By Susan Jenior
From individual record-setting golf to team championships that were decided by only a couple strokes, the Portage Trail Conference concluded the regular season with an exciting golf tournament that had something for every fan to cheer about.
A few of the highlights:
Back-to-back-to-back championships are now the bragging rights of the Southeast Pirates varsity girls golf team as they fired a team total 378.
Taylor Blazek, a junior, shot a 6-over-par 77 that led the champions to the top of the leaderboard as she blew past the previous tournament record of 89 held by both Leah Starcher of Lake Center and Skylar Werschey of Southeast.
“Taylor’s awesome course management helps her stay calm,” said Cindy Fesemyer, coach of the Pirates and the PTC’s Coach of the Year. “She just doesn’t worry about anything and is really playing well right now.”
Fesemyer was pleased with the team and their support of each other.
“They are really playing as a team and are happy for each other when someone has a good round,” said Fesemyer.
The team included not only Blazek’s medalist performance, but the next two of the top-five medal scores.
Senior Gracie Westover took the runner-up medal, shooting a 90, and sophomore Jessi Mix took third place, carding a 103.
The rest of the team, Layna Tittel, Adrianna Sloan and Aubree Varga are all sophomores.
“The sophomores are really growing and playing as a team,” said Fesemyer, who found Wednesday’s championship bittersweet.
“Southeast is leaving the PTC and that is difficult when we have built longterm relationships with these coaches and teams,” said Fesemyer.
However, the team will remember not only the tournament victory, but their PTC championship successfully defended twice over.
The Rootstown Rovers took the runner-up spot behind the scoring two top-five medal rounds by two sophomores: Anna Drago (104) and Ava Miller (105).
The top-three teams in the PTC were within six strokes of each other as they finished their rounds.
“That has to be one of the closest tournaments in recent years,” said Keith Waesch, athletic director, coach of Rootstown and the tournament director.
Warren JFK (316), Lake Center Christian (318) and Mogadore (322) were the trio of teams battling at the top of the leaderboard.
As the teams were battling it out, there was also a hard-fought effort for medalist between Southeast’s James Morgan and Lake Center’s Jacob Rainieri.
Rainieri, a freshman, is well known to many in Portage County as the grandson of John Rainieri, former course owner of Raintree, Preswick and Paradise Lake and great-nephew of Joe Rainieri, former owner of Suffield Springs Golf Course, now both retired.
Rainieri fired an even-par 72.
But the tournament medalist went to Southeast’s Morgan, who fired a 71 for the event. That tied the tournament record previously held by Nevada Lemon of Rootstown (set in 2010) and Laszlo May of Rootstown (set in 2016).
“James’ memorable performance today dotted the ‘i’ on an incredible PTC season,” said Mike Jenior, coach of the Pirates.
“For him to shoot that score today is a true testament to his work ethic and ability as a player, and to do it as a sophomore is even more remarkable,” said Jenior.
“The PTC is without a doubt the toughest small-school golf conference in the state and James not only earned Player of the Year, but also tied the tournament record that only two other players before him have done in the past 20 years,” Jenior added.
“He is taking the Pirates’ golf program to new heights, and he certainly is not done. The best is yet to come, and I cannot be more excited for him,” said Jenior. “He is a very special athlete.”
The top-five medalists after Morgan and Rainieri were Lake Center’s Dylan Maninga (73), Warren JFK’s Andrew LaPolla (76) and Bryce Vanhorn (77).
Mogadore came close to knocking off the two teams that led throughout the season as Jude Thiry fired a 78 and Lucas Butler and Kyle Gardner each carded a pair of 80s.