The Rhinelander High School golf team posted one of its best rounds of the season Tuesday, but it was not enough for any of the Hodags to advance out of the first round of the WIAA tournament.
Rhinelander shot 364, one stroke off its season best, but finished eighth in an eight-team field at a WIAA Division 1 regional hosted by Antigo at Bass Lake Golf Club in Deerbrook.
The toughest break came for senior Nick Twite who shot 83 to tie for 10th, but missed qualifying for sectionals as an individual by one stroke.
It was a long wait as Twite sat in third overall following the initial wave of players, which included the bottom-four seeded teams in the regional. Antigo played its way out of the bottom four and two players from D.C. Everest - Sam Hagedorn and Ben Peloquin - bettered Twite's score in the late wave to take the final two individual qualifying spots, which went to the top four golfers not on a sectional-qualifying team.
"It was kind of a bummer that he missed it, but it is what it is," coach Adam Schmidt said. "There were a couple of spots where he'd hit a ball in to the trees and he had to chip out. He just kind of wasted a few strokes on missed opportunities."
After shooting 40 on the front nine, Twite's back nine got off to a rough start with a triple bogey on the 10, followed by a bogey on a 11 and a double bogey on 12. He rebounded to play the next three holes in 1 under, including a birdie on the par-4 15th, but made a double on 16 and bogeyed the 18th.
Still, Twite was looking to be in good position to make it to sectionals until the final two foursomes came in. Hagedorn, playing in the penultimate group, shot 40 on the back for a round of 81 while Peloquin shot 39 on the back, which included a double bogey on the last hole, to shoot 82 and knock Twite out of the sectional field.
Schmidt said it was a long wait back at the clubhouse with a mix of emotions.
"We just talked about what kind of things we could improve on next week for sectionals, but then a kid from D.C. Everest needed to shoot 39 on the back and, he shot 39 on the back," he said. "I'm sure as Nick goes through it, the back nine, he'll think back and wish there were shots where he didn't hit 3-wood into the trees. If he put his ball in play and had a little better course management, he probably would have went. "
It marked the second time in three years Twite barely missed out on sectionals. Two years ago, playing at home at Northwood Golf Club, Twite lost a playoff for the final qualifying spot to a birdie on the first extra hole. Twite qualified for sectionals a year ago. Merrill's Russell Dettmering (73) and Wausau East's Carter Cygan (77) took the first two individual qualifying spots.
Freshman Kole Gechas finished in the top half of the field with a round of 87, tied for 17th on the day. He played steady golf with nothing more than a 6 on his card the entire way.
"Kole played off the tee, kept the ball in the fairway. Out of everybody he had the most fairways," Schmidt said, noting Gechas hit a team-best nine fairways. "He struggled a little hitting greens but, still, I probably followed him four or five holes. His second shot would be just short and then he struggled chipping and putting a little bit but, all and all, as a freshman to shoot 43-44, that's pretty awesome."
Devon Gaber shot 95 for Rhinelander, Nick Schiek shot 99 and Garrett Kulhanek shot 100.
Marshfield shot 333 to edge out Stevens Point by two strokes for the regional title. Wausau West and Antigo took up the final two qualifying positions for next Tuesday's sectional in New Richmond. The Hodags finished 16 strokes behind Antigo for the final transfer spot.
Looking ahead to next season, the Hodags will lose Twite, who finished sixth this season in the Great Northern Conference standings, but return their four other regional starters. Schmidt said while he wouldn't mind if one of his players took a big jump to post the low numbers Twite did this season, improvement of a few strokes per round by all of his players will lead to more success next season.
"We probably would have placed second or third in conference, if we could just get four guys to shoot in the 80s," Schmidt said. "It really comes down to course management. Next year, it's something we're definitely going to work on a lot more."
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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