By MICHAEL BURWELL
At this point of the 2018 high school golf season, Andrew Kuenzli had his clubs put away for the year and had to watch his Riverdale teammates play in the Blanchard Valley Conference and OHSAA tournaments.
Fast forward one year, and the Falcons’ junior is using that as extra motivation. And so far, it’s paying off.
Kuenzli, a 2017 Division III state tournament qualifier who had to sit out the postseason a year ago, has already made some noise in winning last week’s BVC tournament.
He will look to continue his stellar play this week as the OHSAA sectional tournaments get underway.
“Yeah it was tough. I had to sit out after a hard season, working hard in the summer and then not even be able to show my talents in sectionals, districts and so on (was tough),” Kuenzli said.
“This offseason, I definitely put that into effect and worked harder than I ever have and came back and showed it.”
Kuenzli’s talent was evident early in his high school career. He qualified for the OHSAA Division III state tournament as a freshman.
A big reason for that? He fired his first career hole-in-one on the par-3, 167-yard No. 8 hole at Stone Ridge Golf Club en route to shooting a 6-over 78. Kuenzli advanced to the state tournament right on the number as he and Bluffton’s Aaron Belcher, who also shot 78, grabbed the last two qualifying spots.
However, a miscommunication forced Kuenzli to miss the BVC and OHSAA tournaments a year ago.
Kuenzli played in an outing on Sept. 15, 2018, at Sycamore Springs Golf Course in memory of his grandfather, Dick Kuenzli. According to an OHSAA rule, which was changed last year, a student can compete in three non-interscholastic events during the season, with the last day of utilizing it being Sept. 16, 2018. But a waiver request had to be filled out and approved by the OHSAA to compete.
Miscommunication between Kuenzli and Riverdale coach Mark Ruggles resulted in no form being turned in, so the Falcons’ standout was declared ineligible by the OHSAA.
This season, though, has been strong for Kuenzli, who was named the BVC player of the year. He carded a 4-over 76 on the tough Findlay Country Club layout in the conference tournament to earn medalist honors.
He was the only player to break 80 and one of six players to shoot under 90.
“Off the tee, really, was the biggest part,” Kuenzli said. “I had to find every fairway I could, and I did. Putting was really big because these greens are really tough, especially if you’re above the hole so you have to stay below it.”
The contrast of emotions from not playing in 2018 to winning the BVC was significant as well.
“Just joy and actually being able to play and showing that I am the best player here,” he said, “and not (having) to sit out and watch my teammates play.”
Kuenzli added that he’s been working hard on the mental aspect of his game this season, saying he’s “keeping my head in the game, not getting too mad about bad shots and thinking about the next shot and just going forward.”
Kuenzli, his Riverdale teammates and the rest of the Division II and III boys teams in northwest Ohio, will compete in sectionals on Thursday. The Falcons will head to Galion for the Division III sectional at Valley View Golf Course.
The Division II girls sectional tournaments begin today. The top three teams and top three individuals not on a qualifying team advance to next week’s district tournament at Sycamore Springs Golf Course.
For the boys Division II sectionals, the top three teams and top four individuals advance to districts. In Division III, the top three teams and three individuals qualify for districts.
Here’s a look at what’s notable in area sectional tournaments:
Division II Boys
Upper Sandusky senior and four-time Northern 10 Conference player of the year Brett Montgomery begins his quest for a third-straight trip to the OHSAA Division II state tournament. The Rams will head to Moose Landing Country Club in Kalida for sectional play.
A two-time top-20 finisher at state, Montgomery is coming off his second-straight N10 tournament title after firing a 1-under 71 at Valley View. He has averaged 35.90 strokes per nine holes for the Rams, who finished runner-up in the N10 tournament and in the overall league standings.
A pair of other area teams will also be looking to continue their strong play from conference tournaments.
Liberty-Benton is fresh off of winning the BVC tournament and outright league title. Meanwhile, Ottawa-Glandorf had its highest finish in the Western Buckeye League since the late 1990s and early 2000s.
L-B ended Van Buren’s stretch of 12 straight outright or shared BVC titles after firing a 343. It was the Eagles’ first outright BVC title since 2006.
O-G is coming off one of its best WBL seasons in school history. The Titans finished third in the WBL tournament with a 332 at Tamarac Golf Course. It was their highest finish since 1999 when they were also third.
