Stow boys golf gets redemption with trip to state tournament

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Stow-Munroe Falls' Brandon Beck chips onto the No. 1 green during the Division I district golf tournament Oct. 12 at Pine Hills Golf Course in Hinkley.
Stow-Munroe Falls' Ben Skripac hits from a fairway bunker during the Division I district golf tournament Oct. 12 in Hinkley.

Golf can be a cruel sport. The Stow-Munroe Falls boys golf team can attest to that firsthand.

Last year at the Division I district tournament at Pine Hills Golf Club, Stow finished fifth in the team race, missing the final state qualifying spot by one stroke.

It was a devastating blow for the Bulldogs but also a major motivator.

Coming into the season, Bulldogs coach Mark Wilbur had only three goals for his team.

"One was to have fun. Two was to refine our game. Three was to get to states," Wilbur said. "Until you get to states, it’s just refining your game until you're ready. I wanted to get them to take a breath and just have fun this year.

"We knew we were good enough to get to districts. We didn't know if we were good enough to get to state after losing a senior like Aaron Kim."

There's no such thing as karma in golf, but the Bulldogs probably felt vindicated after they returned to Pine Hills Oct. 12 for districts.

Stow ended up shooting a round of 305, which was good for fourth place — by one stroke.

The Bulldogs edged Massillon Jackson (306) for the fourth and final state qualifying spot at Pine Hills, earning Stow its first trip to states as a team since 2011.

"We were pretty confident we could get through, but we had to play better than we expected to," Wilbur said. "This year you needed a 305 to get out. It’s a good thing we finished the way we did.

"It was a little chilly, but the wind as the afternoon went on made it much tougher. As the conditions got tougher, the scores started to rise for everybody."

Stow ended up fourth following three teams that broke 300 at Pine Hills. Archbishop Hoban won the team title with a round of 292, while St. Ignatius and Hudson each shot rounds of 299.

Wilbur said his team's season-long competition with Hudson, which he called a very friendly rival, was instrumental in propelling both teams to Columbus.

"The competition we had with them made us better," Wilbur said. "[Hudson coach] Matt [Villenauve] is a great guy. The team camaraderie we have is great. I’m very happy to see them go also."

Stow returned four of its five golfers from last year's district team.

After shooting a 76 last year, senior Max Crookston played one of his best rounds of the year by shooting a 1-under-par 70. That tied Crookston for second place in the individual race with Hoban's Josh Wright, just one stroke behind medalist Ben Basta of Hudson.

"He redeemed himself completely," Wilbur said. "He birdied the 18th hole to finish."

Senior Brandon Beck came in next with a round of 75. Wilbur noted an off-season commitment to golf helped Beck.

"He was also going to be the starting shortstop for the [Stow] baseball team," Wilbur said. "Once COVID-19 hit, he made a commitment to golf. That's why he's been able to commit to Walsh University."

Junior Dylan Dunn came in next with a round of 79.

"He was our No. 5 golfer last year," Wilbur said. "He worked his way into the No. 3 spot.

He's had steady growth."

It wasn't a perfect day for Stow, as senior Dan Page, who shot a 73 last year at Pine Hills, had to settle for a round of 81.

"He had a pretty rough back nine," Wilbur said. "He got himself in couple of bad spots. It was just a bad day. For the season, he’s been our best golfer."

In his first trip to districts, sophomore Ben Skripac had a solid showing, as he also shot a round of 81, thanks to some solid putting.

Stow now prepares to head to the Division I state tournament, which will be a two-round event taking place Oct. 23 and 24 at the Scarlet Course at The Ohio State University in Columbus.

Having earned its first trip to Columbus in nearly a decade, Wilbur said his team was heading into the state meet with no pressure.

"Our biggest goal is to enjoy the moment," Wilbur said. "We want to play to our ability and to represent the team, the school and the community the best way we can."