Two holes during a no-pressure practice round with his Elyria High teammates on the Pioneers’ home course is not exactly a harbinger of how Alex Treuel’s senior season will pan out.
They can, however, shine a light on just why there’s such optimism surrounding it.
On one hole at Forest Hills, a 320-yard par 4, Treuel slips the tiger head cover off his driver – his favorite pro golfer is some guy named Tiger — takes a mighty swing and bombs a tee shot that ends up on the green. Two putts later he has an easy birdie.
On the next
hole, a 300-yard, tree-lined par 4, Treuel splits the fairway with a 6-iron, then lands his 100-yard, sand-wedge approach 8 feet below the hole. One putt later he has another birdie.
Two par 4s, two approaches, two birdies.
Too, too good.
“His game travels well,” Elyria coach Jim Kistler said of his star senior, who made it to district last year and who opened this season with a 76 and a pair of 74s. “He’s able to adjust his game. He’s long enough of a player where he can go play Shale Creek, which was set up about 7,100 yards, or go to a 6,000-yard course and adjust his game.
“His course management is very strong. He knows how to adjust his game to the conditions of the course, the conditions of the greens.”
It’s an ability forged of equal parts natural talent and supernatural work habits. Treuel, you see, is a practice freak who could make Vijay Singh look like a slacker.
Hang out long enough at Grey Hawk Golf Club in LaGrange, where Treuel is a member and where he happened to shoot one of those 74s to win the Keystone Invitational, and you won’t be able to miss the lanky kid hanging out on the putting green for a few hours, banging out a few hundred balls on the driving range and playing a round or two before heading home for some dinner and quality TV watching, another of his passions.
“I can’t tell you how many people will tell me they went out for their league and Alex was on the putting green, then when they came in from their round Alex was still on the putting green,” Kistler said. “He has an incredible work ethic and incredible desire. I don’t know anybody who outworks him.”
It’s not that Treuel is some sort of masochist. He really likes working on his game.
“I enjoy practicing a lot,” he said, noting that spending seven to eight hours a day at the course is not unusual for him. “I think it’s fun. Lots of kids don’t. Just putting and chipping, creating shots. … Being around the golf course, it’s just right where I want to be.”
His game’s pretty much where he wants it to be, too, thanks in large part to all that hard work. A summer spent on the tournament circuit didn’t hurt either.
“I played twice as many tournaments, practiced twice as hard as I did last year,” Treuel said.
For the second straight summer, he won two Lake Erie Junior Golf Association tournaments. He shot an even-par 72 to win an event at Red Hawk Run in Findlay, then turned in the round of his life – a seven-birdie, 5-under 66 – to win a tournament at Eagle Creek in Norwalk.
“I never make that many birdies,” Treuel said. “It didn’t seem like I was, either. It was like practice. If I thought about a round like that, I wouldn’t have thought it would be that easy. I didn’t have to grind much. Usually I’m out there grinding for a 74.”
He doesn’t mind the grind though. In fact, he loves it. It’s what gave him the strength to turn his back on the family business at the age of 13.
The Treuels, you see, play baseball. Alex’s father, Mike, played semipro ball for 12 years for teams in Elyria and Oberlin. His uncle Ralph is minor league coordinator for the Red Sox and a former pitching coach for the Tigers and Red Sox.
Alex played baseball, too, until he finally figured out he was better at hitting a gap wedge than a line drive into the gap.
“I was too small and slow for baseball,” he said, though he’s now around 6-foot-1 thanks to a growth spurt between his freshman and sophomore years.
“He had two obstacles playing baseball,” Mike Truel said. “He was a runt and he was skinny. He got discouraged with baseball.”
Still, breaking the news to his dad wasn’t easy. He summoned the courage, though, and when his dad asked why he wasn’t going to play baseball any longer, Alex came up with the perfect response.
“I love golf too much,” he said.
His dad was OK with his decision, simply telling him that if he was going to play golf, then he should take it seriously.
