GILBERTSVILLE >> After his round, Kyle Vance was out on the practice green, trying to sink a 5-foot putt with his pitching wedge.
It was about the only shot he hadn’t mastered all afternoon.
Vance shot a 6-under 65 on Monday to capture his third straight Pioneer Athletic Conference Boys Individual Championship at Gilbertsville Golf Club.
“This is really special,” said Vance, a senior at Methacton. “I knew this was my last year, my last chance to do something big. It’s definitely good to go out on top here.”
Vance bettered the rest of the field by five strokes, with Norristown sophomore Caleb Ryan finishing up at 1-under for second place. Spring-Ford junior Ben Pochet finished right behind Ryan with an even-par 71.
On the round, Vance hit 17 greens in regulation despite only hitting nine fairways. He finished with eight birdies and eight pars to go along with a pair of bogeys, finishing at 3-under on both the front and back nine. He finished with 30 putts, only exposing himself to one 3-putt on No. 5 for his first bogey of the round.
“I was hitting all my irons really well,” he said. “I didn’t miss too many greens and gave myself a lot of nice birdie chances. That was huge, I think I really helped myself out with some good shots.”
Much in contrast to his 2015 title — where he sat three-over after his first four holes — Vance opened up at 3-under through the first four holes to start his round.
His best shot of the day — one which he’s now officially mastered after four seasons — came on his final hole. While the rest of his group laid it up short and played it safe of the pond on the 335-yard par-4 18th, Vance crushed his drive 330 yards off the tee, landing it just shy of the green. After sticking a chip to within feet of the pin, Vance virtually tapped in for a birdie from gimme range to end his day.
“I almost got that one onto the green,” said Vance of his drive. “This course fits my game pretty well. The fairways are open, and that gives me a chance to bomb my drives.”
The win sends the PAC medal home to the Vance family for the fifth consecutive season, still on the heels of Brandon Vance, who captured the title during the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
And now the youngest brother can officially say he’s won the PAC title more than his older brother.
“I gave my brother one during my freshman year, I let him have it that year,” said Kyle Vance with a laugh. “It’s really great to be able to keep this tradition going each year. It’s definitely something I’m really proud to be a part of.”
Playing alongside Vance in the first flight, Ryan became the first Norristown player to advance to the District One Championship.
“It’s an honor, really,” said Ryan, who transferred from Methacton this past season. “It feels great to bring one to Norristown. My goal for the day was just to qualify, but once I birdied the first hole I was just like ‘Well, here we go.’”
Ryan strung together six birdies on his round, hitting 15 greens in regulation. He had 31 putts on the day, seemingly draining long putt after long putt including a 40-foot birdie downhill on No. 16.
“I felt like I threw my shoulder out for a second after that putt,” recalled Ryan of his fist-pump afterward. “That was exciting because my putting hasn’t been on all year. Hopefully this is just the start.”
Along with Vance, Methacton will send seven total to the District One Championship next week at Turtle Creek Golf Course.
Gunnar Gale finished at 1-over 72 followed by Harvey Smith (74), Dan Rieger (78), Connor McCaffery (79) and AJ Thomas (82). Senior Lucas LaCava also qualified as he and Phoenixville’s Max Ferbstein survived a four-hole playoff with four players vying for the final two spots after finishing at 83.
Spring-Ford will send four representatives, with Pochet, Connor Boham (75), Jon Lumley (80) and Chase Armor (81) all advancing.
Pochet had three bogeys on the front side before settling down on the back where he fired three birdies. He hit all nine greens in regulation on the backside, using only 15 putts en route to a 32.
Owen J. Roberts will be represented by Tommy Opitz (76), Ward McHenry (79), Ryan Glenn (80) and Mark Amadio (82).
Pope John Paul II will send JT Spina (74) and Mike Limongelli (80).
“I made a few too many mental mistakes,” said Spina, who hit 13 pars and two birdies, but suffered through a bogey and a pair of doubles. “I was putting pretty good and hitting my drives in good places.”
Spina hit 12 greens in regulation and 12 fairways while scattering 33 putts throughout his round. He nailed a beautiful 20-foot birdie putt on No. 13 to pick up a birdie.
Back On The Horse
Opitz’s regular season came to a screeching finish last week when he carded a 51 on nine holes during OJR’s PAC loss against Pope John Paul II at Landis Creek.
Monday proved to be a new day, a fresh start for the senior.
“I put last week behind me and strung together some pars and a couple of birdies,” said Opitz, who also qualified for districts last season. “I’m excited. I want to get some redemption on that course (Turtle Creek). I putted terrible there last season, so hopefully I can handle it better this year.”
PAC It Up, PAC It In
Due to the admittance of Norristown and Upper Merion into the Pioneer Athletic Conference this season, the number of district qualifiers jumped from 16 last season to 19 this year.
Spring-Ford’s Jack Wilson and Pope John Paul II’s Matt Grimm each finished up at 83. Both came up just short in the four-hole sudden-death playoff.