By Ben Stroup
What a difference a year makes.
Liberty sophomore Trey Rath, competing with his Patriot teammates for the second straight season, was sharp on the first day of the Division I State Golf Championship Friday at the Ohio State University’s Scarlet Course.
Way sharper than last year.
Rath, who shot a 93 on the first day last fall, was next to automatic Friday, shooting par or better on 15 of the 18 holes en route to a 72 — the third-best mark among individuals.
The effort is impressive enough on its own, but when you compare it to last year’s opening-round 93 it pops off the page even more.
Last fall, Rath rebounded well with an 80 on the second day. If he shoots lower today, he might just win the individual title.
Hayes senior Grant Godfrey, another two-time qualifier who stepped up in a big way, finished with an opening-round 73 to close tied for fifth among individuals.
Godfrey fired rounds of 79 and 88 to finish with a 167 — a mark good for 28th overall — when he qualified as a sophomore in 2013.
That experience, while it didn’t yield the results he was looking for, finally paid off a bit Friday.
“I think it being my second time helped a little because I knew what to expect and how to handle myself,” Godfrey said. “I feel good about the round. I didn’t hit my driver well — I only hit two fairways — but my iron game was strong. I just stayed patient.”
Other local standouts in action included Liberty’s Kyle Mitchell (79), Ronnie Foth (82), Jacob Hickman (85) and Cameron McCloskey (88).
“Trey was our leader of the day,” Liberty coach Ryan Snivley said. “And our four and five guys did exactly what we needed them to do. Jacob did a really nice job grinding it out after making bogies at the start of his round … it was awesome to see Jacob and Ronnie settle in and not get down on themselves.
“Now (in today’s second round), the key is hitting more fairways and making more putts inside four feet. I know our senior, Cam, will step up for us. He has been steady for us this season, and to see him struggle was hard.”
As a team, Liberty’s 318 has it in fourth place with one round to play. The Patriots shot a 332 on the first day a year ago. A 329 on the second day, giving them a combined 661, earned them sixth place in the state.
In girls’ action, Orange, making its first-ever appearance in the state showcase, finished the first day seventh with a 332 on the Gray Course.
Ashley Au and Riley Dean led the Pioneers with 81s. Alyssa Kim and Brittany Miller had 85s and Emily Fisher finished with a 95.
Olentangy junior Kara Raines, the first Brave ever to qualify for the Girls State Golf Championship, finished with an 84 to close tied for 38th.
The championships wrap up today, with the first groups set to tee off at 9 a.m.
Follow Ben Stroup on Twitter @delgazette_ben.