St. Clairsville claims 25th OVAC golf championship
WHEELING — St. Clairsville believed it was the clear favorite for the OVAC Class 4A Golf Championship.
After all, the classification is primarily made up of the Buckeye 8 membership which the Red Devils soundly defeated over two rounds last month at Cadiz and Belmont Hills Country Clubs.
However, head coach Ryan Clifford also knows that golf can be a fickle game, so he made sure he had his team as prepared for the challenging, Par 71 Jones Course at Oglebay Park’s Spiedel Golf Club as he possibly could.
In the days and weeks leading up to Tuesday’s tournaments, the Red Devils have competed or held practice rounds on the course as many as five times. It paid dividends, too.
St. Clairsville produced two of the top three individual scores in the tournament and posted an impressive 320 total en route to claiming the school’s 25th conference title by 44 shots over defending champion Beaver Local.
“We’ve pretty much camped out here (at Oglebay) for the past month,” Clifford joked. “We made it a point to get down here and be prepared and the kids played really well today.”
All told, the Red Devils team score included a 76, 78, 82 and an 84.
“It’s pretty good team golf when you throw out an 85,” Clifford said. “Shooting a 320 on this course is hard to do. It’s definitely the best score we’ve had here all season.”
The Red Devils were led by senior standout Will Foster, who finished with a 5-over, 76. He shot an even, 36, on the front side of the course.
The individual championship marks his first conference title.
“One of my goals was to win this or the Buckeye 8,” Foster said. “I’ve been chasing this and to win it is great.”
During a quadrangular match last week against the likes of Wheeling Park, Dover and New Philadelphia, Foster had a round to forget. He lost six balls and finished with a score that St. C. didn’t even count toward its team total.
“My mindset coming down here (Tuesday) was new day, new round,” Foster admitted.
After his solid front side of the course, Foster admitted he played more cautiously on the back side, where several danger spots lurk.
“I just wanted to play under control, knowing that 40 or 41 wouldn’t be bad,” Foster said. “I gave a stroke away on 15, but I really didn’t get in any bad spots (on the back 9), which was good for me.”
While Foster grasped the championship plaque, he watched nervously as his brother — Brodi — took part in a one-hole playoff against Beaver Local’s Luke Eyster, who was the defending champion, for the runner-up medalist award.
Eyster ended up winning that, but it certainly didn’t detract from the round the young Foster put forth, which included a 39 on both sides of the course.
Senior Saul Crist was the third score for the Red Devils, finishing with an 82. Freshman Andrew Abel was fourth an 84 and freshman Evan Fix posted an 85.
“We played 18 here (on Monday) and tried to have a little bit of fun to get the guys feeling good about being here because there is sometimes a little bit of negative energy because of the difficulty of the course and how super hard the greens can be,” Clifford said. “We didn’t have that super low round, but we were consistent all the way through.”
For Clifford, who is also the Red Devils boys basketball coach, it marks his first conference title as a head coach.
“Winning this is really nice, but it’s great for the kids because they all take golf very seriously and work very hard at it,” Clifford said.
The All-OVAC Team, which consists of the top five and ties, also included Union Local junior Beezer Porter, who had a round that included two eagles and Cambridge’s Adam Smith. Both signed for a 79.