By MICHAEL BURWELL
BOWLING GREEN — Andrew Kuenzli hit the shot of his life on Thursday.
Now, the Riverdale freshman will get to play in arguably the biggest tournament of his life.
During the Division III boys district golf tournament at Bowling Green’s Stone Ridge Golf Club, Kuenzli fired his first career hole-in-one as he aced the par-3, 167-yard No. 8 hole with a 7-iron. He went on to shoot a 6-over 78 and advance to next week’s OHSAA state tournament.
“Whenever it was in the air, it looked good and I thought it was going to be a little bit too long but bounced in front of the hole, bounced a little bit, rolled and it just fell in,” Kuenzli said. “It was insane, I was really happy.”
The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to the state tournament Oct. 13-14 at the Ohio State University Scarlet Course.
Kuenzli wasn’t the only area golfer to make a statement.
Van Buren, led by medalist Hunter Foltz (74), runner-up Quentin Weddell (75) and Brandon Wehrle (76), tied for third), blitzed Stone Ridge with a 303 to win its third-straight district tournament and advance to the state tournament for the seventh year in a row. Kalida finished second with a 326 to make a return trip to state as well.
Bluffton senior Aaron Belcher matched Kuenzli with a 78 to earn his first trip to state in three district appearances. Belcher and Kuenzli grabbed the last two individual qualifying spots.
“It feels great. I’ve came up here and practiced, drove an hour to come up here and just play practice rounds and it feels so good just to have that happen,” Belcher said.
Ottawa Hills (340) and Spencerville (341) finished third and fourth, respectively. Liberty-Benton (352) was 10th, Carey (359) 12th, Hopewell-Loudon (370) 14th and New Riegel (407) 18th out of 18 teams.
Maumee Valley Country Day’s Evan Heritage (76) and Woodmore’s Mitchell Miller (77) also advanced to state as individuals.
Kuenzli, who became Riverdale’s first state qualifier since Kory Kotterman advanced in 2004, entered the eighth hole at 3-over, but his ace quickly moved him to 1-over. He parred No. 9 for a 37 on the front nine.
“The first tee, I was really nervous. Heart was beating a little bit, but then after a while, a couple pars in a row, it just vanished after that,” Kuenzli said.
For the Black Knights, the returning Division III state runners-up, a strong start was key. Foltz, Weddell and Wehrle each shot even-par 36 on their first nine (started on No. 1), while Connor Ohlrich, who tied for ninth with a 78, started with a 38.
“We got out here this morning and we knew the golf course was going to be set up at about 6,500 (yards), which isn’t really stretching the limits of our young men very much,” Van Buren coach Eric Heitkamp said. “But the golf course was playing soft, we got a little bit of rain last night, the temperature was really nice and to boot, there wasn’t any wind out here early in the morning … That was ripe for scoring.”
Foltz, who said he struggled putting but hit his driver and irons well, sank a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-4 ninth. Weddell, meanwhile, chipped in for birdie from off the green on the par-4 third.
Van Buren’s depth played a big role as well. Weddell was the Black Knights’ No. 5 golfer.
“That was a really great team effort today,” Heitkamp said. “I think that’s what I’m most pleased about. There’s a lot of depth here, a lot of people don’t know about Quentin Weddell, but they should know about Quentin Weddell. He can play, he’s a really, really good player.”
“The main goal was to just come out here and play the golf we knew how to play,” Foltz said. “We knew we were the best team in the district and we knew that if we came out here and each guy played to their ability, it wasn’t even going to be close. … That was the key today is we just had to come out here and play the way we’ve been playing all year.”
Christian Nartker led Kalida with a 76, while Josh Klausing, the lone senior for the Wildcats, had a 77.
“It feels great,” said Klausing, who along with Nartker were the only returning players from the Wildcats’ seventh-place team at state a year ago. “We lost a couple people last year, we lost three seniors and then having a lot of people step up. We had a couple underclassmen step up and fill some good roles, so we all played well today.”
Freshman Luke Erhart and sophomore Josh Recker added an 86 and 87, respectively, to round out Kalida’s score.
“We just played good,” Kalida coach Ken Schnipke said. “Kids kept their composure, we talk about it all the time: poise, keeping your composure and stuff like that and they didn’t give up. My third guy made the turn at 47 and he comes in with a 40, which an 87 isn’t what he liked but it was respectable and it was a good team score.”
Belcher and Kuenzli, were among the first players to finish their rounds with individual qualifiers going off first. Both had to play the waiting game to see if they would move on.
It was nerve-wracking for both of them.
“I was nervous, I’m not going to lie,” Belcher said. “I’m just happy I’m going to Columbus.”
McComb’s Ross Wenzinger fired an 80. He witnessed Kuenzli’s ace along with Sandusky St. Mary’s Ashton Groff. Kuenzli’s parents, Brian and Andrea, along with Riverdale coach Mark Ruggles and athletic director Craig Taylor, were among others to witness the shot.
Trey Bame’s 81 led Carey, while Logan Kizer led L-B with an 83. Miller City’s Luke Lammers, competing as an individual, also had an 83 while Patrick Henry’s Kaiden McGraw shot a 90.
Conner White (88) led Hopewell-Loudon, and Allan Acree had the top score for New Riegel with a 91.
1, Van Buren (Hunter Foltz 74, Quentin Weddell 75, Brandon Wehrle 76, Connor Ohlrich 78, Noah Frederick 89) 303. 2, Kalida (Christian Nartker 76, Josh Klausing 77, Luke Erhart 86, Josh Recker 87, Alec Edelbrock 91) 326. 3, Ottawa Hills 340. 4, Spencerville 341. 5, Tinora 342. 6, Margaretta 342. 7, Delphos St. John’s 342. 8, St. Henry 343. 9, Stryker 351. 10, Liberty-Benton (Logan Kizer 83, Michael Kotey 88, Seth Lasiter 90, Luke Sunderman 91, Noah Brand 95) 352. 11, Woodmore 356. 12, Carey (Trey Bame 81, Marcus Miller 88, Ethan Tanner 91, Dylan Grothaus 99, McKain Miller 108) 359. 13, Antwerp 366. 14, Hopewell-Loudon (Conner White 88, Cody Balliet 90, Garrett & Marcus White 96, Adam Creeger 100) 370. 15, New London 374. 16, Seneca East 382. 17, Plymouth 398. 18, New Riegel (Allan Acree 91, Jacob Theis 102, Aaron Hohman 104, Chris Acree 110, Nate Mack 111) 407.
INDIVIDUAL STATE QUALIFIERS
Evan Heritage (Maumee Valley Country Day) 76; Mitchell Miller (Woodmore) 77; Aaron Belcher (Bluffton) 78; Andrew Kuenzli (Riverdale) 78.
OTHER AREA INDIVIDUALS
Ross Wenzinger (McComb) 80; Luke Lammers (Miller City) 83; Kaiden McGraw (Patrick Henry) 90.
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