Lake Ridge senior Mitchell Rice did just about everything he could have hoped to do Wednesday in his bid to win a third straight Division III sectional tournament at Pine Hills. Not only was his even-par 72 better than his two previous winning sectional scores (74 last year and 77 in 2009), it was the lowest round he’s ever shot.
So what does he get for the round of his life? Second place, thanks to a 1-under 71 turned in by junior Andrew Bieber of the defending state champion Gilmour Academy Lancers.
Must have been tough to bear, huh?
Not really. Rice has played golf long enough to know all you can control is your own score and whenever you shoot even par at Pine Hills you can’t have too many regrets.
“I guess pretty much the goal was just moving forward,” said Rice, who led the Lions to a second-place finish as a team and to their fourth straight trip to districts. “Shooting the score I shot, I was pretty pleased.”
Starting on the back nine, Rice reeled off seven straight pars before taking bogey on 17 and the always-difficult 18th. He quickly made up for the stumbles with back-to-back birdies on the first and second holes, then had a bogey at 4 and a birdie at 7.
“I had a couple of good putts,” said Rice, who lives in Sandusky. “My putting came around on the second nine.”
It’s been a little bit of a strange season for Rice, a two-time all-district player and the top golfer on last year’s Lions team that qualified to state for the first time in school history.
He roared into the school season on the strength of a sizzling summer in which he not only won four Lake Erie Junior Golf Association tournaments but topped his previous best score of 74 five times. A slight swing adjustment set him back for about a week, but the real problem has been the rainy weather that has canceled half of the Lions’ matches.
“It’s made it weird,” he said of the weather. “It’s made it a little tougher.”
Not that it’s hurt his game much. He still averaged 77.8 per 18 holes and 37.2 for nine and shot a career-low 3-under 32 during a match at Cherry Ridge.
Still, it’s been even weirder since the secret ingredient that fueled the Lions’ run to state last season … Chipotle … has been spurned by two of the members of the team. Rice, however, still considers it one of his two or three favorite foods.
Of course, the lack of matches has also cut into the bonding that comes with team meals, but the Lions still managed to achieve their goal of making it back to districts even though they lost two key seniors from the team that finished 10th at state.
A return to Columbus might be a stretch for the team, especially since only the top two teams and individuals advance, but not for Rice, though he’s trying to stay low-key about Thursday’s district tournament at Seven Hills in Hartville.
“I’ve never played too well there, but I’m just trying to stay calm,” he said. “Not force anything.”
If he can do that, that bear could be in real trouble.
First-year Vermilion coach Janelle Molenaar isn’t surprised juniors Jessica Lardie and Taylor Fortner will be teeing it up today at the Division II girls district tournament at Tam O’Shanter Golf Course in Canton.
“The first time I saw them play I said, ‘those two girls are going to district,’” Molenaar said.
Lardie shot an 88 and Fortner a 91 at last week’s sectional at Brookledge Golf Course in Cuyahoga Falls to earn the final two spots.
It’s fitting they both made it because they’re good friends on and off the course.
“We cheer for each other but we’re also pretty competitive,” said Fortner, who’s been playing for about five years.
“We’re both into the competition, but we don’t get in each other’s faces,” said Lardie, who’s only been playing three years. “I do enjoy beating her now and then.”
Lardie, who shot an even-par 35 in a match this season at Bob-O-Link, said the best part of her game is driving. Fortner credits her wedge play — 100 yards and in — as her strength.
While both were happy to advance, they were hoping to make it as a team. Unfortunately for the Sailors, they finished fifth, just one spot and only two strokes short of qualifying.
You go, Beau
Beau Titsworth’s return to the high school scene has been impressive.
Titsworth, an Avon Lake resident and St. Ignatius senior, missed a big chunk of the season playing a couple of prestigious junior tournaments and announced his presence in style with a pair of 68s in his first two events.
Titsworth, who finished second in the Division I state tournament last year, shot a 3-under 68 at Brookside Country Club near Columbus to finish second at the 22-team St. Charles Invitational, which features most of the top teams in the state. Despite shooting a sizzling 287, Ignatius had to settle for second behind Upper Arlington (283).
He followed that up with a 4-under 68 and a first-place finish at the 15-team Kiely Cup at historic Canterbury Golf Club in Cleveland. The Wildcats took first that time with a 304.
As for the junior tourneys, Titsworth had his moments.
He finished ninth at the Randy Wise Junior Open at Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc, Mich., shooting rounds of 74-76-75 to end up eight shots out of the lead. In the Junior Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, site of the PGA Tour’s Player Championship, he tied for 50th but sandwiched a 2-under 70 between rounds of 79 and 80.
Players of the week
Mitchell Rice, Lake Ridge
- YEAR: Senior
- WHAT HE DID: Shot a career-best even-par 72 at Pine Hills Golf Course to finish one stroke short of winning the Division III sectional title for the third straight year. His second-place finish led the Lions to a second-place team finish and their fourth straight trip to districts.
- BIO: The Sandusky resident won four Lake Erie Junior Golf Association tournaments over the summer. Has played piano for 10 years and guitar for five, including occasional stints with his church youth group. When not golfing or focusing on school work and applying to colleges, enjoys hanging out with friends and going to movies. Recently saw “Shark Night 3D” and said it was all right.
- FUTURE PLANS: Would like to play golf in college, probably at a Division II or III school. Is looking into four or five colleges and has visited the University of Rochester and Ohio Wesleyan so far. Isn’t sure what he wants to study yet.
- FAVORITE PRO GOLFER: Sergio Garcia
- PARENTS: Dr. Robert and Brenda
Jessica Lardie, Vermilion
- YEAR: Junior
- WHAT SHE DID: Shot an 88 at the Division II sectional tournament at Brookledge Golf Club in Cuyahoga Falls to finish third and advance to today’s district tournament at Tam O’Shanter Golf Course in Canton.
- OTHER SPORT: Basketball (post)
- BIO: Member of Model U.N. and has been a captain for a Relay for Life team for three years in a row. Plans to participate in Ski Club this year, as well. Enjoys hanging out with friends, going to movies and Cedar Point — Top Thrill Dragster is her favorite ride.
- FUTURE PLANS: Hopes to earn a golf scholarship to college, where she’d like to study architecture.
- FAVORITE PRO GOLFER: Phil Mickelson
- PARENTS: Angela and Glenn
Taylor Fortner, Vermilion
- YEAR: Junior
- WHAT SHE DID: Shot a 91 at the Division II sectional tournament at Brookledge Golf Club in Cuyahoga Falls to finish fourth and advance to today’s district tournament at Tam O’Shanter Golf Course in Canton.
- BIO: Member of Student Council, Speech and Debate, Model U.N. and Leo Club. Also enjoys traveling, shopping, reading and hanging out with friends.
- FUTURE PLANS: Would like to play golf in college, but hasn’t decided on a major yet.
- FAVORITE PRO GOLFER: Sergio Garcia
- PARENTS: Michelle and Craig
Contact Kevin Aprile at 329-7135 or email@example.com.