MUNCIE, Ind. – The crowd gathered at the 18th hole, anxiously watching golf’s now pressurized scenario unfold.
The team champion of the 2022 Delaware County boys golf tournament was already decided. Yorktown’s 329 amid high winds won the program’s fourth consecutive county title, and 14th in the last 15 years.
Yet the individual match medalist was, for the second straight year, undetermined in regulation.
With 2021’s top performers, then-Yorktown seniors Bing Wilson and Bryce Hardwick, decided the Winner by coin flip, Delta sophomore Jake Bilby and Tigers freshman Christian Groves battled in a playoff.
The two Group 1 players swapped leads alongside each other all morning. Groves took a six-stroke advantage after the first four holes, then Bilby evened the score after Groves shot an 8 on the 13th hole.
Bilby entered the 17th hole up one stroke, then made bogey, and the pair parred No. 18 to each finish with a 79 (plus-seven).
“It’s funny because on the last few holes, we didn’t play them that bad, but you could tell we were choking our guts out,” Groves said. “I think it’s almost like match play because if you slip up then (you could lose) the whole thing. I really like 1-on-1 matchups like that.”
A medalist playoff between two underclassmen is rare. Groves experienced a similar scenario in middle school last year, which they made made him more relaxed this time, while Bilby was surprised to even be competing for the top spot after placing 10th overall (89) in 2021.
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Bilby Struck the ball beautifully on the par-3 18th hole, Landing on the green. Groves tried to play the wind, yet there was no gust during his shot and his ball Landed in the grass right of the green.
Groves made bogey, and Bilby pumped his fist after sinking the pressure putt to make par.
“It was just a lot of nerves that all got released. Even coming down 18 the first time I had a ton of nerves. I had a 4-footer to tie the match … had the same putt (in the playoffs). Having to make it again was a lot of pressure, “Bilby said. “It’s pretty sweet. I, honestly, coming into this year did not think I would win a weekend match … so far I’m 2-2 in my weekend matches, so it feels good to get the confidence … can ‘t wait until next year because Christian will be here again and it’ll be a great match. “
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Although Groves didn’t win the individual title, Yorktown’s team championship was a direct result of the superb play from him and fellow freshman Marshall Johnston (80), the opposite of the Tigers’ senior-led group from a year ago.
“These are guys who have proven they’re two of our best five players. They’ve earned their spots and they don’t play like a freshman. They get out there and battle adversity like 17, 18-year-old kids,” head Coach Nathan McClung said. “They’ve been terrific, the upperclassmen kids have embraced them and they get along so well. They’re a Pleasure to Coach.”
Groves was visibly upset with himself after losing the playoff, and McClung made sure to impart some words of wisdom to his young No. 1. Groves is extremely competitive and said they moved to Yorktown to play in bigger tournaments like county, so he was pleased to be in contention as a freshman despite thinking he should’ve won.
McClung reminded Groves to give himself credit for playing so well. He cited his own experiences and told Groves he’s in a position to achieve great things in his high school career, so he shouldn’t dwell on one loss to a strong opponent.
“Christian cares and Christian is incredibly talented. He’s a Joy to be around, he loves the game, he works as hard anyone I’ve ever seen,” McClung said. “That is not hyperbolic. Christian Groves works as hard as anyone I’ve ever been around at any level in any sport … he’s a gamer.”
Yorktown’s top-4 all shot no worse than 87. Senior Evan Walsh’s 83 was also key, and McClung was proud of how his team came together and continued fighting.
The Yorktown v. Delta rivalry was on display as always, with the two sides finishing atop the Leaderboard. Wapahani jumped two spots into third place this year, swapping with Daleville, while Wes-Del and Cowan again placed fourth and sixth, respectively.
With the sectionals just over a month away, the county tournament was another good indicator of how these teams will fare in the postseason.
“We had a windy day today on a golf course that was as challenging as it could be. 1-5 our guys fought, they didn’t give up, they battled,” McClung said. “The comradery between them is special, they fight for the team, they fight for the program and they fight for each other … I’m really proud of them.”
- Champion: Yorktown (329)
- 2nd place: Delta (341)
- 3rd place: Wapahani (421)
- 4th place: Wes-Del (439)
- 5th place: Daleville (441)
- 6th place: Cowan (468)
- Jake Bilby, Delta (79, tie-breaker)
- Christian Groves, Yorktown (79)
- Marshall Johnston, Yorktown (80)
- Evan Walsh, Yorktown (83)
- Zach Carter, Delta (83)
- Gabe Reedy, Yorktown (87)
- Riley Bratton, Delta (87)
- Josh Broshar, Daleville (92)
- Javin Kile, Delta (92)
- Joseph Edwards, Delta (93)
- Camden Wright, Wapahani (93, Honorable Mention)
- Will Delaney, Wes-Del (94, Honorable Mention)
- Drew Corle, Yorktown (98, Honorable Mention)
- Zach Cooper, Daleville (105, Honorable Mention)
- Landon Rabenstein, Wapahani (105, Honorable Mention)
Gus Martin is a sports reporter at The Star Press. Follow him on Twitter @GusMartin_SPand contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 765-729-4742.