That hasn’t been a problem, not that his father thought it would be. Alex had the same work ethic in baseball. It’s a trait Mike doesn’t take credit for.
“I wasn’t like that,” Mike said. “I regret it now. I see a lot of my brother in my son, actually.”
Alex just saw another sport to throw himself into.
“I knew golf was the sport for me,” said Alex, who is self-taught. “It comes a little more naturally to me. Golf’s more an individual sports. You don’t have to rely on anybody else. It’s all on you.”
A FEARSOME FOURSOME
John Burke, senior, St. Edward
Bay Village resident earned All-Ohio honors with a tie for seventh at the Division I state tournament last year. Won Westfield Junior PGA Championship qualifier over the summer.
Kyle Kmiecik, sophomore, St. Ignatius
Avon resident missed start of season because he was still playing in national tournaments. A bad back nine (44 after an opening 36) in awful weather at districts was the only thing that kept him from making state as a freshman.
Jay Overy, senior, Midview
Always solid, the lefty improved his stature with a summer playing in and qualifying for some prestigious events such as the Westfield sectional, the Ohio Amateur, the Kenny Novak championship and the Optimist Junior Championship in Florida. Missed district last year, but should be a threat to make state.
Alex Treuel, senior, Elyria
His combination of talent and a tireless work ethic gives him a real shot to make his first state appearance. Shot a 66 to win a summer tournament at Eagle Creek and came out of the gates on fire, winning two tourneys and taking second in another. Fired a 70 at last year’s sectional at Sweetbriar.
Others to watch
Reilly Bates and C.J. Blankenship, juniors, Avon Lake: Experience is no problem for these two, both of whom were in the lineup as freshmen when the Shoremen played in the Division I state tournament two years ago.
Matt Jones, Matt Schneider and Paul Srnis, juniors, Amherst: Top returnees from last year’s district team. All three can go low, but also need to work on their consistency.
Dan Tomola, senior; Cory Blackburn, junior; and Louie Durban, sophomore, Lutheran West: Tomola, last year’s PAC player of the year after shooting an even-par 70 at CopperTop at Cherokee Hills, will have to be on his game just to beat these two teammates.
Matt Gregory and Andrew Northeim, sophomores, Firelands: Gregory announced himself as a player to watch in the first two tournaments of the year, shooting a 74 at the Comet Invitational at Dragon Ranch and a 75 at the Keystone Invitational at Grey Hawk. Northeim showed what he can do by winning the Admiral King Invitational with a 72 at FoxCreek.
Mike Opsitnick, junior, Avon: Shot 74 to tie for first at the Division II sectional at Mallard Creek last year.
Ian Suszko, senior, Vermilion: The guy who tied Opsitnick at Mallard Creek last year.
Blake Sword, senior, Wellington: District qualifier after shooting 76 at Division II sectional at Mallard Creek.
Avon Lake Shoremen: Bates, Blankenship and bodies should keep the Shoremen near the top of the SWC and a contender to make a postseason run. That’s Reilly Bates and C.J. Blankenship, two juniors playing their third year on varsity.
Amherst Comets: Surprise district qualifier a year ago, but with three key players back and good depth behind them, it shouldn’t be a surprise this season if the Comets make it back.
Lutheran West Longhorns: Coach Karen Wittrock concedes the ’Horns should be the team to beat in the PAC, but she also has bigger goals. “We’d like to get to state,” she said. “We have the potential. We’re just really young.”
Midview Middies: Middies went 13-1 in winning the West Shore and 16-3 overall but could only muster a seventh-place finish at sectionals. That could change this year thanks to an improved Jay Overy and a solid group of returning letterwinners.
Elyria Pioneers:The Pioneers have two tournament titles already. They also have one of the top players in Alex Treuel, a solid No. 2 in Tory Stewart and an improving No. 3 in Kyle Lottman. If the supporting cast comes through, this could be a special year.
Northeast Ohio Conference
COACH: Jim Kistler
TOP PLAYERS: Alex Treuel, sr.; Tory Stewart, sr.; Kyle Lottman, so.; Cameron Bate, sr.; Tyler Ward, so.; Bryan Andress, sr.; Mike Sito, sr.; Jacob Dorow, sr.
