September 25, 2012

WINCHESTER — His two teammates had already missed their par putts on the first hole of Monday’s playoff, and James Wood junior Thomas Papastavrou had yet to take his birdie putt after placing a beautiful approach shot from 160 yards away 20 feet from the hole.

There was a problem though. It was hard not to think about how nervous he was, and Papastavrou was in virtually the exact same spot from which he three-putted earlier during regulation play.

But rather than think about how he had failed, Papastavrou used his course knowledge to think about how he could succeed — and did just that.

Papastavrou used a light touch to place his putt a little more than a foot away, and he tapped in for par to become the rare golfer who goes out and makes the Northwestern District golf tournament his first high school tournament victory.
On a cool and windy day that featured one particularly rough pin placement on the 12th hole at Rock Harbor Golf Course’s Rock Course, Papastavrou edged out sophomore Roger Repasky and junior Will Holmes after the trio each shot an 8-over 80 in regulation.

As evidenced by those scores, Monday was a pretty good day to be a Colonel. District regular-season champion James Wood recorded four of the top five scores overall to record a four-player score of 326 and win the tournament by 39 strokes over runner-up Sherando (365).

“It felt great [to sink the putt and win],” said Papastavrou, a transfer from Millbrook. “But we’ve all worked hard this year. It was nice to have a first-second-third finish. I don’t know, it just felt good.”

Monday marked the third straight year that the district tournament needed a playoff to determine the winner. Handley’s Aubrey Wilkerson beat Sherando’s Cory Hammons in 2010 at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club in Front Royal, and Millbrook’s Matt Fazenbaker beat teammate Grace Eisenhauer at Rock Harbor last year.

Senior Russell Repasky (86) took fifth overall to round out the scoring for James Wood, which will head to the Region II tournament Thursday at SVGC.

The Warriors claimed the second Region II berth after barely edging Millbrook (third with a 369) and Skyline (fourth with a 371). Handley was fifth with a 399.

Given Monday’s conditions, James Wood golf coach Al Smith said he couldn’t have asked for more from his team. He was a lot happier at the end of the district tournament than he was in 2009, when his regular season champion Colonels placed fourth at the tournament.

“They were hungry today,” said Smith, who was unanimously voted as the Northwestern District Golf Coach of the Year. “They wanted this one as well as the regular season.”

Probably one of the reasons why James Wood is so hungry as a team is because the Colonels have so many golfers who are hungry for individual success, too.

Holmes, who Smith said won five tournaments this year, was unanimously voted the Northwestern District Golfer of the Year Monday. And Roger Repasky entered Monday’s tournament fresh off of winning last week’s nine-team Skyline Invitational in a playoff.

But Monday was Papastavrou’s moment, even though the weather didn’t seem to fit his style of play. Papastavrou (38 on the front, 42 on the back) said he likes to play balls high in the air, but with the exception of some problems on the back nine the wind didn’t impact his ball flight much.

On the first playoff hole — the 348-yard, par-4 10th — Papastavrou, the first to tee off, kept the ball plenty low. But he pulled his tee shot so far left it appeared that he was going to take himself out of the playoff immediately.

Fortunately, the ball kicked right instead of left after hitting a mound just to the right of the tall grass, leaving Papastavrou 160 yards to the hole.

Roger Repasky hit his drive 30 yards past Papastavrou to put himself in the best position. Holmes took the next two shots, hitting a tee shot he described as “awful” before grounding his approach shot.

Papastavrou then created a huge advantage with his approach shot, because the other two needed three shots to each the green — Repasky mis-hit his second shot and was only able to advance it about 20 yards.

Each of them found themselves about 20 feet from the hole on the green. Holmes hit his putt about two feet past the hole, then Repasky’s shot caught the edge of the hole before settling a few feet past. At that point, Papastavrou needed to at least put his putt close to win.

“I was shaking with that first putt,” Papastavrou said. “But I had that same putt earlier [Monday], actually. My divot was right beside where my ball was, so I knew what to do. Still, it was nerve-wracking.”

Earlier, Papastavrou put his putt past the hole, but his playoff putt rolled slowly and stopped safely in front on the hole, setting the stage for a tap-in and a championship.

Smith said he was definitely impressed with Papastavrou’s performance.

“He had focus, and he was striking the ball pretty well,” Smith said.

Holmes didn’t win a championship, but Monday’s voting by the coaches confirmed his outstanding season.

“He’s been consistent all year,” Smith said. “He’s the ultimate competitor. I think he plays golf 360 out of the 365 days of the year. He’s always out here, and he plays a lot of tournament golf.”

Holmes said it meant a lot to be recognized.

“It’s a great honor,” he said. “I feel pretty happy about that. I was just playing pretty consistent this year and did a lot of practice.”

One week after missing out on an opportunity to claim the regular season title in a dual match with James Wood, the Warriors played just well enough Monday to make it to regionals. Chris Slater shot a 90, Anthony Pierro shot a 91, and Mason Scott and Hunter Gronlund shot 92s to lead the way.

Wright said the Warriors haven’t played on Rock Harbor’s back nine since before school started, and they struggled there.

The 12th was an adventure for everyone, because the pin was placed on the rim of the bowl-like green, and lot of putts kept rolling back down. A Skyline golfer was putting for par on the par-5 hole and shot a 12.

“We maybe made some poor choices in course management today, but we’ve got an opportunity to go to regionals at Shenandoah Valley,” said Wright, referencing the Warriors’ home course. “We’ll see what happens.”

Millbrook freshman Brian McGuire broke up the James Wood dominance by placing fourth with an 85.

“I think my irons definitely made the difference today. I was hitting them really well,” McGuire said. “It definitely gives me confidence [going to regionals].”

The Pioneers will also send Collin Shifflett and Ryan McCarty as individual qualifiers to regionals.

“I’m pretty proud of my guys today,” said Pioneers coach Russ Korn, who has no seniors. “We were dead last in the district, and for us to have a chance there [at regionals] at the end, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

The other three individual qualifers were Skyline’s Joe Dawkins (sixth overall with an 89) and Rob Willard (92) and Handley senior Taylor Watts (91).

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. on Twitter @WinStarSports1


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