HOLLIDAYSBURG - Max Kirsch lined up a 3-foot putt on the 18th hole Thursday, made it, picked up his ball and walked off the green.
Though Kirsch treated the shot as if it were just any putt, it actually won the Central Cambria senior his second consecutive District 6 golf championship.
Kirsch had trailed by three strokes just four holes earlier but simply stayed consistent down the stretch, making par on each of the final four holes, as Richland's Brady Moran struggled at Scotch Valley Country Club.
Mirror photo by J.D.?Cavrich
Central Cambria’s Max Kirsch hits out of the bunker on No. 9 Wednesday afternoon.
Mirror photo by J.D.?Cavrich
Hollidaysburg’s Jordan Kirsch follows a shot from the fairway on No. 9.
"My gameplan was just to play and let whatever happen, happen," Kirsch said. "Brady is a good player. I can't control anything he does. I just had to play."
Moran's roller-coaster day, which included five birdies, five bogeys, just six pars and a triple bogey prior to the 18th hole, ended with a sudden drop off when he made a double bogey to finish one stroke behind Kirsch for the Class AA title.
"It's a lot of fun back and forth between me and Brady," Kirsch said. "I have a lot of fun with him, but we're competitive. I just tried to play my own game, focus on my shots and let [other players] make mistakes."
Kirsch did just that. The defending champion made par on 13 holes, and though he had just one birdie, he bogeyed just four holes and avoided anything worse. His two-day total of 146 (71-75) was the best of any District 6 golfer in any classification.
Central Cambria also won its second consecutive team title by 24 strokes over Richland. The Red Devils will play District 5 champion Conemaugh Township at Scotch Valley Friday for the right to advance to the team state championships in York.
In Class AAA competition, State College edged Hollidaysburg by two strokes for the team championship and Little Lion Ben Gelenberg won the individual title with a two-day total of 155. Gelenberg and State College's Tyrus Gates (157) moved on to the Western Regional at Tom's Run in Blairsville next Monday.
Gelenberg was also involved in a dispute over how he marked his ball.
Hollidaysburg's Jordan Kirsch, who was tied for the Class AAA lead after the first round but slipped to third with an 81 Wednesday, claimed Gelenberg placed his marker in front of the ball, removed the ball and then replaced the ball in front of the marker on the green. If true, the infraction would have resulted in a two-stroke penalty that would have forced a team playoff, but no one other than Jordan Kirsch saw it and no penalty was given.
Claysburg-Kimmel's Tyler Brown clinched a spot in the Western Regionals by finishing fourth in Class AA a year after struggling on the second day and not advancing.
"I just couldn't finish last year," Brown said. "I feel like I played the best I could. Halfway through, the wind started to really pick up and it was tough, but I played smarter and hit higher clubs."
Another player who was seemingly impacted by the strong wind was Northern Cambria's Tyler Tiesi. Tiesi began the day in third place and was just four strokes behind Moran for the lead, but as the wind picked up, Tiesi struggled with his control. He finished with five double bogeys and often was forced to play his approach shots from under trees, but he persevered to make it to the Western Regionals with the help of two late birdies.
"It feels great," Tiesi, who finished fifth, said. "The last three years, I made districts, but haven't made it out. I regret a few shots today, but I just tried to stick with my own game."
Following the first round, Kirsch trailed Moran by one stroke, and Moran extended that lead to two with a birdie on the first hole Wednesday.
Moran held the two-stroke lead until the par-4 seventh hole when Moran four-putted and made a triple bogey. Kirsch made par to take a one stroke lead, however Moran went 2-under par over the next seven holes and built up a three-stroke advantage before going 4-over par over the final four holes.
"I played a lot of summer tournaments, and it really helps you with nerves and how to handle your emotions," Kirsch said. "It's pretty cool to be a two-time district champion."
Gregory Ferguson, who shot a 67 this year for Tyrone and qualified for the PIAA Championships last year, lost to St. Joseph's Garrett Bastardi in a playoff for the sixth and final spot in the Western Regionals.
Ferguson hit a long drive while Bastardi hit into a hazard and was forced to take a drop. However, it took Ferguson two chips to get his ball onto the green, and the senior three-putted for a double bogey as Bastardi made a bogey to move on. Ferguson also lost in a playoff for the final spot in regionals as a sophomore.
"I thought about [losing out as a sophomore], but I didn't think I was going to lose this time," Ferguson said. "My mind just got in the way. I didn't execute anything, and I didn't let my ability take over."
INDIVIDUALS (Top two advance to Western Regional)
Key: SC-State College; H-Hollidaysburg; S-Somerset.
1, Ben Gelenberg, SC, 77-78-155; 2, Tyrus Gates, SC, 80-77-157; 3, Jordan Kirsch, H, 77-81-158; 4, Steve Yaros, S, 81-88-169; 5, Kevin Zuercher, SC, 81-88-169.
TEAM (Top team advances to playoff Friday at Treasure Lake)
1, State College, 321-328-649; 2, Hollidaysburg, 327-324-651.
INDIVIDUALS (Top six advance to Western Regional)
Key: CC-Central Cambria; R-Richland; HC-Homer-Center; CK-Claysburg-Kimmel; NC-Northern Cambria; SJ-St. Joseph; T-Tyrone; BM-Bishop McCort; BG-Bishop Guilfoyle; C-Central.
1, Max Kirsch, CC, 71-75-146; 2, Brady Moran, R, 70-77-147; 3, Ian Illig, HC, 79-74-153; 4, Tyler Brown, CK, 79-77-156; 5, Tyler Tiesi, NC, 74-83-157; 6, Garrett Bastardi, SJ, 79-80-159; 7, Greg Ferguson, T, 82-77-159 (lost on playoff hole); T-8, Sam Stevens, CC, 80-83-163; T-8, Dom Stevens, CC, 84-79-163; T-10, Ryan Orlovsky, R, 85-79-164; T-10, Jeremy Eckenrode, CC, 84-80-164; T-12, Nick Piskurich, BM, 83-83-166; T-12, Chris Michelone, BG, 82-84-166; 14, Matt Dillon, C, 83-84-167; 15, Connor Bomba, R, 84-90-174.
TEAM (Top team advances to play Conemaugh Township Friday at Scotch Valley)
1, Central Cambria, 319-317-636; 2, Richland, 326-334-660; 3, Homer-Center, 350-356-706; 4, Penn Cambria, 368-354-722.