OUTLOOK: Treuel is one of the best in the area, a legitimate state hopeful who lives and breathes the game. Stewart is a baseball player first, but he can bomb it about 320 off the tee, according to Treuel, and is a solid No. 2 man. How much help they get will determine what kind of season this is for the Pioneers. “We could be pretty solid,” Kistler said. “Hopefully a few players will step forward.”
North Coast League
Elyria Catholic Panthers
COACH: Tom Porter
TOP PLAYERS: Ryan Polk, jr.; Matt Spencer, so.; Colin Coughlin, so.; Evan Swerka, jr.
OUTLOOK: Porter doesn’t like to use the term rebuilding. OK, we’ll say it for him: The Panthers are rebuilding. The team has no seniors and only Polk is a returning letterman. It didn’t help that one returning player transferred and another decided not to go out for the team. Also, for the first time in seven years, the only Porter the Panthers have is the coach. And he can’t tee it up.
Patriot Athletic Conference
Black River Pirates
COACH: Jeff Calame
TOP PLAYERS: Brad Howard, sr.; Dave Gentry, jr.; Kelsey Roysdon, jr.; Brandon Null, jr.; Pat Twining, sr.; Matt Stuart, fr.; Emily Plank, jr.
OUTLOOK: The Pirates don’t have a stud, but they have four or five solid players who can put up good numbers on any given day. Howard has been on varsity since he was a freshman.
COACH: Ross Madak
TOP PLAYERS: Justin Hamper, so.; Jerry Karl, jr.; Elliott Koncos, jr.; Cody Dean, jr.; Joe Coyne, sr.; Kevin Limpert, so.; Adam Klimo, so.; David Gunther, fr.; Vinny Violi, fr.
OUTLOOK: The Raiders didn’t win a match last year, so Madak is understating a little when he says there’s “lots of room for improvement.” Still, his top two players — Hamper and Karl — give him hope. “We’re still going to be young, but the kids are definitely improving.” That should pay off in at least a few wins.
COACH: Greg Morgan
TOP PLAYERS: Jeff Knepper, sr.; Bryan Yeo, so.; Sam Baloski, so.; Justin Truman, so.; Travis Jude, so.; Bryan Trego, so.
OUTLOOK: Knepper and Yeo, both second-team All-PAC picks last year, give the ’Cats a good 1-2 punch. Experience, however, is lacking. “We were real young last year,” Morgan said, “and we’re still young this year.”
Lutheran West Longhorns
COACH: Karen Wittrock
TOP PLAYERS: Dan Tomola, sr.; Cory Blackburn, jr.; Nick Blackburn, so.; Louie Durban, so.; Ben Lehrke, so.; Mitch Zaharewicz, so.; Jared Fristik, fr.; Mike Clum, fr.
OUTLOOK: The good news? Tomola, the PAC Player of the year last year, and Cory Blackburn, a first-team selection, are back. The bad news? The rest of the team is made up of sophomores and freshmen. OK, so that might not really be bad news, since most of them are good enough that Wittrock is already allowing herself to dream a little. “We would really like to get out of that district this year,” she said. “We’d like to get to state. We have the potential. We’re just really young.”
COACH: Aaron Millet
TOP PLAYERS: Matt Jones, jr.; Matt Schneider, jr.; Paul Srnis, jr.; David Flynn, jr.; Alex Williams, sr.; Adam Kalivoda, jr.; Rusty Flynn, jr.; Sam Dipre, sr.
OUTLOOK: Jones, Schneider and Srnis are back from last year’s district-qualifying team, but Millet is still looking for a consistent
No. 4. Not that he doesn’t have options. “We can go eight deep, maybe even nine deep,” he said, “and have somebody on any given day shoot some pretty good scores.”
