By MICHAEL BURWELL
Upper Sandusky boys golf coach Graham Treadway knew four years ago that he had someone special coming through the ranks in Brett Montgomery.
Fast forward four years, and Montgomery certainly has made his mark among the area’s best prep golfers.
The list of accolades for Montgomery includes being a four-time Northern 10 Conference Player of the Year, two-time N10 tournament medalist, three-time sectional medalist and two-time district medalist.
When Montgomery and the Rams tee it up in today’s Division II district tournament at Sycamore Springs Golf Course in Arlington, he will look to earn his third-straight trip to the OHSAA state tournament. And if all goes well, he’s hoping to bring his teammates along as well.
“I’ve had some great athletes that have played for me,” Treadway, in his 14th year as coach, said after the Rams finished second at the sectional tournament at Moose Landing Country Club on Sept. 26. “But Brett just, from day one, was so focused, really from eighth grade when he started coming out and talking to me about playing golf next year and how excited he was.
“He’s just been relentless. His work ethic is relentless. He’ll go home tonight, he’ll probably rest tonight because his back hurts, but normally we get home and he goes out and hits another couple buckets every night. He just puts in time.”
Upper Sandusky, along with Liberty-Benton and Ottawa-Glandorf, will be among nine teams and 12 individuals teeing it up on the par-72 Sycamore Springs layout. L-B will start on hole No. 1 at 9:32 a.m., Upper Sandusky starts on No. 10 at 9 a.m. and O-G begins at 9:40 a.m. on No. 10.
The top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advance to the OHSAA Division II state tournament Oct. 11-12 at NorthStar Golf Club in Sunbury.
Montgomery compiled a list of goals heading into last week’s sectional tournament at Moose Landing. Most of them were individual goals he wanted to accomplish, but the first ones were team-oriented.
“We really love the team concept, and even Brett, as good as Brett is, he made a list of goals on Friday last week and we went over them Friday at practice and No. 1 was ‘qualify as a team for districts,'” Treadway said. “It’s always more fun to get (to districts as a team) and I think it helps Brett and takes a little pressure off him.”
The Rams finished second at Moose Landing with a 345, with Liberty-Benton winning the title with a 329. Only 13 strokes separated the second- and sixth-place teams as the top three teams moved on to districts.
Upper Sandusky sophomore Owen Knapp shot an 80, which tied for third overall. Senior Evan Young and junior Benjamin Latham both had 95 to round out the Rams’ score.
“After we saw what scores we had coming in, we weren’t so sure what was going to be going on,” Montgomery said after he and his teammates were among the first to finish. “But it’s super exciting having the team coming along. My sophomore year, it was just me, but the past two years, the team has come too and it just makes the whole experience more fun.”
When asked what the strength of his game was, Montgomery had to think about it for a few seconds.
“Personally, I think it changes not so much by day, but more by like a one- or two-week span,” he said. “My short game recently has kind of been down in the dumps, but my ball striking is kind of picking up for it a little bit.”
Montgomery showed his power at Moose Landing by hitting his drive on the par-4, 350-yard No. 12 hole in a greenside bunker. A few minutes before his drive, Montgomery had to receive treatment on his back from Treadway after experiencing tightness.
On the 336-yard No. 15 hole, Montgomery blasted his drive just short and left of the green. He chipped his next shot to about 15 feet above the hole and drained the downhill putt for birdie.
He also scrambled to save par on the par-4 10th after hitting his drive right, hitting trees on his second shot and chipping his third from short of the green to within a few feet of the hole.
“He has so much skill. If he’s not hitting his driver well, he’s knocking in 12, 15-foot putts and if he’s not making putts, he’s hitting the ball to four feet,” Treadway said. “He is a great example of a kid that finds a way to make pars.”
Northern 10 dominance
Montgomery made an immediate impact as a freshman in 2016 and led the conference in 9-hole scoring average at 39.33. He was the only player in the conference to average below 40.
He improved to a 37.30 average in 2017, 35.50 in 2018 and 35.90 this season. All four years he led the conference in that department en route to being a four-time N10 player of the year.
The honor was significant for Montgomery.
“It means a lot. It just shows what hard work at such a young age can get you,” Montgomery said. “If you would have told me when I was 12, 13 years old that if I worked how hard I did that I was going to be a four-time player of the year in the conference, I would have been ecstatic about it.”
“To be that steady for four years,” Treadway said. ” … He deserves it. He works as hard as anybody I’ve ever coached and he’s just a great kid.”
The Rams have finished in the top three in the N10 tournament and top four overall in each of the last four years, including a regular season and outright title in 2018.
Montgomery has won medalist honors each of the last two years, firing a 1-under 71 this season and a 72 last year, both at Valley View Golf Course in Galion.
A big reason for the improvement over the years?
“Obviously, I’ve gotten a lot better mentally. I’ve grown not only physically, but mentally too,” Montgomery said. “I’ve become a lot more mature as the years have come along. Personally, this fall, it’s been about what it was last year (scoring-wise). But I don’t think I’ve hit my ceiling yet.
“I think once I move on to play college golf and practicing everyday at Firestone, I’ll get to be where I want to be. But, yeah, at this point, the hard work, it’s all paying off.”
Future at Firestone
Montgomery has verbally committed to play Division I college golf for the University of Akron. The home course for the Zips is Firestone Country Club, which has three separate 18-hole courses and has hosted numerous professional events.
Firestone has been the home to several PGA Championships, as well as World Golf Championship events.
Montgomery said he is excited to get to play for the Zips, but he wants to enjoy the rest of his senior year first.
“It’s awesome. (Akron) Coach (David) Trainor and the whole program have given me a fantastic opportunity over there and obviously, I wish it could come sooner, but I don’t want to rush my senior year.
“I kind of just want to take everything slow and take in the high school experience. High school’s fun, if you really think about it. You just hang out with your friends every day, you just got to put up with a few teachers, but other than that, high school’s a lot of fun and college is going to be great too.”
New challenge in districts
Montgomery has blistered Red Hawk Run Golf Club in the Division II district tournament each of the last two years, shooting an even-par 72 in 2017 and a 75 last season as he earned medalist honors.
However, due to a personnel shortage at Red Hawk Run, the Division I and Division II boys district tournaments were moved to Sycamore Springs.
The change was initially a big blow to Montgomery, who along with most of his teammates had never played Sycamore Springs until shortly before sectionals.
“When we got the email that we weren’t at Red Hawk anymore, it was almost a little disappointing because we have practiced there,” Montgomery said. “We had gone to play practice rounds throughout the season and we’re all pretty familiar with Red Hawk, and to find out they were playing at a course that none of us had been to, it was kind of hard.”
Red Hawk Run, a long, wide-open course, plays much differently than Sycamore Springs, which is a more tree-lined course.
He’s hoping the Rams can put it all together to get a shot at playing in the state tournament.
“I think Sycamore Springs may not set up the best for me, but as a team standpoint, I think it’s a great place for us to do what we are very capable of doing,” Montgomery said. “And I think that we can go a lot lower at Sycamore Springs than we could at Red Hawk, so all in all, I’m pretty happy our district got moved.”
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