Churchill leads state golf after difficult opening round -- Gazette.Net







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The scene on the 14th tee at the University of Maryland, College Park’s golf course around 2:30 p.m. Monday was, at the very least, unusual. The coach from Annapolis High School was lounging in his golf cart, headphones in and nodding to rap music. Oxon Hill golfer Demarkis Cooper contemplated a nap while several others sprawled out on the grass nearby. The other half-dozen or so chatted amongst one another, doing everything from keeping their minds from the one thing they were there to do: golf.

“I just talked,” Winston Churchill sophomore Luke Schaap said. After 45 minutes of waiting, Schaap finally grabbed his 4-iron and landed his ball about 20 feet from the pin. He turned to the makeshift gallery and let out a little fist pump. He was finally playing golf again.

“That was probably the longest wait I’ve ever had on a golf course,” said Thomas S. Wootton’s Justin Feldman, who played alongside Schaap and finished with a 73.

Not until seven hours after the scheduled 9 a.m. tee time did the parade of golfers playing in the state championships make their way in to sign their scorecards. Schaap and Churchill were one of the scant few to survive the agonizing test of patience unscathed. The sophomore put together a scrambling round of 75 to jumpstart the Bulldogs to a first-day lead of 318, eight shots ahead of South River and defending champion Wootton.

“Everyone’s shooting really high,” Schaap said. “I think it’s because of the hard hole locations and the firm greens. They get you frustrated and you keep getting worse and worse.”

The nerve-testing waits on every tee box were one of several challenging conditions presented the field on Monday. A 45 minute frost delay set tee times back to 9:45, disrupting any semblance of a warm-up routine. The greens, rock solid from a fall generally bereft of regular rain, made it nearly impossible to land anything close to the hole. Add on to the fact that the greenskeepers made it their job to ensure difficult pin placements and birdies came at a premium. The 15 minute waits on nearly every tee box didn’t help either.

“It was these greens,” Shah said. “They were so hard and so fast. You had to land it at least 20 feet before the hole and that’s hard when it’s two paces on the green. I mean, yes it was ridiculously slow, but I don’t think that was the No. 1 factor. It was these greens.”

Shah had quite an obstacle of her own to overcome in that she was simply playing with Bryana Nguyen, the defending girls’ individual champ out of Atholton. By hole four, Nguyen was up three shots despite Shah being even par. Nguyen’s pace of three birdies every four holes eventually cooled — though she did finish with a new one-day record of 66 — and Shah went birdie-birdie-birdie on 15, 16, and 17 before unraveling with four straight bogeys on holes four through seven. Feldman, meanwhile, did just the opposite, recovering from a 4-over front nine to shoot a 33 on the back and sign for his 73, the low score of all Montgomery boys.

“I’m happy with that after the front nine,” Feldman said. “I kind of thought that it might be one of those days where I just went out there and shot mid to high 70s but I kept my head in it and I played the nine that I liked a lot better.”

Team-wise, the title is legitimately within grasp of all eight teams remaining after the cut of 334. Montgomery County took up five of the spots for Wednesday’s final and is joined by Nguyen and Atholton, Frederick County powerhouse Urbana, and South River. Quince Orchard (328) is currently in sixth while Walt Whitman (334) and Walter Johnson (334) tied for the final two spots.