By Susan Jenior
It’s tournament season.
Conference championships are concluding the regular season for golfers as sectional, district and the OHSAAs state tournaments are within sight.
Portage County has a rich legacy in high school golf.
That is never more obvious than at senior nights and final tournaments as golfers look toward future goals.
Even with teams in Portage County spread out among an unusually high number of conferences, teams within the county continue to compete against each other as well as earn bragging rights for their schools and skilled players.
Liam Curtis, a junior, advanced to the state tournament as an individual in 2022 as a sophomore and has earned medalist honors in numerous tournaments this season.
Curtis was Player of the Year in the Suburban American Conference as a sophomore.
It was inevitable that the talented golfer would take his golfing skills to play at the collegiate level following graduation in 2024. Curtis has verbally committed to continue his golf and education following high school graduation at Kent State University.
Both of Curtis’ parents played golf for Kent State University: Candace on the successful women’s team that earned numerous Mid-American Conference championships and Ben, the coach of the Rough Riders, now in his second year as coach, who ultimately won the British Open.
While golf is a family sport, Liam Curtis has worked hard to earn this opportunity to play for the outstanding Golden Flashes.
As Streetsboro concluded its season in the Metro Athletic Conference, the Rockets, only in their fifth year as a varsity program, saw the program rise up the leaderboard to finish second in the MAC only behind perennial champion Cloverleaf.
Two seniors, Samantha Clark and Cortney Evert, were both among the best in the conference,
Clark earned Most Valuable Player for the season and Evert was the medalist for the postseason tournament.
“It has truly been a rewarding experience to watch both Samantha and Cortney grow and develop as both golfers and as incredibly impressive young women throughout the past four years,” said Tim Foster, the only coach the Rockets have had.
“They are both four-year letterwinners and have truly become leaders and mentors to their younger teammates, who truly look to them and their experiences as they grow and develop in the program,” Foster added.
The coach offered that for Clark, earning Player of the Year honors was a crowning achievement to an amazing, successful high-school career.
Clark was First Team All-MAC in both 2021 and 2022, and was the tournament medalist in the MAC preseason tournaments in 2022 and 2023.
“For Cortney (Evert), being the medalist at the postseason tournament was also a pinnacle of a successful career of her own,” said Foster.
Evert’s accomplishments included 2021 and 2022 Second Team All-MAC, 2023 MAC postseason tournament medalist.
Foster was impressed with Clark’s most recent round that earned her Player of the Year honors.
“Despite a very rough start on the first nine, Sam rallied on the back nine to end up passing up all but two other golfers in the tournament.”
The coach had an enjoyable day as well since Evert’s impressive round in the postseason tournament was a demonstration of “consistency and tenacity as she battled back from less-than-favorable shots to continue to drive forward toward success,” said Foster.
“Words cannot begin to describe what these two have meant to the program over the last four years,” said Foster. “Both girls average 44, their scores leave big shoes to fill and their leadership leaves huge shoes to fill as they are a constant resource for the younger golfers, who are still learning how to compete and win at the varsity level.”
For now, the focus is on the Division I Sectional at Fox Den Golf Course in Stow.
The Pirates sealed the regular season of the Portage Trail Conference and then celebrated Senior Night for the lone graduating golfer on the team: Gracie Westover.
Westover received the Cleveland Pear Tree, planted at Olde Dutch Mill to continue the tradition.
As Southeast prepares for the PTC Tournament, the team will play a match against Streetsboro on Tuesday at Boulder Creek Golf Club in Streetsboro.
Those family golf connections are never more evident than in this match.
The Rockets’ Cortney Evert, mentioned in the previous note above, and Gracie Westover are cousins and are looking forward to a healthy competition and a fun-filled nine holes.
Kent Roosevelt hosted a match against Stow at the Fairways at Twin Lakes to celebrate Senior Night for the three seniors on the girls team.
Coach Bryan Harvey started the evening, following the victorious Riders’ win over fellow Suburban competitor Stow, with several numbers in the upper 90s.
“What are those?,” Harvey asked the parents and fans gathered. “It was the first number I recorded for these girls.”
Demonstrating the adversity the golfers had to overcome, the numbers were their COVID-19 temperatures that had to be taken before each match and practice two years ago.
The three seniors include Maddie Kost, Anna Picicco and Izzy Wood.
“During the time these three seniors have played for Kent Roosevelt, the team earned a 38-7 dual-match record, advanced to the state tournament and continued the long traditions of the Riders’ program.
“They work as a team,” said Harvey.
Havey emphasized the family that the Riders have become. Several alumni golfers were in the clubhouse to applaud the golfers, photos of successful senior golfers at Kent Roosevelt dating back to 2012, were displayed at the Senior Night.
Larry Picicco was the head coach for one year when Harvey retired as a teacher and needed to move into an assistant-coach role before assuming the head-coaching job again this season.
Before that, he has been Harvey’s assistant throughout the duration of the girls’ program.
His daughter, Anna, culminates nine years for Picicco coaching his own daughters as a part of the program.
It was an emotional night for all as the successes of the three golfers, including Maddie Kost, who has earned experience at the national level, were celebrated for their success over the past four years.
Now it is on to the Division I sectionals as the team looks forward to continuing the tradition of golfing deep into the postseason tournaments.
Many of the schools in Ohio have already started using the OHSAA golf app that offers live scoring for the golfers throughout an event.
The app also has rankings of teams by district as they head to postseason tournaments.
Portage County teams are doing very well in the rankings.
In the boys Division III rankings, the Portage Trail Conference has five of the top 13 teams in the district including: Mogadore (6), Southeast (11) and Rootstown (14).
Division I boys: Kent Roosevelt (23).
Division I girls: Kent Roosevelt (6) and Aurora (13).
Division II girls: Southeast (4), Field (16) and Rootstown (18).
The stats are based on qualifying rounds achieved throughout the season.
(Be sure and check ahead if attending a golf match or tournament. Changes in the schedule are frequent.)
TODAY — Rootstown @ Mogadore, Waterloo @ Windham.
TUESDAY — Rootstown @ Lake Center Christian, Waterloo @ McDonald,
WEDNESDAY — Rootstown, Mogadore, Southeast @ Portage Trail Conference Championships, Sable Creek Golf Club, Hartville. 8:30 a.m.; Waterloo, Garfield @ MVAC Championships, Salem Hills Golf Club, Salem. 9 a.m.
SUNDAY — Kent @ Aurora Invitational, Barrington Golf Club, Aurora.
TODAY — Streetsboro @ North Royalton.
WEDNESDAY — Rootstown, Southeast @ Portage Trail Conference Championships, Sable Creek Golf Club, Hartville. 8:30 a.m.; CVCA @ Streetsboro, Garfield @ MVAC Championships, Salem Hills Golf Club, Salem. 9 a.m.
THURSDAY — Kent @ Canfield; Southeast at Streetsboro.