The Road to Columbus


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As August approached, local golf courses were flooded with high school players preparing for tryouts and coaches finalizing plans for the upcoming season. At some area high schools, expectations were high and hopes were high. By the middle of October, four of those teams were able to celebrate by taking a trip down I-71 with a final destination of the Ohio State University Golf Course in Upper Arlington.

For the Blue Streaks of Magnificat High School and the Hornets from Highland High School that trip has become an annual occurrence. Behind the two leading players from Northeast Ohio, Cara Heisterkamp from Magnificat and Isabella Goyette from Highland, those two teams just needed to refine their games and were pretty much assured a spot in Columbus. Both teams were able to increase their depth significantly with a star freshman player. Claire Liu proved to be a star right off the bat for the Blue Streaks and Highland found some long term help in Elizabeth Coleman. Both of those players contributed highly to their teams’ accomplishments.

In other parts of Northeast Ohio, teams with dreams of getting to State knew that their chances were anything but guaranteed. The Suburban League’s National Conference looked like it was going to be an epic race between the Hudson Explorers and Nordonia Knights. Nordonia brought back every member of their 2021 team, easily the best in school history, while Hudson had a strong foundation of players and a great amount of depth. Those two teams knew that it was going to be a tight race to win the conference, but also that they would be neck and neck through the OHSAA tournaments.

In the Federal League, always a staple of Northeast Ohio golf, it looked like a changing of the guard was imminent. Jackson and Green, perennial state qualifiers, both were trying to rebuild after losing many key pieces each. This opened the door for both North Canton Hoover and Uniontown Lake to take the top two spots in the league. Hoover especially knew they had a legitimate chance to make 2022 a year to remember.

In Shaker Heights, the Hathaway Brown Blazers were in a good position to make a run. 2021 freshman phenom Dixon Hill was poised to have an even better sophomore season and the Blazers had the look of a team ready to turn some heads. Other schools such as Strongsville, Solon, Stow, Kent Roosevelt, and Marlington (who had just been bumped up to Division 1) all knew that there was a chance they were on the periphery but needed to really have a record breaking day to get to Columbus.

October 13th, 2022 was a cold and windy day at Brookledge Golf Course in Cuyahoga Falls as the District Tournament commenced. Scoring was not going to be easy on a lengthy, wet course and everyone knew they were going to have to bring their absolute best in order to advance. After several hours of battling through the elements, four teams and three individuals emerged with a berth at the State Tournament. Magnificat (317) won the tournament behind a one-over-par performance from Heisterkamp. They were followed by Highland (328), Hoover (331), and Nordonia (334). Qualifying individuals were Ava Pulley (78) from Green, Kaitlin Kormuth (78) from Solon, and Gianna Reginelli (79) from St. Joseph Academy. The final spot would be determined by a tiebreaker between Kent Roosevelt’s Madolyn Kost and Aubrie Rush from Avon High School.

The story of 2022 proved to be the rise of the Nordonia Knights, under the direction of veteran coach Greg Harris. Seniors Christina Nagy and Larisa Golembewski had both established themselves as top players the season before. Junior Brooke Barnes also brought a good amount of experience to the table for the Knights. What nobody expected, however, was the amazing season the Knights got from sophomore Julia Gulla, who used 2022 to establish herself as one of the top players in the area. Gulla had a very impressive freshman year, but she took a gigantic step forward and became the guiding force of the team. Results could have been very different for Nordonia had it not been for a strong finish from senior Maci Taylor. Taylor put together a few strong rounds at the end of the season to help clinch the Suburban League National title for Nordonia and put the team in a good place for the tournament season. Nordonia grew as a team throughout the season. They got off to a good start by placing 2nd at the Lady Rider Invitational at Twin Lakes but had a setback in their first league tournament as they were edged out by Hudson. From that point on, they did not lose again in the Suburban League tournaments, winning the final three to easily win the league. On September 10th, Nordonia set a school record at Fox Den by shooting 305 with matching 73s by Nagy and Gulla. Barnes shot 79 and Golembewski shot 80 to round out the scoring. After winning the conference at Brookledge, Nordonia used the momentum to finish in second place at sectionals and play an impressive round at districts to qualify for the State Tournament.

Harris knew from the beginning that his team was special. “After qualifying for Districts in 2020 and 2021, we had our entire team back for 2022 and believed that we could make it to State so we set this as one of our 2022 goals,” he said. “Our District Tournament is very difficult because there are so many great teams so we knew going into that we needed to play very well to be one of the top 4 teams and qualify for State.” The weather at Brookledge didn’t help. “It ended up being a cool and windy day so there were very challenging conditions for all of the teams,” he explained. “And to add to this, Brookledge had some very difficult pin placements that day.” Harris said that his team was in the right mindset. “In our minds, we felt confident that we were one of the top 4 teams going into the day so we just needed to stay focused and put forth our best effort. The girls did both of these things and played their hearts out for all 18 holes.” Harris still has a lot ahead of him but he will never forget his 2022 squad. “I totally enjoyed being the coach for this an incredible group of girls.”

