Pine Hills Golf Club in Hinkley has proven to be a cruel place for many high school teams over the years.
Stow-Munroe Falls boys golf knows how treacherous the course at the Division I district tournament can be. Last year, the Bulldogs rode a wave of momentum into Pine Hills, only to finish seventh place, six strokes off a berth to Columbus.
Coach Joe Vojkto and company headed back to Pine Hills Monday looking to break through for the first Bulldogs first berth at states since 20
The Bulldogs played very well, bettering their score from 2018 by seven strokes — only to be denied a trip to states by the slimmest of margins.
Stow finished just one stroke out of the final stated qualifying spot, tying for fifth place with a round 309, along with Massillon Jackson and Canton GlenOak.
The top four teams at Pine Hills advanced to the Division I state tournament. Brunswick, which uses Pine Hills as its home course, took the final state spot with a score of 308.
Cleveland St. Ignatius dominated the field, winning the team title with a score of 209. Akron Archbishop Hoban (300) and Walsh Jesuit (306) also qualified for state.
Worse yet, Stow’s top individual finisher — junior Dan Page — finished one stroke off the pace for the final individual qualifying spot.
After coming so close, Vojtko noted his team was devastated by the result.
"309 is a very good score here," Vojtko said. "The kids are really quiet. It’s tough. One shot out of four kids … anyone could have done one shot better in their round. It’s hard to swallow."
With Pine Hills playing at a par 71 for the day, Page shot a 2-over 73 on Monday, bettering his score from 2018. However, a score of 72 was needed to earn an individual trip to state.
"Dan played well," Vojtko said. "It was another case of one stroke being the difference."
St. Ignatius’ Andrew Kaye won medalist honors with a 4-under-par score of 67.
Behind Page, Stow had junior Max Crookston shoot a round of 76, while junior Brandon Beck and sophmore Dylan Dunn each shot rounds of 80. Senior Aaron Kim finished with a non-scoring round of 81.
"Four out of the five that played today will be back next year," Vojtko said. "All we can do is look at what we did today and try to get better.
"All it takes is one shot, so make sure you look at every putt and every stroke as important. I’m sure each of them could have found one more stroke."
Hard as the result was to take, Vojtko said not reaching states would not define the 2019 Bulldogs.
"The team had a good year," he said. "I knew we had a good enough team to get there. We just needed one more shot."
Vojtko acknowledged it will be tough to lose Kim and senior Scott Kline to graduation.
"Aaron Kim … he had a couple tough breaks out there today. He’s going to be missed. As our No. 1 golfer, I’m sure he’s not feeling the greatest right now. Aaron is at the top of his class. He’s not only a great golfer, he might be the best student in the school. Scott Kline is the No. 1 trumpet in the band as well as what he does as a golfer. They will be missed.
Vojtko noted he believes there is a "100 percent" chance Stow will be back next year.
"We had a couple kids that have played well enough to play here, but just didn’t make it out," Vojkto said. "We’ll be fine next year."
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, email@example.com or @MLeonard_GHO