Hudson boys golf stretches its way to state tournament
At the outset of the season, Hudson boys golf coach Matt Villenauve admitted it would be "a stretch goal" to have his team make it the state tournament.
"At that time, we thought we had the right guys, but it was going to take a lot of work to get down there," Villenauve said.
Thanks to a great round from its senior leader and solid play on one of Northeast Ohio's toughest courses, it's a "goal accomplished" for the Explorers.
Hudson played one of its best rounds of the season, shooting an 18-hole score of 299 Oct. 12 at the Division I district golf tournament at Pine Hills Golf Course in Hinkley.
That scored tied Hudson for second place at Pine Hills with St. Ignatius, earning the Explorers their first team trip to the Division I state tournament since 2016. Archbishop Hoban won the team title with a round of 292, while Stow-Munroe Falls qualified in fourth place with a 305.
Hudson was led by senior Ben Basta, who won medalist honors at districts with a two-under-par score of 69.
"I played really well," Basta said. "My short game was really good. I played the par three well. In the morning it was pretty calm. As the day went on, it was pretty windy, I had to take that into account."
Villenauve said the state berth was a tribute to his team's work ethic both before and during the season.
"To have our guys peak at the right time and do it in tournament conditions, it makes it that must more impressive," Villenauve said. "Since COVID arrived, golf has been the closest to thing going to normal. They've wanted nothing but golf the last few months.
"This is the most committed group of golfers I’ve ever seen. As fun as it is to be their coach, they’re the ones who had the drive to see that it was possible."
Basta echoed his coach's sentiments.
"It took a lot of hard work this season," Basta said. "I think we all wanted it this year because our lineup was so strong."
Villenauve said a key factor in pushing the Explorers was their rivalry with Stow.
"It’s the best and the friendliest of rivals," Villenauve said. "We've taken our lumps the last couple years. I think Stow’s won the Suburban League the last three years. These guys love playing with each other. We’ll see more of them beyond the golf course in Columbus.
Basta's 69 was a perfect cap to an excellent season.
"That’s his third round in the 60s and he's led the team in scoring all year," Villenauve said. "He’s a leader for a reason. He’s got tournament-level game."
Villenauve said he knew Hudson had a chance for something big when senior No. 4 golfer Josh Pethel shot a round of 75 and senior No. 5 golfer Jackson Choi shot an 80.
"At that point, there was a good chance I knew we could make it," Villenauve said.
Junior No. 2 golfer Ryan "Coop" Pamer was upset to shoot a round of 76, but Villenauve was still happy.
"Coop’s definition of a bad round is different from everybody else's," Villenauve said. "He was playing great from tee to green. He just couldn’t get anything to fall. A 76 is still a great score."
Junior No. 3 golfer Andrew Yard had scramble a bit, but still came home with a solid 79.
"Andrew is usually the straightest hitter on the team … except at Pine Hills," Villenauve said. "He had to get himself out of some situations, but he did a great job."
The Division I boys state tournament will take place Oct. 23 and 24 at the Scarlett Course at The Ohio State University. First tee Oct. 23 is at 9 a.m.
Basta has some high hopes as he makes his second trip to states.
"I want to get a few rounds under par down there," Basta said. "I think a top 10 finish individually would be great."
As for his team's expectations, Villenauve said the pressure is off his squad now that it has reached Columbus.
"Our goal the next couple weeks is to follow the plan and not change anything," Villenauve said. "We want to enjoy that moment. If we do what we’ve done all year, we'll be just fine."