KEYSER - Last season, Keyser High School's golfers turned in a remarkable regular season performance and had high hopes of finishing in the top two at regionals so as to advance to state tournament play.
By Chapin Jewell
KEYSER - Last season, Keyser High School’s golfers turned in a remarkable regular season performance and had high hopes of finishing in the top two at regionals so as to advance to state tournament play.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards.
Fast forward to this year. A new coach (Josh Blowe) but the same sort of regular season results. For the most part, Keyser dominated regular season play, winning match after match to set them up as a favorite to make it out of regional play and on to the state tournament. But there were no guarantees, as the Golden Tornado found out last year.
Then came Monday, Sep. 28, regional championship day held at the beautiful Cacapon State Park near Berkeley Springs. To Keyser’s benefit, the Black and Gold were no strangers to the course, having played it several times earlier in the season. Despite this fact, things didn’t really begin that well on Monday for Keyser and early on, quite honestly, things could have gone better.
This team, however, a perfect mix of experience and youth, with seniors Jacob Malcolm and Darrick Broadwater, and freshmen Drew Matlick and Noah Broadwater, found a way to right the ship and play clutch after much disappointment through the earlier holes. But, had they done enough?
“For the most part it didn’t look too good early. I think Noah (Broadwater) was 21-over through 12 holes, then he really turned it around his last six holes. He finished his last three par, birdie, par, which really helped us and saved the day,” first-year Keyser golf coach Josh Blowe stated.
One after one, as the groups finished, they gathered at the clubhouse to await the results. Part of the pressure of the day is that while you know your own scores, there really isn’t a way of knowing how the other teams are performing. There is no running tally kept during the day, all the drama gathers as golfers await the results.
When the dust cleared, the announcement was made. First came word that North Marion had finished as the runner-up, qualifying for the state tournament with a final score of 260. Then came the news that brightened the smiles of the Black and Gold clad throng assembled, including parents, players, coaches and media. With a final tally of 256, Keyser had won the day, and as such, a trip to the state tournament next week in Wheeling.
“Honestly, when we came into today, we though anywhere between 253 and 257 would win it and we came in at 256. So, scoring 256 and winning is not a surprise. It was a good match, it was a good day, but we know we can play better. I’m hoping, instead of the monkey, that we got the bear off our back and so we can just go up there and relax and play very well, Blowe stated.
That monkey and bear Blowe references is the disappointment of close calls and failing to qualify at times in the recent past. Just as Keyser was helped by having played Cacapon State Park several times in advance of Regionals, so too is the Golden Tornado advantaged by having played in Wheeling on the very course they’ll be competing for the state championship on.
According to Blow, “We’ve played up there, they had a practice round, they played a match up there with 30 teams there. It was a huge match, an invitational. We’ve been there, we’ve played the course, they know the course a little bit. We’ll have a practice round on Monday, and then get to play it two more times on Tuesday and Wednesday.”
“It’s pretty nice. I knew we had the potential at the beginning of the year on the first day of practice. I knew we had the potential to get to the state tournament but I didn’t know what everyone else was going to do in our region. All the hard work since the middle of July has definitely paid off, and I hope it continues to pay off next week, Blowe explained.
Senior, freshman, freshman, senior. That was the order of the finish for Keyser to win Regionals. Senior Jacob Malcolm finished first for Keyser with a score of 80. Freshman Drew Matlick finished second for the Golden Tornado with an 83. Freshman Noah Broadwater finished third, finishing out strong on the final three holes to tally a score of 93. Senior Darrick Braodwater finished fourth with a 95.
“Jacob Malcolm has been our number one the last three to four years. He’s been consistent as our number one all year. He’s played steady. He brought an 80 in today, and he knows that he probably could have shot a 76 today he played that well,” Blowe opined.
“I could have played a lot better, but it could have been a lot worse. But, we won in the end and that’s all that matters,” Malcolm stated. “This has been my goal since freshman year and we finally did it. It feels great.”
“Drew Matlick is only a freshman but he’s been in a lot of big tournaments over the summer with the Callaway Tour circuit. He came up big. He came up real big with an 83 today. He’s put a lot of time in, he’s got his own coach out in Morgantown that he goes to. He’s spent a lot of time playing and it helps to have a big brother to help guide him along the way,” Blowe explained.
“I could have played better. My putting definitely needs to improve for next week, I had a lot of three-putts today. Other than that it was okay, it was an alright day,” Matlick stated. “It feels good. I know it was my brother Evan’s goal the past couple years. They really had a good chance last year, but didn’t play so good. It feels good to know that these two seniors are getting to go this year.”
“Noah Broadwater is a freshman and has been consistent all year. In 18-hole matches he’s been right around 90 and 91, and he shot a 93 today. He’s so competitive. He wants to beat everyone on this team. He wants to beat me, he wants to beat everyone he plays with. He has the drive and the competitiveness and he just keeps getting better,” Blowe stated.
“I needed to keep the ball in play is all I was thinking. We must have done a good enough job, we’re going to states,” Broadwater stated. “It feels good to be going to state in this my first year.”
“Darrick Broadwater, he’s steady. For the most part, today he did not have one of his better rounds, but for the last two weeks of the season he’s probably been our best golfer. As a whole, he’s been putting in a lot of time and is a senior,” Blowe explained.
“Today was only the second worst round I’ve ever had,” the elder Broadwater said jokingly. “I’m definitely looking forward to a better performance next week. It’s going to be different, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Keyser finished first with a team score of 256, while North Marion, the other state qualifier, finished second with a score of 260. In addition, two individual golfers advanced to the state tournament at large, Chris Miller of Grafton who had a low individual score of 70, and Jordan Miller of Berkeley Springs, who shot an 83.
Finishing outside of the realm of state tournament qualifying was host Berkeley Springs in third (262), Fairmont Senior in fourth (284), Frankfort and Grafton tied for fifth (295 each), East Fairmont in seventh (299), Oak Glen in eighth (303) and Weir in ninth (328).
Leading the way for Frankfort with their tied for fifth performance was Brady Whitacre with an 87, Chase McCoy with a 103, Bryson Lane with a 105, and Keegan Bennett with a 137.
On Monday evening, after the win, Keyser assistant coach Bill Ack recalled a story form his golf playing days at Keyser High School. At the same course, Ack and his Keyser teammates, 32 years ago, qualified for state tournament play as well. For Ack, the moment had come full circle.
Ack wrote on Facebook, “So, yesterday I stood on the hill overlooking the 18th green at Cacapon State Park and told our current KHS golfers that almost 32 years ago I stood at that same exact spot and watched Wayne Lambert drain a putt that sent a team with a losing record to the state tournament. I explained to them that the fun we had there with Coach Thomson was something I will remember for the rest of my life and something I think of often.”
Ack continued, “They had excitement in their eyes and asked if we won states. I had to tell them the truth that we finished dead last, but it was still a blast. I am looking forward to taking a group of boys next week with coach Blowe to Wheeling with a legitimate chance to turn that last place finish into a first. We have a great group of boys competing and it has been a pleasure working with them and Josh this year.”
The first step of the dream of a state championship is behind them now that they have qualified for the state tournament, the first hurdle. Now Keyser heads to Wheeling to a course they’ve seen and with the confidence of knowing that they can get the job done. They’ve already accomplished so much, here’s to hoping for an even bigger celebration ahead.