Golf: Northwestern District Tournament

WINCHESTER- It's usually not a good sign when a golfer's tee shot hits another golfer.

But one of the reasons why Millbrook's Matt Fazenbaker was named Northwestern District Golfer of the Year by the district's coaches early Tuesday is in his name - the senior simply isn't fazed by much.

Fazenbaker shook off an unusual shot on the first playoff hole and went on to edge senior teammate Grace Eisenhauer after three playoff holes to win the Northwestern District Tournament individual title Tuesday at Rock Harbor Golf Course.

"To win the Northwestern District Tournament in my senior year, it's really special," said Fazenbaker, who shot a 5-over 77. "It's something I'll never be able to say again, but I'll look back on it the rest of my life.

"... With the poor conditions and the difficult rough, I think I putted the best round that I've ever had in my life. I sank a lot of par and bogey putts, [and] that really motivated me to keep going. I think knocking some close and dropping a few every once in a while definitely led me to one of the best scores."

Scores were higher Tuesday for a couple of reasons. The rough hasn't been cut in a couple of weeks in preparation for the upcoming Boulder Tournament hosted by Rock Harbor this weekend, and windy conditions developed during the afternoon, affecting the back nine.

 

What made Fazenbaker's day even more special was that he and Eisenhauer's matching scores helped the Pioneers earn a Region II tournament berth for the second consecutive year.

Sherando - the district regular season champion - had already qualified for the regionals and defended its tournament title with a four-player score of 323. Cory Hammons and Cameron Wiseman - the two golfers closest to the Millbrook duo overall - led the way with 79s.

The Pioneers barely edged James Wood (332) for the second berth in the Region II tournament, which will be held Monday at the Old Trail Golf Club in Crozet. The Colonels earned five of the six individual regional berths available to the three non-qualifying teams.

 

Skyline (one individual qualifier) was fourth with a 385 and Handley (none) was fifth with a 396.

Fazenbaker edged Eisenhauer after he tapped in a par putt on the 160-yard par-3 second hole just before Eisenhauer left her par putt just a little short. But the first two playoff holes might have held the most drama.

The first playoff hole was the Rock Course's par-4, 396-yard ninth hole. The description of the hole on the course's website states "Good tee shot required," but Fazenbaker's might have been too good.

It carried so far that it bounced and hit the the head of James Wood's Will Holmes, which stunted the ball's momentum. Holmes was in the fairway because of his involvement in the playoff to decide the fifth medalist.

"That was probable the best drive I had all day. I thought I crushed it," said a smiling Fazenbaker. "Then Chris Slater from Sherando drives up, and all he says was, 'You hit Will in the face.'

"I kind of stood there for a minute, shocked. It was still a pretty far drive. I wasn't disappointed with it."

With the way he played the rest of the hole, Fazenbaker had no reason to be. He chipped onto the green, and from well past 20 feet, Fazenbaker hit an uphill putt less than a foot from the hole and tapped in for par.

But as Fazenbaker pointed out, Eisenhauer made Fazenbaker work for everything he got.

"She didn't let me take a breath any single hole," Fazenbaker said.

Eisenhauer made a 10-foot par putt to force a second playoff hole, then Fazenbaker thought Eisenhauer had it won on the par-4 first hole. But Eisenhauer's 15-footer rolled around the left edge of the cup and out.

"Yeah, that was unfortunate," Eisenhauer interjected.

Both parred the hole. On the next one, both faced par putts of more than 30 feet, but Fazenbaker hit his close enough for a tap in while Eisenhauer left herself about 10 feet. Her par putt came up just short.

"That was a great playoff," Fazenbaker said.

Though it was nerve-wracking, Fazenbaker said it was also fun to be playing with a teammate, and Eisenhauer said she enjoyed being able to joke around with Fazenbaker.

For Eisenhauer, it was a huge step just to be in the playoff. Eisenhauer posted some of the district's best performances in August, but she said stress at school had taken a toll on her mentally, which was why her goal for the day was simply "hoping not to have a bad round."

"I just played shot-by-shot, and thinking about tempo, and basically just very focused at the task at hand and not worrying about anything else," Eisenhauer said. "To come in and see that I had tied with Matt was a huge surprise, because he is a fantastic player. I was just really, really honored to be in a playoff with him."

Eisenhauer said her round really took off when she birdied the 10th hole by hitting her approach shot within three feet, helping her shoot even par on the back nine at Rock Harbor for the first time ever.

Millbrook coach Russ Korn said it was great to see Fazenbaker's and Eisenhauer's leadership pay off in a couple of ways Tuesday.

"They've carried us this entire season," Korn said. "When they play well, we have a chance. We're going to carry this confidence into regional play."

Sherando coach Rob Wright said he would have had his team go through a practice round at Rock Harbor had be known the rough would be so rough, but he was proud of how his team persevered even if it wasn't as prepared as Millbrook and James Wood. All of Sherando's six golfers shot between 79 and 84.

"We feel very fortunate to win, because Millbrook and James Wood played great rounds today," he said. "But like they always say, winning ugly is OK, and that's what it took."

Holmes and Kyle Hevner each shot 80 to post the day's fifth-best scores and lead James Wood. Handley was led by Jessie Nolan's 94.

- Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

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