Avon Lake Shoremen
COACH: Amy Manco
TOP PLAYERS: Reilly Bates, jr.; C.J. Blankenship, jr.; Brian Mielcusny, sr.; Dan Outcalt, sr.; James Swan, sr.; Jeff Ickes, sr.; Mike Schneider, sr.
OUTLOOK: In Bates and Blankenship, the Shoremen have a pair of juniors already playing their third year of varsity golf. Bates was first-team All-SWC last year, while Blankenship and Mielcusny were honorable mention. There’re plenty of seniors on the team, too, meaning the Shoremen should, as always, be in the hunt for the league crown. “There’s some experience there,” Manco said. “I just have to pick the right six.”
North Olmsted Eagles
COACH: Tim Murphy
TOP PLAYERS: Kevin Bus, sr.; Jesse Gross, jr.; Michael O’Connor, sr.; Andy Heitman, so.; Mark Bigeck, so.; Joe Forrwalt, jr.; Dan McBride, so.; Ryan Conway, so.; Pat Conway, jr.; Chris Conway, so.; Nick Morgan, fr.; Matt Konyesni, jr.
OUTLOOK: Murphy has five letterwinners back from last year’s 5-10 squad, but the Eagles are still young and looking for a solid five or six players who can consistently shoot in the low 40s.
Olmsted Falls Bulldogs
COACH: John Holzworth
TOP PLAYERS: Kevin Schlesinger, sr.; Mike Padley, sr.; Pat Butterfield, jr.; Brad Johnson, fr.; Josh Richards, so.
OUTLOOK: With no returning lettermen, the Bulldogs just want to gain some experience and be as competitive as possible this season.
COACH: Bob Patton
TOP PLAYERS: Terry Gibbons, sr.; Matt Kreider, so.; Dave Goldense, jr.; Adam Smith, sr.; Kyle Gibbons, jr.; Kyle Fazio, jr.
OUTLOOK: Kreider’s a young player who has a lot of potential, and the Demons have enough experience that they might end up challenging in the always-tough SWC.
West Shore Conference
COACH: Jeff Stevens
TOP PLAYERS: Mike Opsitnick, jr.; Brad Meisner, sr.; Mike Shepherd, sr.; Scott Dickson, jr.; Ryan Mooibroek, jr.; Zack Shagovac, sr.
OUTLOOK: Opsitnick, last year’s sectional champ, leads a group of six returning letterwinners, all of whom are juniors and seniors. That sounds good, but for Avon to improve on last year’s 6-8 record, it will have to find a way to win more of the close matches. “I want the kids to understand that golf is a team sport,” Stevens said, “and that bad decisions can lose matches.”
COACH: Matt Thornsberry
TOP PLAYERS: Chas Kennedy, sr.; Jess Hunger, so.; Brian Taricska, jr.; Chas Veres, so.
OUTLOOK: Kennedy, Bay’s
No. 1, shot in the 70s in three tournaments last week. The other three Rockets are capable, too. If they can find a decent fourth and fifth man, the Rockets could challenge in the WSC. “If those four guys shoot to their potential, we could be tough to beat,” Thornsberry said. “But we need consistency.”
COACH: Joe Miller
TOP PLAYERS: Cliff Karp, sr.; Andrew Northeim, so.; Matt Gregory, so.; Tom Krumweide, jr.; Vince Vitale, so.; A.J. Krieg, so.; Josh Kaiser, so.; Gabe Battistelli, so.; Doug Hildebrandt, so.; Jonah Becker, fr.
OUTLOOK: Miller is excited about the potential of his sophomore class, but right now that’s all it is … potential. Gregory and Northeim, two members of that class, have already shown they can play with anybody in the area, but the others are mostly untested. Karp, the lone senior on the team, should be solid, too, but beyond that the Falcons (11-7 overall and 7-7 in the WSC last year) are a bit of a question mark.
COACH: Randy Camp
TOP PLAYERS: Jay Overy, sr.; Brad Gross, jr.; Brad Weaver, jr.; Mike Mercado, jr.; Brianne Pragg, jr.; Jared Linden, sr.; Jordan Szpak, sr.; Ryan Dale, sr.; Ethan Jalowicz, sr.; Jamison Molnar, jr.; Louis Elbert, so.
