LIMERICK >> The task of trimming a field of 110 players all the way down to 30 brings with it plenty of pressure.
Add in some early fall weather mixed in with a whipping cold morning breeze, and that pressure mounts pretty quickly even for the most well-rounded players.
The opening round of the District 1 Golf Championship at Turtle Creek Golf Course got underway on Monday morning. Safe to say, it brought with it some of the most difficult conditions of recent memory.
West Chester Rustin’s Luke Shevlin turned in the day’s low round, firing a 2-under 70 to separate himself from the rest of the field by a stroke. He played generally mistake-free throughout, finishing with four birdies — three on the back nine — and two bogeys for the round.
Kennett’s Evan Brown, Methacton’s Kyle Vance and Bishop Shanahan’s Ryan Conners each finished at 1-under 71 for the round to fill out what will be Tuesday’s lead group.
“I don’t think anybody was going to do anything too special today,” said Brown, the reigning Ches-Mont League champion. “The wind conditions made it way too tough out there. This one was all about putting yourself in good position for day two.
“Every year is different, conditions were definitely tougher than they were last season. The scores came in a lot higher this time.”
A year after nearly breaking the course record on his way to his second district title last season, Vance brought with him a similar approach to Brown during Monday’s round. The senior carded four birdies and three bogeys, hitting 12 greens in regulation and using 32 putts for the round.
“I knew it would be hard to go low with how windy it was,” Vance said, “so shooting 1-under isn’t so bad. (It) definitely puts me in good position to go really low tomorrow.”
Vance’s approach on the par-5 No. 18 told the tale of the day.
Usually a heavy-hitter and a risk-taker, Vance stood about 175 yards out in front of the water, picking and pulling clubs from his bag as he thought it over.
The decision to play it short or go for it all, ultimately, wasn’t a difficult one.
“I just played it safe,” said Vance. “Out of the rough, I knew it was gonna be hard sticking that green, and if I didn’t, I would have been in trouble.”
His safety-first mentality paid off, as he then chipped in his approach shot from the fringe for birdie to close out his round.
After his round, Conners couldn’t help but wonder just what could have been. The Shanahan junior strung together four birdies but suffered through three bogeys — two of them a result of missed putts within a couple feet on Nos. 14 and 15.
“This was probably one of the top rounds of my life,” he said with a laugh. “I struck the ball well, my putting game didn’t let me down aside from late on the back. I missed those two easy putts, which really could have changed my score.”
Having played a practice round at Turtle Creek Sunday, Conners partially knew what to expect of Monday’s round.
“I knew the feel of the wind. I knew when I’d need to club-up, sometimes club-up twice. That definitely helped me a lot.”
Right behind the top four finishers, Spring-Ford’s Ben Pochet finished up even at 72 for the round. The junior posted 16 pars, following up his lone birdie on No. 16 with a bogey on No. 17.
Norristown’s Caleb Ryan, Harry S. Truman’s Shane Nocito and Unionville’s Jack Niemiewicz rounded out the top 10 scorers, each finishing up at 2-over 74.
Monday’s final cut sat at 78.
Out of the day’s lead group, Vance and Holy Ghost Prep’s David Robbins (78) were the only two who survived.
Robbins shot 1-under on the front, then ran into trouble on the back side where he finished with five bogeys and a double en route to a 7-over 43. He hit only two greens in regulation on the back side, and drove only one fairway.
With Tuesday’s weather calling for an increase in temperature, players should anticipate striking the ball less and circling the scores on their card more on day two.
PAC It Up, PAC It In
Spring-Ford’s Connor Boham (75) and Chase Armor (76), Pope John Paul II’s JT Spina (77) and Methacton’s Gunnar Gale (77) made the cut.
After missing the day one cut over the past two seasons, Spina was finally able to qualify on Monday. The junior mixed in six bogeys with 11 pars and a birdie on No. 18.
“I kept it out of trouble,” said Spina of his round. “No double bogeys, which was big. There were a few mental lapses, things I should have done differently, but hopefully now I’ll know for tomorrow.”