Fight and tenacity are the best words to describe the effort by the Saint Ignatius Golf team on Saturday, and this season.
Chilly October conditions hampered the Wildcats early on Day 2 of the State Tournament, leading to higher scores and the evaporation of the team’s two-stroke Day 1 lead. But the Golf Cats kept fighting and nearly erased Archbishop Hoban’s strong start.
The effort was not enough in the end, as the Wildcats could not catch up to the Knights, finishing as the runners-up at the 2020 OHSAA State Golf Tournament in Columbus with a two-day total of 609 after shooting 307 on Day 2.
While not the Wildcats’ goal, a silver runner-up trophy is certainly a nice prize for the men of PJ Myers ’99. The Wildcats last claimed second place at the state tournament in 2010.
“It’s a phenomenal milestone that validates the hard work since we’ve put in since last October,” said Myers. “Finishing runner-up is a representation of a lot of hard work and commitment to the process of getting better physically and mentally. If you look at what we’ve been able to accomplish on and off the golf course, it speaks volumes for not only the leadership of our captain Andrew Martin, but the character of our players to handle adversity with COVID-19 and to perform so well.”
The Wildcats’ 2020 runner-up trophy is the third silver medal in the Saint Ignatius Golf trophy case, joining hardware from 1998 and 2010. If you look closely at the record board, you’ll see Myers’ name from the 1998 team.
You may look up at that record board and take a peek at the two state championship teams in 2001 and 2002. How’s this for a remarkable fact: The Wildcats’ two-day score of 609 is better than both of those state championship-winning tallies. In fact, the Wildcats’ 2-day effort this weekend is the best in school history.
“It’s a byproduct of how the game is changing at the pro level, and the quality of players and athletes now throughout the state,” Myers said. “We gotta keep it up. For us to accomplish what we did under these circumstances you have to smile and say that was pretty darn good.”
And it’s pretty darn impressive on the state level, too. The Wildcats’ 609 now ranks third in state history, behind the Knights’ 606 score this weekend and Dublin Jerome’s 607 a couple years ago.
While Piesen played the anchor on Day 1 with a 70 and a Hole-in-1, Topher Reed performed the starring role on Day 2.
The junior enjoyed an outstanding day at the Scarlet Course. After a couple of bogeys in the first two holes, Reed did not have a hole above par the rest of the day. Reed tallied a 37 on the front nine, aided by back-to-back birdies on the 6th and 7th holes. On the back nine, he played fantastic golf, matching his Day 1 back nine total of 35. Reed hit par on every single gole from Holes 8-18, a remarkable feat not achieved by any other golfer on Day 2.
Reed finished the tournament as the runner-up with a two-day tally of 146. Jackson Gilkison of Springboro won medalist honors with a 143, three strokes ahead of Reed thanks to three birdies in the final seven holes. Reed’s finish is indicative of his incredible talent and potential. He’ll be back next year, better than ever.
“Every single round of golf he plays amazes me,” said Myers. “I’m always impressed by how well he competes and how gifted he is. I’m excited for him next year and beyond.”
While he didn’t lead the team on Saturday, Piesen’s performance on the course is nothing short of stupendous.
After an incredible score of 70 on Day 1, Piesen’s tally dipped to 77 on Day 2, in part due to tough luck with some bogeys early on. The sophomore marked down a 43 on the front nine before catching fire on the back nine. Piesen hit par on Holes 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, and 16 before a remarkable finish. Piesen tallied a birdie on Hole 17, the hole on which he tallied his Hole-in-1 on Friday, along with a birdie on the 18th. For the day, Piesen finished with a 77, equaling a two-day total of 147, tying for third place with Archbishop Hoban’s Jack Vojtko.
“For Nick to have the lead after day 1 and have a Hole-in-1, you can count on hand the number of times that’s happened in the last 60 years that’s happened,” Myers said. “His third place overall finish is amazing. He played phenomenally for a kid who just turned 16 a few days ago.”
Both Reed and Piesen claimed First-Team All-State honors, the first Wildcats to do so since Kevin Duncan and Harrison Vonderau in 2014. Saint Ignatius had not had two first-teamers since 2002 when Ben Smith won medalist honors and Matt Busa aided the Cats’ state title efforts. Also, Reed and Piesen both bested the old school record for lowest two-day individual total (previously 150) by 4 and 3 shots, respectively.
