The Gowanda country club in Collins, NY, was the site Monday for the 2017 Section VI boys state qualifier of the NYS public high school athletic associations (NYSPHSAA.) The format consisted of 18 holes for all qualifiers, representing ECIC, Niagara-Orleans, CCAA and NFL leagues. After the initial round, a cut was made to the low 24 golfers. That double dozen returned to the course for nine more holes. A final cut, to the low nine golfers, solidified the area representatives to the state championship at Cornell University, in June.
Two playoffs were held when play was completed. Andrew LaCongo (East Aurora/Holland) and Kevin Halpern (Williamsville North) tied for the tournament medal with 27-hole scores of 117. At the other end of the competition, Matt Jeffe (East Aurora/Holland) and Kole Maytum (Chautauqua Lake) tied for the 9th team position at 122. In the first case, the winner would earn the title of medalist, but both golfers would move on to state-level competition. The second playoff was of greater urgency: one golfer would move on, while the other would be resigned to the role of alternate.
Both playoffs were decided on the first green. Halpern and Jeffe were able to secure the winning putt and earn the right to move on to the next level of competition, along with LaCongo. In the case that one of the top nine is unable to compete at Cornell in two weeks, Maytum will step into that slot.
Quotes from the Qualifiers
- I am Jake Roach and I qualified for States for the first time this year as a sophomore. I put in a lot of preparation and did my “homework” starting five months before states. I game planned out every hole and this helped me off the tee. During my second round after making the cut, my ball striking really helped me out and gave me easy putts for birdie and par. Making states is a huge honor and I am proud to represent both Section 6 and East Aurora High School this June. I look forward to a successful tournament and an amazing experience.
- Hi this is Matt Pawlak. I prepared for sectionals by going to the gym and golf dome as much as possible over the winter and played as much as I could when the weather was nice. In my round I felt I drove the ball well in windy conditions. This is my second year going to states. To prepare for states I will work a lot on my short game because the greens are very difficult at Cornell. I’ve committed to play at Niagara University next year.
- This is Andrew LaCongo from Section 6 golf regarding states this year. In preparation for sectionals I played 2 practice rounds and really focused on notes for the greens so I knew where to hit into the greens and different slopes. This is my first year going to states and I feel honored to have this amazing opportunity and I can’t wait!
I’m Ben Spitz from Orchard Park. I started out poorly at +4 through 6 holes, but I kept grinding. At 83 after the first 18, I knew the third nine had to be strong. On the third nine, my ball striking was great and I was able to put up a low number. Though my putting was incredibly poor, my mental game felt strong and I never lost confidence on the third nine despite a double. It definitely was an up and down day but I’m most proud of grinding through the tough holes.
- This is Mitchell Smith from the Section 6 state team. Here’s what I thought about my round. I went in with a positive mindset even though I still had the flu. I knew if I mastered the mental part of that day, everything else would fall into place. I’ve prepared all fall and spring for this chance to compete with the very best. This will be my 2nd year back at states. Back to back years. I hope I bring leadership and experience to the guys that come with me this year and I hope I can teach them some things about the course. I’m excited to go back and it should be a lot of fun. I will attend Mercyhurst University in the fall to continue my golf career.
- This is Matthew Jeffe and it is my first year in states. I was prepared for sectionals and I stayed calm which helped me succeed. I have played Gowanda before and it was in great shape. I started strong, but i struggled on my last two nines. I then focused to win in a playoff hole.
- I’m Michael Wells. I qualified for states for high school golf. I’m a senior and I’m going to play golf for Canisius College next year. I really worked on my short game to prepare for states which helped me make it and for states I want to improve my driver.
- I’m Kevin Halpern. I qualified for the states for high school golf. I’m a Junior at Williamsville North High school. I worked really hard on my ball placement and short game for states. I want to improve my driver placement and my overall tee to green for states. This will be my first time at the state championship.
All photos courtesy of Jim McCoy Photo (https://twitter.com/jmccoyphoto), Timm Slade (https://twitter.com/SectionVI), and Nate Leary (https://twitter.com/OPGolfCoach).