OUTLOOK: The defending WSC champs (16-3 overall, 13-1 league) should be the team to beat again with Overy, one of the top players around, leading the way. But he’s no lone wolf. Gross, a second-team All-WSC player, along with Weaver and Mercado should provide plenty of help. Still, the Middies have a common concern: “Finding a strong fifth and sixth man,” Camp said. “We have a lot of talent. We just need to play that way.”
North Ridgeville Rangers
COACH: Mike Belpulsi
TOP PLAYERS: Matt McGinty, jr.; Mike Mytnick, so.; Zak Narowitz, jr.; Mitch Clark, fr.; Matt Murphy, sr.; Spencer Grimes, sr.; Dan Zett, jr.
OUTLOOK: Big numbers are costing some Rangers some good rounds, a trend Belpulsi wants to bring to an end. Until it does, it could be a long season. Still, there’s potential, especially for the future with McGinty, a junior, and Clark, a freshman, battling for the No. 1 spot.
COACH: Joe Tellier
HOME COURSE: Willow Creek
TOP PLAYERS: Ian Suszko, sr.; Brad Gregory, sr.; Adam Beach, sr.; D.J. Poherance, jr.; Dan Pesato, so.; Ryan Lucas, jr.
OUTLOOK: Suszko, one of the top players in the conference, made it to district last year. He shot an 81 in leading the Sailors to a second-place finish at the Bucyrus Invitational and had a 74 at Willow Creek during tryouts. Still, a league title probably isn’t in the cards this season, but the Sailors are building for the future with five freshmen among their 16 players.
Lake Erie League
Admiral King Admirals
COACH: David Mazzei
TOP PLAYERS: Matt Comer, sr.; Cody Buckholz, sr.; Tyler Mazzei, so.; Murphy Dickason, sr.; Brady Dickason, sr.; Brandan Alexander, sr.; Demetrius Thompson, so.
OUTLOOK: King will hang its hopes on consistency this season. “We don’t have a true No. 1 man in the sense of someone who can go out and shoot even par,” Mazzei said, “but we’ve got a lot of players who can shoot between 38-42 every day.”
COACH: David Dull
TOP PLAYERS: Randy Schumaker, jr.; John Uszak, so.; Robert Glowacki, jr.; Miguel Hernandez, so.; Alexis Fitzpatrick, jr.; Shawn Kopp, so.
OUTLOOK: Two years removed from advancing to districts as a team and just a year after sending two golfers that far, the Saints are in a definite rebuilding phase. “We’ve had a good seven-year run, but we basically wiped out our entire varsity team over the last two years (due to graduation),” Dull said.
Lake Ridge Lions
COACH: Danielle Parrish
TOP PLAYERS: Leo Park, jr.; Mark Betters, sr.; Josh Handy, sr.; Alex Ptoczak, jr.; Nick Nemetz, fr.; Andy Milluzzi, sr.; Kayla Rakowski, sr.; Erica Lasky, sr.; Navin Ravashankar, so.; Spencer Scheeler, fr.; Dom Gazzo, sr.; Stephen Hong, jr.
OUTLOOK: Last year’s 14-3 record has Parrish pumped for the season, though there is still some uncertainty. “It’s going to take us awhile to see who the top six are,” she said. Park and Ptoczak are battling for the No. 1 spot and there’s enough talent to give Parrish hope for a nice postseason run.
Open Door Patriots
COACH: Ken Trigg
TOP PLAYERS: Zachary Graves, so.; Russell Large, so.; Matt Brackenoff, so.; T.J. Hopkins, sr.; Adam Bollinger, jr.; Ian Sooy, fr.; Eric Mann, fr.; Colin Via, fr.; Ian Brady, fr.
OUTLOOK: Numbers are up, from five to nine, but this is still a learning season for the Patriots, who will probably skip the sectional tournament until they feel ready to compete at that level.