As anticipated, Bradley Chill, Jr. improved from Day 1. After his score didn’t count on the initial day, Chill improved by a whopping 7 strokes. The quick learner scuffled a bit in the early goings, but notched par-five holes in a row to even out. Chill penciled in a 40 on the front nine and remained even keel on the back nine for a score of 39 on the back nine. His birdies on the 3rd and 16th holes were particularly important.
Chill’s score of 79 helped tremendously. It cannot be understated that Chill has remarkable talent and has the makings of greatness. Remember, he’s only a freshman, so he’ll be back in the years to come, and he’ll be even better.
Connor Malicki also showcased his skills well on Saturday. The sophomore sensation’s score didn’t count, but it was great nonetheless. Malicki turned in an 82 for the day, with identical scores of 41 on the front nine and the back nine. Malicki did well throughout the day, and his good play was highlighted by a birdie on the 8th hole.
“Connor and Bradley grew a lot this weekend,” Myers said. “First and foremost, they are great kids. They’re great golfers who will be great for us in the future, as well.”
And of course, we cannot forget Nick Longano.
Longano is the personification of the growth the Saint Ignatius Golf program has experienced in the past few seasons. Longano made his third state tourney appearance this weekend, and made the most out of it.
The senior again provided a very nice score for the Wildcats. Longano rounded up a 41 on the front nine on Saturday and ended nicely with a 38 on the back nine, including a huge birdie on the 10th hole. Longano completed the day and his Saint Ignatius career with a 79.
“Look at what Nick Longano was able to do in his 4 years,” Myers said. “He was a three-time state qualifier. His score counted every single round we played. He’s a gamer, and when he competes, he’s ready to go. He fights to the finish.”
On the biggest stage, you can’t underestimate the power of veteran leadership. Andrew Martin and Sean Hoagland provided it in spades.
“As an alternate, Sean was a phenomenal spiritual presence and an emotional leader,” Myers said. “With Andrew Martin, he didn’t have the play he wanted on the course, but from a captain standpoint, his presence was amazing. It was like having a 3rd coach. I’m so proud of him.”
When you look at the achievements of the team and all of the records broken, it’s quite astounding. A total of 12 tournament wins. New marks for lowest score on Par 71 and Par 72 courses. Two All-Ohioans. Two Holes-in-1. It’s remarkable.
But just as commendable is the way the Golf Cats grew as people.
“To start the season, we had 2 main goals: 1. Win a state championship, and 2. Mold these guys into better human being to have the tools to succeed beyond this program,” Myers began. “We got really darn close to Goal #1. If you look at the end of what we did both days, in the last 3-4 holes, we were 13-14 shots back, but they don’t give up. We don’t have championship trophy to validate it, but they walk away with their heads held high. And Goal #2, they blew it out of the water.
“With the preparation it took, to come together in two-and-a-half months, it is nothing shot of amazing. They built a family and relationships that will last a lifetime. They grew and matured into men. It started with captain Martin and getting us back on the field, and it bled into the leadership of guys like Nick Longano, Topher, and Nick Piesen, they stepped up in a huge way. They committed to the concept of family. There made memories that will last a lifetime. There were lots of tears yesterday. There was a bit of sadness that it didn’t end the way it wanted to, but the foundation is strong. Rome wasn’t built in a day. We have the foundation for a tremendous amount of success in the years to come.”
Indeed, the future is bright as ever for the Wildcats. Four of the five Wildcats who competed this weekend will return next season – Reed, Piesen, Chill, and Malicki. Longano’s impressive 4-year career concludes in Columbus, and he has plenty to be proud of. Longano’s leadership and efforts on the course will not soon be forgotten, as he helped to establish a culture of excellence.
“Of the 4 guys coming back, nothing can replace playing in the state championship,” Myers said. “I couldn’t be more excited for this group of kids. And there are 4-5 guys coming up who are just as capable of helping out at this level. The sky is the limit.”
Before closing the book on 2020, Myers and the Wildcats have some folks to thank.
“We want to thank all of the alumni and supporters of the program,” Myers said. “It takes a village. To get on the golf courses, we have local club professionals who have ties and are invested in the program who help the boys ready. We have a lot of former golf alumni support. What those guys built from the late 1980s and on are great, and they’ve stuck by us and continued to help provide resources for the school. And of course, a thank you to our parents, especially the parents of our seniors for everything they’ve done throughout the years. They are amazing people.
This trophy is for Ignatius, but it’s also for all of our supporters, parents, friends, and alumni of Ignatius."