Brooke’s Ryan Bilby medalist as Park wins 5A golf title

PUTTING — Brooke’s Ryan Bilby putts during Thursday’s OVAC 5A tournament. (Photo by Cody Tomer)

WHEELING — Winning back-to-back championships is never easy, especially after losing an all-state golfer to graduation.

If there were any doubts that Wheeling Park could achieve that goal, they were put to rest on Thursday.

The Patriots captured their second straight OVAC 5A title with a team card of 330, 11 shots ahead of runner-up Warren Local (341) and 12 shots up on Parkersburg South (342) at the Jones Course at Oglebay Park’s Spiedel Golf Club.

After watching his senior teammate Jacob Nickell capture an OVAC individual title a year ago, sophomore Noah Seivertson stepped into the team’s No. 1 role and earned runner-up honors with a score of 77.

Brooke’s Ryan Bilby, last year’s runner-up, catapulted himself to the top as he fired a 2-over par 73 to claim match medalist.

The sophomore duo was joined by co-runner-up Austin Barta (77) of Warren Local, Parkersburg South’s Zach Redmon (80) and Luke Commiskey (81), along with Wheeling Park senior Ryan Payne (81) on the All-OVAC Tournament team.

Seivertson improved by eight shots after shooting an 85 at last year’s event, while Payne jumped up six strokes following last year’s 87.

“I think I just got bigger,” Seivertson said. “I’m able to hit the ball a lot farther and I had a couple lessons with professional Danny Ackerman (general manager of golf operations at Oglebay), which made my ball striking ability a lot better.

“Also coming down the stretch I’ve been more clutch, lately.”

Seivertson proved his strengths in the waning moments of the tournament as he collected three straight pars to finish the day.

“Noah did a fantastic job for us being the No. 1 man,” Park coach Don Headley said. “He started out strong and then had a couple of bad holes but he finished the final three holes with really all-world get up and downs. He was in some bad places and he still made par on the last three holes. That’s what saved his round and he has worked hard on that all year.

“Ryan started out with three bogeys and ended up shooting an 81, which made a world of difference. Those couple of strokes really mattered.”

James Salvatori, another Park sophomore, came through with a mark of 84, followed by Dorothy Romanek’s score of 88 and Lydia Simon’s count of 99.

“We have two sophomores and three seniors and they all carry each other and work together as a team,” Headley said. “We always rode Jacob the last few years but now everybody is around 80 and if we can keep doing that, we’re going to compete. It’s a great feeling to have a team that works together like they do.”

With the loss of Nickell, Payne wasn’t exactly sure how the season would play out but with the rise of Park’s young talent, he is ready to finish his career better than ever.

“This is really exciting,” Payne said. “After losing Jacob, I thought it might be more of a rebuilding year but it’s been a great season for us. We won the TRAC Tournament and now OVACs.

“Hopefully, we can get by in regionals and go on to win the state championship.”

Another OVAC member who has his eye on a state title is Bilby, who was simply on a mission after coming within three strokes of winning an OVAC title a year ago.

“It feels great to be only a sophomore and win OVACs,” Bilby said. “Last year, Nickell just played really well. I played pretty good too, but there was nothing I could do about that.”

Bilby turned in an even par score of 36 on the front nine, before sinking a 25-foot birdie putt on the 10th hole.

“I hit it all right with my 3-wood and barely cleared the bunker,” Bilby said. “My wedge shot only went about 30 feet but my putt broke about a foot, just how I wanted it.”

As the crowd looked on outside of the Jones Clubhouse, Bilby came just inches shy of draining of 40-foot putt on the 18th hole, where he finished strong with his 16th par of the afternoon.

“I played it about 10 feet to the left,” Bilby said. “Another inch to the right and it goes in.”

The Jones Course was hit hard this week with large amounts of rain but despite the soggy fairways, Headley was pleased with the playing conditions.

“Danny Ackerman and his crew up here did a fantastic job to get this place ready,” Headley said. “For as bad as the weather has been over the last week, this place was immaculate and I really appreciate everything they do for us.”