Delaney Shah was just asking for one putt to drop. She had ran her previous attempts all over the edges of the holes, left them short or had balls lip out all day and, frankly, she was a bit tired of it.
“I just want one putt,” she said to her father with a sigh after leaving a 20-foot attempt for birdie on No. 13 at Poolesville Golf Course about five inches shy. Well, as the rest of Monday's round would have it, Shah apparently had two, not one, putts left in her.
Thomas S. Wootton High School's stud sophomore sunk a six- or seven-foot putt on No. 17 to save par and maintain her one shot edge over Winston Churchill's Luke Schaap. Then, on No. 18, her nerves held up a bit better than her father's — who had to watch the final putt from a decent distance — as she sent the birdie attempt into the dead center of the cup to walk away with a 3-under-par 68 and her first individual co-ed district title.
“After that front nine it was a little iffy but I pulled it together,” said Shah, who made the turn at even par. “I thought I might be able to go even or 1-under and I got it together. I hit fairways. I hit fairways and I made putts that I needed to make so that was good, reassuring.”
Shah's sublime effort on Monday provided the impetus for the Patriots to top a field that includes five bona fide state title contenders come Oct. 28 and 29 for the season finale at the University of Maryland, College Park. Wootton finished five shots ahead of county champion Walter Johnson with a 301, adding in an even-par 71 from Justin Feldman, an 80 from Georgetown Prep transfer Tim Golden and an 82 from Jordan Weitz.
Churchill, on the strength of the second-place, 1-under par effort from sophomore Luke Schaap, finished third (309), Quince Orchard took fourth (310) and Walt Whitman fifth (312). To put those scores in perspective, had all five of those teams shot those exact scores for both days of last year's state tournament, no other Class 4A/3A team in Maryland would have beaten a single one of them.
“We're probably the best county,” Schaap said. “The state champion is probably going to be one of those five teams.”
Poolesville (331) and Sherwood (328) also qualified by shooting under the required number of 332 — Poolesville also had an automatic bid as they were the de facto 1A/2A champions — which left 11 spots open for individuals who didn't punch their ticket to states by way of team qualification.
In two weeks, Shah and Wootton will get their shot at repeating their 4A/3A state title while the sophomore will get her chance to continue her gold medal rush. In just the last week alone, the sophomore has won the girls' district title — which she also shot a 68 at Laytonsville to win — the co-ed district title, and the team district title. At Maryland for the state championships, she may have just established herself as the girls' favorite, co-ed favorite, and re-established Wootton as the team favorite.
“We got a lot of time,” Feldman said. “We got a lot of time to practice, get everything together. There's no reason why we can't do it again this year. We've only progressed since the beginning of the season. We started out a little shaky but now we're here.”
Team qualifiers (cut was 332 or class champion)
1. Wootton (301): Delaney Shah 68, Justin Feldman 71, Tim Golden 80, Jordan Weitz 82.
2. Walter Johnson (306): Noah Moss 73, Michael Gilman 77, Joshua Jacobs 77, Taso Scilaris 79.
3. Winston Churchill (309): Luke Schaap 70, Oliver Whatley 79, Blake Weltmann 80, Adam Gray 80.
4. Quince Orchard (310): Colton Christensen 73, Michael Bushman 77, Ryan Leavy 80, Jared Swick 80.
5. Walt Whitman (312): Danny Mills 74, Graham Hutchinson 76, Andrew Barth 77, Daniel Stern 85.
6. Sherwood (328): Michael Metro 79, John Ervin 81, Matt Ervin 83, Parker Phillips 85.
7. Poolesville (331): Rohit Mandavia 81, Andy Baker 83, Craig Morton 83, Trevor Stottlemyer 84.
Individual qualifiers (boys' cut was 82, girls' 97)
1. EJ Dillon, Northwest, 75
2. Phil Colevas, Richard Montgomery, 76
3. Keith Berkheimer, Damascus, 77
4. Marvin Huelle, Watkins Mill, 79
5. Cooper Moore, B-CC, 79
6. Nick Infanti, Clarksburg, 79
7. Jordan Bobb, Walter Johnson, 80
8. Victor Adamson, Blair, 80
9. David Platt, B-CC, 80
10. Zach Burkinshaw, Northwest, 80
11. Tyler Dunmyer, Quince Orchard, 82
12. Graysen Bright, Wootton, 85