FAIRMONT – Fairmont Senior and North Marion begin their respective pursuits of the Class AA state championship today in the two-day state tournament at Oglebay Resort’s Jones Course.
The Polar Bears and Huskies will be two of the eight teams in the Class AA field. They’ll be joined by Robert C. Byrd, Roane County, Wyoming East, Shady Spring, Winfield and Chapmanville. Neither 2018 state champion Westside nor state runner-up Grafton made the Class AA field this season.
The Class AA field will tee off at 9:20 a.m. today, with Class A starting off the tournament at 8:30 a.m. Beginning with that 8:30 a.m. time slot, two groups will tee off on holes No. 1 and 10 every 10 minutes until the final group of Class AAA is slated to tee off at 10:50 a.m.
The first two groups from each of the three classifications will be made up of individual at-large qualifiers across the four regions, meaning no golfers from FSHS nor NMHS will start their rounds until 9:40 a.m. Fairmont Senior’s No. 1 golfer Clark Craig will be the first county player to tee off today as he’ll hit the Jones Course off the first tee at 9:40 a.m. alongside RCB’s Tyler Stemple, Wyoming East’s Ethan Bradford and Chapmanville’s Reed Dingess.
Craig will then be followed off the No. 1 tee in succession every 10 minutes by groups featuring FSHS’s No. 2 Gannon Satterfield, No. 3 Zack Morgan and No. 4 Logan Huffman. North Marion will finally begin its day at 10:20 a.m. with No. 1 Michael Harris starting his round off the first tee.
The Huskies’ tee times will then follow the same pattern as the Polar Bears’ with No. 2 Rylan Gump, No. 3 Dylan Runner and No. 4 Bryce Rhoades teeing off in each of the next three – and final three – groups. Each team’s score for the two-day tournament will be the sum of their top three golfers out of the four participating players.
For North Marion, today marks the second straight season in which they’ll compete at the state tournament, with the Huskies finishing fourth overall with a team score of 512 last season after a surprise runner-up finish to qualify at the regional. Three of the team’s four golfers who played in last year’s state tournament are back for more this season, with Harris, Runner and Rhoades all returning.
Harris posted a team-best 154 (79-75) over the two-day tournament last season to earn all-state honors as a Top 8 finisher. Runner shot a 176 for the tournament, while Rhoades carded a 200.
As for Fairmont Senior, the Polar Bears were upset in the regional tournament by the Huskies last season and didn’t qualify for state after back-to-back Class AA state runners-up in 2016 and 2017. Craig, however, made the field as an individual qualifier and delivered an all-time performance, where he nearly pulled off a miraculous comeback to earn the individual championship.
Craig, who began last year’s tournament with an opening round of 76, rallied on Day 2, posting a course record 67 for the state tournament to force a playoff after he birdied his final three holes. He ultimately lost on the third playoff hole to Pikeview’s Carson Proffitt.
Craig and the Polar Bears enter the state tournament this season after taking first in the regional tournament with a three-man score of 230 that cleared North Marion’s runner-up total of 246. Craig’s 74 led the way, with Gannon Satterfield and Zack Morgan each carding a 78 for the Polar Bears.
FSHS’s three-person 230 score is the lowest regional score of any Class AA qualifier, with Wyoming East’s 243 being the next closest, followed by NMHS’s 246.
In Class A, Charleston Catholic, St. Mary’s, Parkersburg Catholic, Moorefield, Ravenswood, Ritchie County, Webster County and Tucker County will make up the state tournament’s eight-team field.
In Class AAA, the eight teams vying for the title will be Morgantown, Greenbrier East, Huntington, Capital, Cabell Midland, Washington, Martinsburg and Wheeling Park.
Email Bradley Heltzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bradheltzTWV.