SENECA FALLS — What better way to get the day off from school after a long Columbus Day weekend than to play golf in Tuesday morning’s 18-hole sectional qualifier.
Forty-two Finger Lakes players representing 13 different schools from both the East and West divisions met at Seneca Falls Country Club to battle it out it for nine sectional tournament spots with one alternate spot in play as well.
Bloomfield junior Gabe Ward came in first place on Tuesday but not without a strong battle against Waterloo junior John Siblosky.
Ward finished in first place with a 3-over par round of 75 while Siblosky finished with a 5-over par score of 77.
“It’s a great feeling,” Ward said after his win. “Last year I came in third and I played pretty well. So, it felt good to play well again this year and to come out with the win.”
It was fitting that the two were atop the leaderboard as Ward was named Finger Lakes West Player of the Year while Siblosky was named Finger Lakes East Player of the Year prior to Tuesday’s round.
“I don’t think that I came with the best that I’ve ever played,” Siblosky said after the round. “I think I held it together enough. I played a solid front nine. The back nine got away from me a little bit. Overall, it was a good season so I’m not too mad about anything.”
Nolan Flores of Wayne Central was named Finger Lakes East Coach of the Year while Mynderse’s Trish Brewer and Bloomfield’s Mark Jacobs were named Co-Coaches of the Year in the Finger Lakes West.
Siblosky and Ward were alongside Honeoye senior Noah Covell and Harley/Allendale-Columbia sophomore Jaeuk Shin were in the first group to tee off at the 283-yard Par-4 first hole.
Covell was first to play and his opening tee shot landed left of the fairway.
Shin stepped up and crushed his drive into the right bunker in front of the green to get the day started.
Ward also obliterated his first drive, hitting it over the par-4 green.
It was then Siblosky’s turn with a light breeze on a crisp fall morning. With his feet outside the tee box, Siblosky launched his ball right in front of the right side of the green.
Siblosky was able to chip right up to the hole and went up-and-down for a birdie tap in from about two feet to get his day started.
“Definitely my putting picked up,” Siblosky said on his biggest improvement this season. “I made a lot of par saves and more birdies throughout the whole season.”
While Covell and Shin parred the first hole, Ward suffered an opening bogey.
Ward took his first lead of the day on the 165-yard par-3 third hole after landing his approach shot about two feet from the pin.
Siblosky’s drive on the third hole was just off the green to the right. He missed his par putt while Ward tapped in for birdie to take a one-stroke lead.
Siblosky reclaimed the lead after the front nine but Covell remained in the mix and was tied with Siblosky after the first nine holes.
Covell made his push for the lead after he birdied the straightaway 483-yard par-5 sixth hole. But soon after, his chances at winning the invitational came crashing down with a sextuple bogey on the 115-yard par-3 12th hole.
Covell finished his round with a 13-over round of 85, good enough for third place.
Shin never got it going and struggled all round long, finishing with a 21-over round of 93 and missing the sectional cut.
Ward took a one-stroke lead over Siblosky heading into the 187-yard par-3 17th hole.
Siblosky found the right side of the green while Ward shot his drive off to the right side of the green. The two walked side-by-side past the 17th hole pond with both having sights on first place.
Ward’s chip from about 40 yards out rolled past the green but he was able to recover and put his next chip right next to the hole for a tap-in bogey.
Siblosky eyed down a 35-foot birdie putt for the lead but was just off and settled for the tying par.
After winning the previous hole, Siblosky teed off first on the 495-yard par-5 18th hole with both him and Ward tied at 3-over par.
Siblosky’s drive went left and out of bounds and that seemed to doom the Waterloo junior because Ward then put his drive in play on the right side of the fairway.
When the two reached the 18th green, Siblosky was left with a 20-foot bogey putt while Ward played the final hole nearly perfect and was left with an eight foot birdie putt.
Siblosky needed to make his bogey putt to have an outside chance after the drop shot. He’s putt was moving left to right fell and ultimately fell short of the hole.
After the Siblosky double-bogey, Ward needed to three-putt his last eight feet to secure the win.
Ward placed his birdie right next to the pin and tapped in for the tournament-winning par.
“Definitely my driver,” Ward said on his biggest improvement this season. “Last year I hit the ball pretty short and this year I’ve hit it much further. That’s helped me attack more par four’s.”
Waterloo sophomore Tyler Adle finished in fourth place after a 14-over round of 86.
Mynderse junior Luke Spinner and HAC junior Edward Tasker finished in a tie for fifth after both posted a 15-over round of 87.
Wayne Central junior Kyle Tomaselli ended with a 17-over round of 89.
There was a three-way playoff to clinch the final two spots in sectionals with the loser finishing as the first alternate.
Penn Yan senior Griffin Emerson and Bloomfield senior Aaron Walsh locked up the final two spots.
Waterloo senior Deven Adle finished as the first alternate after him, Emerson and Walsh all finished their first 18 holes with a 18-over round of 90.