NORWALK — Please excuse Mat Stuart for being a little restless Thursday.
It’s hard to wait when your fate is in someone else’s hands. Buckeye’s Ryan Ackim came through for the Black River senior, however, as Stuart held on to win MVP honors for the second straight season at the Patriot Athletic Conference Tournament at Eagle Creek Golf Club.
Behind an even-par 71 from Ackim, Buckeye (307) ended Lutheran West’s five-year stranglehold on the conference. The Longhorns finished third Thursday, but maintained runner-up status in the final standings.
The story of the day, however, was Stuart, who finished with a 4-over 75 and held a half-point advantage in the season-long MVP points race over Brooklyn’s Sean Blaine (73) as the final groups trickled into the packed clubhouse. If Ackim sandwiched a 74 between Stuart and Blaine, Stuart would lose a full point and Blaine would be MVP.
That said, it was easy to see why Stuart breathed a huge sigh of relief as Ackim entered the clubhouse wearing big smile.
It capped a whirlwind morning for Stuart, who knew the door was open to defend his title after Lutheran West’s Mike Clum, who was leading the individual race coming into Thursday, stumbled with an 82. “After about 10 holes, I heard Clum had shot 43 (on the front nine) and my day got so much better,” Stuart joked. “It made things a lot easier and less nerve-racking, but, at the same time, Sean and (Buckeye’s) Jeff (Haddad) were keeping up with me all day. They were definitely a drive to push me, especially in crunch time over the last five holes.”
Meanwhile, adding insult to injury for the Longhorns was longtime coach Karen Wittrock having to leave early in the day after being drilled on her right arm by an errant tee shot. She returned with an upbeat attitude, despite having her arm in a sling, though hours later she learned Lutheran West finished third with a 339 and couldn’t stem off the Buckeye upset.
Clum did finish first-team All-PAC, as did Jared Fristik (83), but it wasn’t the effort Wittrock was looking for considering her team is now without a conference title for what is believed to be the first time in 13 years.
“In talking with (my players) at the table, they were disappointed,” said Wittrock, who mentioned the performance could be the result of multiple players struggling with the grind of the season. “But they were saying the season’s not over yet and they are approaching the next tournament as if it’s a new tournament and not think about this and move on.”
Wellington pulled off a surprise with a 338 to take third in both the tournament and overall standings. Freddie Senghas locked up All-PAC honors with a 7-over 78, while Anthony Cwalina (86), Dylan Barris (87) and Billy Kinzel (87) capped the scoring.
- TOURNAMENT STANDINGS: 1. Buckeye 307, 2. Wellington 338, 3. Lutheran West 339, 4. Black River 346, 5. Keystone 353, 6. Brooklyn 362, 7. Columbia 367.
- OVERALL STANDINGS: 1. Buckeye (6-0) 18, 2. Lutheran West (5-1) 14, 3. Wellington (3-3) 11, 4. Black River (3-3) 9, 5. Brooklyn (2-4) 5, 6. Keystone (1-5) 4, 7. Columbia (1-5) 2.
- BUCKEYE (307): Ryan Ackim 37-34-71 (2 birdies), Jeff Haddad 38-37-75, Tyler Bogus 41-39-80, Ken Keeler 38-43-81 (1), Matt Millward 43-45-88, Rob Hagmeier 48-44-92.
- WELLINGTON (338): Freddie Senghas 39 39-78, Anthony Cwalina 42-44-86, Dylan Barris 44-43-87, Billy Kinzel 42-45-87, Logan Spence 50-48-98, Keith Finkel 52 58-110.
- LUTHERAN WEST (339): Mike Clum 43-39 82, Jared Fristik 41-42-83, Andrew Ripich 43-42-85, Kyle DiCapua 45-44-89, Ben Fuchs 48-41-89, Patrick Hanlon 45-44-89.
- BLACK RIVER (346): Mat Stuart 37-38-75 (1), Logan Rook 41-47-88, Jake Sas 46-44 90, Jarrod Pierce 47-46-93, Jackson Weinzatl 50-46-96, Alex Kramer 53-48-101.
- KEYSTONE (353): Brandon Osborne 43-43 86, Jordan Fox 48-40-88, Jacob Phillips 45 44-89, Scott Wolfe 46-44-90, Brady Clanin 52-48-100, Caleb Schillace 52-58-110.
- BROOKLYN (362): Sean Blaine 38-35-73, Nathan Smith 47-47-94, Mark Anderson 49 47-96, Daniel Tomcik 48-51-99, Sean Acierno 51-49-100, Colin Mayda 58-63-121.
- COLUMBIA (367): Vinni Violo 85, Jacob Miller 89, Bill Sweeney 44-50-94, Jacob Simon 48-51-99, Mike Hershey 44-56 100, Matt Schofield 51-54-105.
- MEDALIST: Ackim (Buc) 37-34-71.
- FIRST-TEAM ALL-PAC: Stuart (BR) 29, Blaine (Br) 28.5, Clum (LW) 27.25, Ackim (Buc) 27, Haddad (Buc) 26.5, Senghas (W) 23.5.
- SECOND-TEAM ALL-PAC: Keeler (Buc) 22, Fristik (LW) 19, Bogus (Buc) 14.5, Ripich (LW) 11.3, Barris (W) 11, Osborne (K) 11.
- HONORABLE-MENTION ALL-PAC: Pierce (BR) 8.5, Anderson (Br) 6.5, Viloli (C) 5.25, Fox (K) 5, Hershey (C) 4.5, Wolfe (K) 4.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.