EAST WHITELAND >> When it comes to team supremacy in Ches-Mont golf, there is little doubt that Unionville is the one to beat every year.
So it surprised nobody when the Indians prevailed again for the fourth straight time during Tuesday’s league championship at Applecross Country Club. There was, however, much more drama for the individual battles.
On the boys’ side, West Chester Rustin’s Matt Feeney got off to a great start and then held off a late charge by Unionville’s Connor Bennink. And the girls’ crown was seized by West Chester East freshman Victoria Kim, who carded one of the day’s best rounds regardless of gender.
“There are a lot of good players in the Ches-Mont, so to be the low players out here is not easy,” said Rustin head coach Joe Paris. “And to beat anybody from Unionville is impressive because they are dominant.”
Unlike a year ago, the Indians did not sweep the team and all of the individual honors. But at 388, Unionville won it by 17 strokes over runner-up West Chester East (405), with Rustin (413) eking out a third. All three qualify for the District 1 team competition next week at Turtle Creek Golf Club, where the Indians will try to defend their crown.
“We have a lot of players that can be at par or below,” said Indians’ head coach Jimmy O’Rourke, who helped guide Unionville to the PIAA Class 3A State Championship last fall.
“We play eight and score five, so the format definitely helps us out. We are fortunate to have eight guys and it isn’t surprising if our number seven or eight is our low man for the day.”
With Bennink leading the way, all of the Indians qualified individually for districts, which is a feat they accomplished last year as well. All eight of Unionville’s competitors placed among the top 20 on Tuesday.
“It’s nice to win it, but I take just as much pride in everybody advancing,” O’Rourke said. “That says volumes.
“This year there was a target on this team. Everyone seems to be looking at us, so that was different. It makes it a little harder to play loose, but our guys came up big. The course was hard (Tuesday). It played longer because it was wet, and the greens rolled fast.”
Bennink (74), Roy Anderson (76), Jon Passarello (79) and Richie Kline (79) all placed in the top 10, highlighting the Indians’ depth.
“This is my 20th year coaching high school golf and (Unionville) had eight players break 40 against us, which is unheard of,” Paris said. “They are putting scores up that could beat a lot of college teams. There is no question.”
Feeney grabbed medalist honors with a sizzling start that began with a 3 on the par-4 fifth hole, and included additional birdies at Nos. 10, 13 and 15 to seize the lead at 4-under-par through 11 holes. The junior was previously a member at Applecross, so he knows the golf course.
“I felt good from the start,” Feeney said. “I’ve been here since I was 11. So it’s easy for me to be comfortable out here.”
He played his final three holes in 4-over, however. In the meantime, Bennink was making things interesting by playing his final seven holes at 2-under after a very slow start.
“Connor kind of regrouped after the bad start and really pushed Feeney,” O’Rourke said.
“I almost lost it at the end. I was a little nervous coming in, thinking that at 73 might not be enough,” Feeney acknowledged.
“Overall, I would say this was the best competitive round of golf I’ve ever played. I didn’t feel much pressure. I don’t know why. I got comfortable pretty quick.”
A total of six girls achieved a qualifying score in order to advance to districts, but nobody was able to keep up with Kim. Her 3-over-par 75 was the third lowest outing overall on Thursday.
“It’s not surprising at all,” said West Chester East head coach Brian Busby. “From the day she shot a 70 at tryouts, Victoria’s had the capability to shoot a very low score. She has a great swing and she really works hard at it.
“She’s been a big part of our success, and she has the ability to go even lower than that. In the last year or two, she’s gone from being a good player to a very, very good player. Her scores have fallen dramatically. The sky is the limit for her.”
Kim – who plays local on the Philly Junior Tour as well as nationally on the AJGA Tour – actually bogeyed her first two holes (17 and 18), but then got hot.
“I basically shot even-par on the front nine,” Kim said. “I think I could have been under-par if I didn’t miss a bunch of putts.”
Kim notched birdies at Nos. 2 and 12 and wound up topping defending Ches-Mont girls’ champion Charlotte Scully of Unionville by seven strokes.
“I only had one bad drive,” Kim reported. “All the others were dead straight. I pretty much hit it where I wanted to hit it. It’s the best part of my game.
“It was about time that I had a round where things turned out. My season hasn’t been going well, but I’ve been working on my swing and my putting.”
With Scully (82) and Morgan Santaguida (95) leading the way, the Unionville girls qualified for districts as a team, which will be held next weekend at Gilbertsville Golf Course.
NOTE >> In a vote several weeks ago, the Ches-Mont approved adding girls’ golf starting next season. There will be six teams for the inaugural campaign in the fall of 2019: Great Valley, Downingtown East, Downingtown West, Unionville, Avon Grove and Oxford.
Ches-Mont Golf Championship
at Applecross CC, 18 holes, Par 72
1. Unionville 388
2. West Chester East 405
3. West Chester Rustin 413
4. Downingtown East 414
5. West Chester Henderson 415
6. Great Valley 420
7. Avon Grove 422
8. Kennett 439
9. Bishop Shanahan 442
10. Oxford 445
11. Coatesville 457
12. Downingtown West 465
Boys District Qualifiers
1.Feeney (WCR) 73; 2. C. Bennink (U) 74; 3. Dariano (WCR) 76; Anderson (U) 76; 5. Shew (WCE) 78; 6. Breucks (AG) 79; Madden (OX) 79; Kline (U) 79; 10. O’Malley (BS) 80; Drummond (DE) 80; Lownes (GV) 80; Skean (U) 80; 14. Starnes (U) 81; Kochis (WCH) 81; Cooley (U) 81; Walsh (DE) 81; Turnbull (AG) 81; 19. J. Cinnamond (WCH) 82; K. Cinnamond (WCH) 82; Much (GV) 82; W. Bennink (U) 82; 23. Todd (OX) 83; Tate (WCE) 83; Leon (DE) 83.
Girls District Qualifiers
1. Kim (WCE) 75; 2. Scully (U) 82; 3. Amoroso (WCE) 89; 4. Heins (GV) 92; 5. Santaguida (U) 95; Noll (BS) 95.
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