By Ben Stroup
No matter where you look during next Friday and Saturday’s Division I boys and girls state golf tournaments — front or back 9, Scarlet or Gray — there’s a good chance you’ll be checking out a qualifier from Delaware County.
Local standouts turned the district stage of competition into their personal playgrounds Tuesday afternoon, with two teams and two more individuals punching tickets to the state showcase.
Liberty’s boys earned their second straight state appearance with a runner-up showing at Apple Valley, Hayes’ Grant Godfrey secured his second trip in three years thanks to a medal-winning effort, Orange’s girls qualified as a team for the first time in program history with a third-place finish at The Links at Groveport and Olentangy’s Kara Raines tied for second among individuals to become the first girl to qualify for states in school history.
The Patriots, who finished sixth in the state with rounds of 332 and 329 last fall, have the 306 they shot Tuesday at Apple Valley to thank for their return trip to The Ohio State University Scarlet Course. Only Dublin Jerome’s 293 was better among the 12 teams in action.
Kyle Mitchell led Liberty with a 74 — the 10th-best mark among individuals. Cameron McCloskey finished right behind his teammate with a 75, Trey Rath had a 76, Jacob Hickman carded an 81 and Ronnie Foth chipped in an 82 to smooth out the team’s scoring summary.
“I’m very happy with how the guys came through,” Liberty coach Ryan Snivley said. “We slipped up a little at sectionals and played back to our potential today. We made it through the hard part … now we can go have fun at states next week.”
Godfrey, who last qualified for states as a sophomore in 2013, earned medalist honors with a 71 to become the second Pacer in school history to qualify for the state golf tournament twice. Tim Ailes, who last qualified in 1988, was the other.
Godfrey fired a 37 on the front and 34 on the back — efforts he wasn’t thrilled with, but scores more than good enough to help him reach his goal.
“I just tried to stay patient,” he said. “I had a rough front side, but I grinded it out for a 37. Same on the back … I shot a 34, but it was still a grind. I didn’t hit the ball well, but was determined to make my pars and get the job done. Today’s round was all about patience and determination.
“I’m just excited for next week,” he added. “I have put in so much time and effort into getting back. I just can’t wait to see what happens.”
In the girls’ district tourney over in Groveport, Orange snagged the third and final ticket to states with a combined 338. Dublin Coffman won with a 331 while Jerome finished second with a 337.
Ashley Au and Alyssa Kim, a freshman and sophomore, respectively, led the Pioneers with 81s. Riley Dean, another freshman, had an 86 while Brittany Miller and Emily Fisher finished with respective rounds of 90 and 101.
Raines, meanwhile, kept her season alive with a 79.
In a word, the junior was consistent.
“That’s Kara,” Olentangy coach John Feasel said. “She’s consistently in the high 30s and low 40s. When she had a 40 on the front I thought it was a good sign because that’s the tougher nine.
“She did a great job under pressure,” he continued. “She’s just a steady, consistent golfer. It’s exciting for her and good for the program.”
The other district qualifiers in action, Liberty’s girls team and Olentangy’s Matthew Homza and Alex Cardi, saw solid seasons come to a close.
The Patriots, led by Sidney Kadlic’s 81, finished eighth as a team with a combined 365. Other contributors included Priyasha Kota (86), Kavya Manocha (95), Camryn Calus (103) and Makenna Brown (104).
Homza, meanwhile, finished tied for 54th with an 84 while Cardi shot a 91 to tie for 36th in the girls’ tournament.
Follow Ben Stroup on Twitter @delgazette_ben.