is back as senior Nick Pae will compete today at the Division I district at Pine Hills.
Pae fired a 78 to qualify as an individual while the Eagles team finished seventh overall, nine shots off the pace to advance to the district tournament.
While Geneva coach Brad Ellis was disappointed his entire team didn’t make it, he was happy for Pae.
“I kind of expected that out of him, I was hoping our whole team would get out, but Nick is our No. 1,” he said. “He’s put a lot of work in over the summer and he was definitely our best player and this is one of his goals.”
Pae stared his year off on the right foot when he won medalist honors at the Karl Pearson Invitational with a 73 and continued to play well throughout the year.
Despite blustery conditions at Quail Hallow during the sectional, Pae was still able to shoot an impressive score.
“I think he’s capable of getting lower, the conditions that day were very difficult, he teed off at 8:30 and it was just rough,” Ellis said. “I think he’s gotta shoot 75 to get out. He’s not real familiar with Pine Hills so we’re going to go down and play it and get a real good look at it before (today).”
At the time Pae was coming up through Geneva, the Eagles still had a junior high program, but Ellis said the senior did not participate.
With that in mind, he said it’s been fun to watch his development over the years.
“It’s funny because he’s one of those kids that when we had a junior high program, he didn’t play, and the week before practice started his freshman year his dad called me and said his son wanted to go out,” he said. “I thought, you never know and he really progressed and played JV and ended up being a three-year letter winner.
“He just kept getting better and better, he really put in a lot of time. I’m real happy for him.”
With speedy greens at Pine Hills, Ellis said the key for Pae will be his short game.
“Those greens are so darn quick, the pins are tough so short game is important,” he said. “He hits it long and pretty straight so putting the ball in the right spots and being good in the short game is the key.
“He’s always been a very steady player. He’s got the perfect mindset for golf, never seems to get too high or too low. He just does a nice job from the mental aspect.”
Pae, who tees off at 9:18 today, won’t be the only golfer representing the Star Beacon’s coverage area at Pine Hills as the Riverside Beavers advanced after winning the Division I sectional team title with a 321.
That score came from Brian Irish (76), Jake Poyar (81), Eric Jeddy (81) and Nathaniel Thomas (83). Matt Thomas also shot an 83, but only the top four scores are added to a team’s total.
“We’re pretty excited,” Riverside coach Steve Siko said. “We got a young squad. Our five players are two sophomores and two juniors and none of them have district experience. But I think they’re all ready to play.”
Siko said he wasn’t surprised by his team’s success at the sectional, given the Beavers superior knowledge of Quall Hallow.
“We’ve got a lot of experience at that course,” he said. “We knew after the first couple events this season the expectations incredsed and our goal was to get to district’s. Now, the goal is to make it to Columbus.”
Siko has preached to his team the importance of playing as a team, not as individuals.
In a sport as individualistic as golf, that isn’t always an easy concept to grasp, but he said his kids seem to understand it.
“I just always remind them to play one shot at a time, play smart,” he said. “It’s not always the most talented team that advances, but the team that plays together and smar and doesn’t have any blow up holes.”
While playing as a team in golf is different than playing as a team in other sports, Siko said in golf that means playing smart for your teammates.
“I always use the exasmple when you play your own ball you can go for shots it’s on you,” he said. “For example on a par 5 with water in front of the green, maybe you go for it. In the team game, you gotta think of the other guys, just lay it up short and try to put on the green and give yourself a putt for birdie.
“You have to always be thinking about the other guys on your team and getting four good scores.”
With a team that has no experience at this level, Siko said it’ll just be important for his guys to battle with some of the great teams at the district.
“We have no district expereince as a team at this level,” he said. “We know that there will be a lot of good teams there. Teams like St. Ignatious, St. Ed’s and some of the private schools and the better public programs like Aurora and Medina. It’s going to be a challenge, but the boys are excited.”