Coach Scott Snyder has always had a competitive team at Hoover High School but he knew from the very beginning that 2022 could be special. “At the beginning of our season, I think we felt as though we had a chance to compete at a high level and possibly make it to Columbus,” he said. “Our entire regular season schedule provided us plenty of competitive opportunities and thus a chance to see what was happening throughout Northeast Ohio. Ultimately our confidence grew as did our thoughts that we could make it.” Two seniors, Halle Ellis and Hannah Higgins, as well as two sophomores, Ava Kemp and Kylie Porter, all had the ability and potential to go low on any given day. This was seen in full force when Hoover set back to back school records for nine hole rounds, shooting 147 against Jackson followed by 146 the next day against Garaway. The Vikings dominated the Federal League in both tournaments and head to head play. That coupled with a very strong tournament schedule helped Hoover prepare for the District Tournament and allowed for them to be successful at Brookledge.

A little extra motivation came from a difficult day at the Sectional Tournament at The Elms Country Club. Hoover managed to finish first at the tournament but did not play their best round. They were able to put things together at districts. “We battled with Magnificat and Highland all day, as team scores were so very close,” said Snyder. A 76 from Kemp put Hoover in a great place. “She played just awesome and no doubt helped propel us to our 3rd place finish,” he added. Ellis shot 81, Higgins 83, and Porter 91 to get the Vikings their sixth team trip to Columbus. “The girls were very calm, and played under control,” according to Snyder. “The longer they did their thing, the better I felt and was ecstatic for them. They stuck with the goal at hand, and it paid off!” Coach Snyder had nothing but good things to say about the quality of people he coached in 2022. “This was my 30th season coaching golf at Hoover. I’ve been blessed with so many truly awesome players and student-athletes. Like so many teams in the past, this year’s group set goals, worked toward their goals, and saw them be paid off with the trip to Columbus. We’ve been very fortunate for so many years in a row now in terms of individuals or teams qualifying to States, and hope this success continues this next season as we return a great group of girls and are very much looking towards the upcoming season.”

The road to State was not as difficult for Highland and Coach Mary Becker. “After finishing 5th in the 2021 state tournament, and even though we had three seniors playing that year, I felt pretty confident that we could return in 2022 with 3 great players (Isabella, Paige and Kavya) returning,” Becker explained. She also hoped to have senior Emily Krutkiewicz back after injuries hampered her for the previous two seasons. Krutkiewicz, a stellar player and highly regarded as an overall exceptional person, never was cleared to play, which was a huge blow to the team. That, coupled with a little adversity in a few tournaments, could have meant big trouble, but the battle tested Hornets played their best when it counted. After cruising to a conference championship in the Suburban League American, Highland shot an impressive 301 to win their sectional tournament at Fox Den. Isabella Goyette’s 66 was easily enough for medalist honors. At the District Tournament, Goyette led the team with a 74 followed by an 84 from fellow junior Paige McKendry, and 85s from Coleman and junior Kavya Chada. “Districts are the most stressful tournament of the year,” Becker said. “We had a decent front nine, but struggled on the back 9. I felt like first place was slipping away, but second place was still in reach. Being able to look at live scoring was great. Our 3 and 4 players stepped up on a big way on the last three holes and we squeaked out the second place finish over Hoover.”

Highland had an impressive resume in 2022 en route to their 10th overall trip to Columbus. Their tournament wins included the Christine Terlesky Memorial Tournament, the Medina Invitational, the Walsh Jesuit Tradition Invitational, and the Independence Blue Devil Classic. Becker made sure to remind everyone that it was a true team effort. “It was great play by our upperclassmen and the surprising performances by underclassmen Elizabeth Coleman, Avery Albright and Kendall Sprutte,” she said. “It seems like each of them stepped up at different times during the season to come through with an excellent score.”

Magnificat started the season as one of the favorites to win the District Tournament and they never let up along their run to making it happen. Coach Gina Battistone’s squad had impressive performances throughout the season including wins at the Lady Rider Invitational, the Jackson Invitational, the Canterbury Invitational hosted by Laurel, and the Blue Streak Invitational. Magnificat also won their independent league championship along with finishing the season by setting two school 18 hole records, a 297 in a loss to Dublin Jerome at Westfield Country Club, and a 295 in the independent league championship at Pine Hills. All five players shot in the 70s in that tournament. Cara Heisterkamp led the team with a 71, Claire Liu added a 73, sophomore Cammy Reed shot 75, sophomore Maureen O’Leary shot 76, and senior Isabella Paez finished with 78. Magnificat easily took care of business at their sectional tournament at Springvale and ended up winning the District Tournament by 11 shots over Highland to get back to Columbus.

Congratulations to the Highland Hornets (627, 4th Place), Magnificat Blue Streaks (629, 5th Place), Hoover Vikings (665, 8th Place), and Nordonia Knights (682, 11th Place) on their appearance in the 2022 State Tournament. Isabella Goyette (Highland) finished 4th in the state individually and Cara Heisterkamp (Magnificat) finished 6th. Congratulations as well to individual qualifiers Kaitlin Kormuth (t15) from Solon, Ava Pulley (t18) from Green, Aubrie Rush (t29) from Avon, and Gianna Reginelli (t47) from St. Joseph Academy.