The Titans finished tied for second with St. Marys Memorial in the overall WBL standings, which was their highest since 2001 when they were second. O-G’s 8-1 regular-season mark in the WBL was its best record since 2003 when it also went 8-1.
Division III Boys
Another area team in Putnam County has had a strong season.
Leipsic, which finished second in the BVC tournament and second in the overall standings, will head to Eagle Rock Golf Club in Defiance for sectionals. The Vikings are coming off their highest BVC tournament and overall BVC finish since 1999.
A majority of the area Division III teams will be at Sycamore Springs. Those teams are Ada, Arcadia, Bluffton, Carey, Columbus Grove, McComb, Pandora-Gilboa and Van Buren.
Bluffton is coming off an unbeaten regular season and overall Northwest Conference title, its first since 2014.
Division II Girls
Elmwood, Hopewell-Loudon and Upper Sandusky’s girls golf teams will head to Fostoria Country Club for today’s sectional tournament, while North Baltimore, Van Buren and Patrick Henry will compete at Moose Landing.
Also of note, Lakota’s Kyleigh Dull, the 2018 state co-champion in Division II, will tee it up at Fostoria Country Club. The Raiders’ junior won last week’s boys Sandusky Bay Conference River Division tournament with a 77 at Fremont Country Club. Her score tied for the lowest mark across all three Sandusky Bay Conference divisions.
Division II Boys Sectionals
AT MOOSE LANDING COUNTRY CLUB
Lima Bath, Bryan, Coldwater, Elmwood, Fostoria, Kenton, Liberty-Benton, Napoleon, Ottawa-Glandorf, Paulding, Upper Sandusky, Van Wert.
AT HEATHERDOWNS COUNTRY CLUB
Toledo Central Catholic, Eastwood, Evergreen, Genoa, Lake, Lakota, Oak Harbor, Otsego, Port Clinton, Rossford, Swanton, Wauseon.
Division III Boys Sectionals
AT IRONWOOD GOLF COURSE
Delta, Edgerton, Edon, Fayette, Hilltop, Holgate, Liberty Center, Montpelier, North Central, Patrick Henry, Stryker, Tinora, Maumee Valley Country Day.
AT COLONIAL GOLFERS CLUB
Arlington, Fort Recovery, Delphos Jefferson, Lima Central Catholic, Lincolnview, Marion Local, Minster, New Bremen, New Knoxville, Parkway, St. Henry, Delphos St. John’s, Lima Perry, Lima Temple Christian.
AT EAGLE ROCK GOLF CLUB
Antwerp, Archbold, Ayersville, Convoy Crestview, Fairview, Fort Jennings, Hicksville, Kalida, Leipsic, Miller City, Ottoville, Pettisville, Wayne Trace.
AT GREEN HILLS GOLF COURSE
Crestline, Danbury, Toledo Emmanuel Christian, Gibsonburg, Hopewell-Loudon, Margaretta, North Baltimore, Northwood, Ottawa Hills, Fremont St. Joseph, Sandusky St. Mary, Toledo Christian, Woodmore.
AT VALLEY VIEW GOLF COURSE
Buckeye Central, Bucyrus, Ashland Crestview, Mohawk, New London, Old Fort, Plymouth, Ridgemont, Riverdale, Seneca East, Norwalk St. Paul, Mansfield St. Peter’s, Western Reserve.
AT SYCAMORE SPRINGS GOLF COURSE
Ada, Allen East, Arcadia, Bluffton, Carey, Colonel Crawford, Columbus Grove, McComb, New Riegel, Pandora-Gilboa, Upper Scioto Valley, Van Buren, Waynesfield-Goshen.
Division II Girls Sectionals
AT FOSTORIA COUNTRY CLUB
Bellevue, Danbury, Elmwood, Hopewell-Loudon, Margaretta, Mohawk, Oak Harbor, Sandusky Perkins, Port Clinton, Seneca East, Sandusky St. Mary, Upper Sandusky, Lakota, Old Fort, Western Reserve, Woodmore.
AT MOOSE LANDING COUNTRY CLUB
Antwerp, Bluffton, Fairview, Hicksville, Holgate, North Baltimore, Ottoville, Patrick Henry, Van Buren, Wayne Trace, Kalida, Leipsic, Miller City, Pandora-Gilboa.