FLEETWOOD >> There wasn’t much that could slow down Ben Pochet on Monday.
Not the undulated greens or the tricky speeds at Golden Oaks Golf Club. Not the treacherous pin locations scattered throughout the course. Not even when he stuck his tee shot onto another green during the PIAA-AAA Eastern Regional Tournament.
“In years past, my goal has always been to just make the cut here, that’s it,” said Pochet. “Today was no different. As the round went on, my confidence went up.”
Pochet fired a 5-under 67 to capture the top spot and earn himself a place in next week’s PIAA Individual Championship getting underway next Monday at Heritage Hills Golf Resort in York. His top finish comes just six days after the Spring-Ford junior captured first place at the District 1 Championships at Turtle Creek.
“I was hitting the ball great at districts and really over the last week,” he said. “I felt ready for this one.”
Spring-Ford coach Jeff Mast explained that Pochet’s successful postseason run comes right on the heels of a successful regular season.
“Nothing he does surprises me anymore,” said Mast. “In the beginning of the season, one of our goals was to play our best golf at the end of the season. That certainly seems to be the case with Ben.”
Behind Pochet, Pope John Paul II junior JT Spina finished tied for second with Manheim Township’s Sam Beauregard at 2-under 70. Downingtown East’s Wills Montgomery followed right behind with a 1-under 71 to finish tied for fourth.
For his round, Pochet hit all 18 greens in regulation and landed in 12 fairways off the tee. He used just 32 putts for the round, limiting himself to just one three-putt — his lone bogey on No. 7. He scattered 11 pars and six birdies throughout, the most impressive stretch coming on No. 12.
After an errant tee shot took a bounce off the cart path, Pochet found himself laying comfortable on the fringe of No. 13’s green. From about 150 yards out, Pochet hit a towering shot over the trees and the gallery, sticking it to within 12 feet before he two-putted to save par.
“Aside from it being mildly embarrassing,” said Pochet with a laugh, “I ended up having a pretty good angle to the green.”
His impressive stretch continued when he wrapped back around to No. 13.
Pochet stuck his tee shot on the par 3, then sunk a long birdie putt to move himself to 4-under.
On the round, Pochet gave himself two eagle chances.
Sitting about 220 yards out and knowing he had a few strokes to give on the par-5 No. 18, Pochet stuck it to within 20 feet before two-putting to end his round with a final birdie.
“I definitely would have been kicking myself had I not gone for it,” he said. “At that point, I knew I’d survive the cut, so I just said go for it.”
PJP’s Spina rattled off three birdies and only gave a stroke back on No. 13 where he posted his lone bogey. Montgomery had three birdies and a pair of bogeys, shooting 1-under on the backside.
“It was a pretty stress-free round,” said Spina. “I putted pretty well, minus my three-putt on No. 13. I was right around the edge the entire day. I knew if I could make a couple birdies coming in, I could make something happen.”
Norristown’s Caleb Ryan followed close behind, tied for sixth at even-par 72.
Shortly behind Ryan, former Methacton teammate Kyle Vance, West Chester Rustin’s Luke Shevlin, Upper Dublin’s David Kim and North Penn’s Ron Robinson all came in at 1-over 73.
Vance struck the ball well throughout, but was done in with his approach shots
“My short game needs a little work,” said Vance, last year’s runner-up. “About 40 yards out, I just couldn’t get the spin I needed. It rolled to about 20 feet every time.”
Vance two-putted 13 holes, and was plagued by back-to-back three-putts on Nos. 3 and 4. He finished with three birdies and 12 pars.
“I know what I need to work on for next week,” he said.
Just over a year removed from a surgical procedure to help cure the scoliosis in his back, Shevlin is exceeding anything he’s previously done in his high school career. After sitting out his junior season during the recovery period, Shevlin is back at it full-force this year.
“This means a lot for me,” he said. “I never even made it past Ches-Mont’s before this season, so everything I’ve done so far this year really means a lot.
“I’m still working my way back to full-strength. All season, our matches are just nine holes, so to come out and play 18 — it gets tough. All the adrenaline, though, it gets me through.”
The senior kept a clean scorecard on the frontside with nine pars while he had two bogeys and a birdie on the back nine.
Unionville’s Nick Gianelos tied for 16th with a 2-over 74.
Don’t Talk About Playoffs
With the cut looming at 76, Bishop Shanahan’s Ryan Conners found himself in a one-hole playoff with five players vying for four spots.
Conners birdied No. 18, giving him satisfaction for a round where he admits he left a few out there.
“That was my finishing hole, so it was still really fresh in my mind,” he said of No. 18, which he parred about an hour prior to the playoff. “I knew what I wanted to do this time around.”
After posting a four-over 40 on the frontside, Conners opened the backside with three birdies on the first four holes. He hit 16 greens and regulation.
“I doubled No. 9,” he said, “so when I turned the corner here (at the clubhouse), I knew the next three, four holes on the back nine were gettable. Things just clicked.”
Of the 24 players who punched their tickets to the individual championship, District One will send 10 representatives. District 3 will send nine players while four will be from District 11. Wallenpaupack’s Alex Pillar will be the lone representative from District 2.
The Pioneer Athletic Conference will be well-represented next week. Along with the four individual qualifiers, Pochet, Connor Boham, Jon Lumley, Chase Armor and Thomas Freed will represent Spring-Ford in the team portion.