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Eight area golfers ready to make state-ments

October 22, 2006|by TIM KOELBLE

Golf is still first and foremost in the minds of eight Tri-State area players as state tournaments begin Monday in Pennsylvania and Tuesday in Maryland.

For Chambersburg's Clayton Rotz and Smithsburg's Alicia Grier, it's a final chance to add an illustrious link to their outstanding prep careers. As seniors, each will be making their third appearance in the state tournament hoping to be at the top of the leaderboard when their 36 holes of competition have concluded.

Rotz, the 2006 Pennsylvania Junior champion and 2005 Herald-Mail Player of the Year, begins his quest against 47 other boys Monday morning at 8:50 at Heritage Hills Golf Resort in York, Pa. This year, he posted an average of 71 and won the District 3 title before finishing off his qualifying run last week with a fourth-place spot in the PIAA Eastern Regional.

"He is playing real well right now," said Chambersburg coach Mark Yost, still seeking his first individual champion in his eight years at the school. "I think he's got as good a chance as any. There are some real good kids in the state."

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Rotz will be in a foursome that includes Sean Brannan of Hollidaysburg and Robert Galbreath of Lower Moreland, two players he's faced in junior golf. Another top threat is Armory Davis of Unionville.

"Clayton's ball-striking has been very solid and if he putts well, I think he can be a favorite," said Yost. "I like his chances because he is mentally tough and I think that gives him an upper edge."

Grier is one of the favorites to win the Maryland girls championship, which is held Tuesday and Wednesday at the University of Maryland at College Park. Last year, Grier led Smithsburg to the 1A/2A team championship, but this season she is alone on the trail with a medalist title in sight.

"She has the confidence and she is hungry for it," said Smithsburg coach Dan Neff. "She is comfortable with the course and with her confidence, those are two big factors on her side."

Grier, who won the Washington County, Junior Masters and WACO Junior titles this season, tees off Tuesday at 9 a.m. and will be looking to add another individual state trophy to the household, duplicating older sister Ashley's championship in 2002.

Grier has rebounded well from a bout with mononucleosis, starting with a 1-over 73 in the district qualifier on Sept. 26 at Black Rock.

"Her strength has been coming back," said Neff. "She has been spending time working on her chipping. The short game will come into play a lot at College Park."

There are six additional players in the hunt, three heading to each state tournament.

Yost has another potential gem in freshman Kacy Straub, who will play against 24 other girls, including Liz Breed of Waynesboro. Straub tees off at 9:30 Monday.

"For a young female golfer I sort of knew (Kacy) had the potential to get where she is at," said Yost. "All summer and during the regular season she was playing from the boys tees. She wanted to do that.

"I can't rate her expectations," he said. "She barely made it (13th in qualifying), but I don't believe she has played her best golf yet. Kacy is not intimidated and performing under pressure is nothing new to her."

Waynesboro has two players in the tournament - the seventh straight year coach Ryan Henderson's team has had at least one state qualifier.

Jake Wetzel, a senior making his second trip to Heritage Hills, hits his first shot at 9.

"I'm happy to see Jake back on this stage," said Henderson. "He's worked so hard. He gave up basketball to focus on golf and he's getting some of the rewards. He has matured mentally and his consistency has been his biggest improvement."

Henderson gushes when talking about Breed, a freshman who comes from a family of golfers, including Christian, her older brother who appeared in three state tournaments.

"She was our fourth-best qualifier on the boys team this year off the boys tees," said Henderson. "Last year, when I heard she was coming up as a freshman and as good as she was, I made a hotel reservation back then for this year."

Henderson says Breed's biggest assets are her maturity and the mentality to be a good golfer.

"She hits the big ball and when she gets inside 150 yards she's hitting 8, and 9-irons," said Henderson of the first Waynesboro freshman, male or female, to make it to states.

Wetzel qualified at the District 3 tournament with a 36-hole 154 and at the Eastern Regional in a tie for fourth with Rotz with a 71. Breed carded a 76 for fourth place and Straub posted an 81 in the regionals to qualify.

Joining Grier in Maryland, all on an individual basis this year, are junior Andrew Duff of Williamsport, senior Caleb Hudlow of Boonsboro and senior Steve Hutzell of North Hagerstown. All are making their first postseason appearance.

In order to fare well at College Park, players must hit straight drives off the tee to avoid problems along the tree-lined fairways.

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