Madonna in hunt at state golf tourney

WHEELING – Madonna coach T.J. Brancazio was quite the prophet when he talked about the number he had in mind for his team heading into the the first round of the West Virginia Class A State Golf Tournament at Oglebay Park.

He said Monday his team probably needed a 235 to be at the top.

The number was actually 236, the score posted by defending state champion Charleston Catholic.

Brancazio’s team is nine shots off the pace, which, given the past, is not bad.

“It’s not 20 shots back,” Brancazio said, noting the number the Blue Dons trailed by last year.

Michael Rogers finished the day with a solid 77, tying him for the individual lead with Charleston Catholic’s Aaron Persley.

Nick Mazur finished with an 82 and Alex Colantonio carded an 86.

Brancazio said Madonna is in good shape.

“Our guys have to come out and we need to have three solid rounds,” the coach said. “I think 235 might be a little high now, we might need to get to 230 but we are certainly capable of doing that. We aren’t exactly where we want to be but we are in position to make a move.”

Bishop Donahue’s Stephen Gretchen was not real happy with his 92 in the first round of the state tournament, but he did make a mark nonetheless.

He became the second Bishop Donahue golfer to qualify for the state tournament and the first to actually play in the event.

The first golfer to qualify did not play because he was sick, so Gretchen, by teeing off Monday, was the first Blue Don to actually tee up in the state tournament.

“It definitely means a lot,” said Gretchen, a former motocross rider with 12 national titles in that sport to his credit. “It’s pretty sweet, actually. I can’t really describe it.”

Naturally, he hoped to fare better.

“The course played tough,” Gretchen said. “It was long and the pin placements were tough. All I can do tomorrow is try to shoot somewhere in the 70s and do the best I can. Just see where I can finish with a good round.”

Gretchen has only been golfing for a year-and-a-half.

In Class AAA, Cole Hand might not play basketball at Wheeling Park, but the junior does know a little bit about rebounding.

After taking a quadruple-bogey on his second hole, unlucky No. 13, the defending Class AAA state champion had a little talk with himself.

“I was walking up the 14th fairway and I said to myself, ‘Cole, you’ve got 34 holes left to play, surely you can knock four strokes off that score by then.”

Hand’s little pep talk with himself seemed to do the trick.

The junior birdied his next two holes en route to a 76 and a tie for the lead with Parkersburg South’s Alex Schreckengost in Class AAA after the first round at the Robert Trent Jones course.

Hand’s score, along with teammates Dylan Wojcik (80) and Kyle Wensel (81) helped the Patriots finish with a Class AAA-best 237, seven shots ahead of Shady Spring and Cabell Midland.

“It’s a little bit of a surprise because we probably weren’t the favorites coming in here,” Park coach Don Headley said of his team, which was second to Parkersburg South in the Region 1 tournament. “Our guys went out and played well today. They were steady for the most part.”

“It’s nice to look at the leaderboard and see us at the top,” said Hand, who was the runner-up for medalist honors his freshman year. “We knew we had a pretty good team coming in. It is a matter of us coming out and doing what we did today.”

The Patriots avoided major mistakes and when there were mistakes, they quickly made up for them. Like with Hand’s rebound from a quadruple.

He also birdied No. 11 to finish his round and gain a tie with Schreckengost.

“I feel like I’m in pretty good position,” Hand said. “Coming into the round I felt pretty good, felt like a round in the low 70s was possible. But after I saw how the course was playing, long and tough and with the wind blowing, a 76 is not that bad.”

Wearing the tag of defending champion is not a problem.

“I don’t really see it that way,” Hand said. “I see it as a confidence booster. I’ve had a good track record as far as success in this tournament. I’m just looking to keep it going.”

Which helps the team in the process.

“We just need to come out and avoid the double (bogeys) and play solid golf,” Headley said. “We played well today. When you are in this position, it’s not playing your opponent but playing the Jones Course. That’s what we have to do.”

Brooke’s Logan Lojszczyk shot 82.