Weekly Feature



2017-05-18 / Sports

EA/Holland trio qualifies for boys golf states

by JASON NADOLINSKI
Sports Reporter

East Aurora/Holland golf team sophomores Matt Jeffe, left photo, Jake Roach, middle photo, and Andrew LaCongo, right photo, all earned the right to represent Section VI at the upcoming state boys golf championships following their respective performances in Monday’s Section VI Championship Tournament at Gowanda Country Club. LaCongo fired a 117 and was the individual runner-up after losing a one-hole playoff to champion Kevin Halpern of Williamsville North. Roach finished tied for fourth overall with his 27-hole score of 120, while Jeffe won his one-hole playoff with Chautauqua Lake’s Kole Maytum to earn the final of nine spots on the state team with his 122. East Aurora/Holland golf team sophomores Matt Jeffe, left photo, Jake Roach, middle photo, and Andrew LaCongo, right photo, all earned the right to represent Section VI at the upcoming state boys golf championships following their respective performances in Monday’s Section VI Championship Tournament at Gowanda Country Club. LaCongo fired a 117 and was the individual runner-up after losing a one-hole playoff to champion Kevin Halpern of Williamsville North. Roach finished tied for fourth overall with his 27-hole score of 120, while Jeffe won his one-hole playoff with Chautauqua Lake’s Kole Maytum to earn the final of nine spots on the state team with his 122. Going into Monday’s Section VI boys golf championship tournament at Gowanda Country Club, East Aurora/ Holland co-coach Jay Hoagland felt pretty confident that at least one of the team’s four representatives would have a good shot at locking down one of the nine spots on the Section VI team that would compete at the upcoming state championships.

With three of the four — sophomores Andrew LaCongo, Jake Roach and Matt Jeffe — making the cut to play in the 9-hole playoff to determine the state team, Hoagland and fellow co-coach Mike Klimchuck saw that optimism grow exponentially.

But never in the pair’s wildest dreams did they envision East Aurora/ Holland golfers making up one-third of this year’s state team, even though that’s exactly what happened, thanks to Jeffe’s dramatic 10-foot putt on a playoff hole that broke the tie at 122 for last place.

“Matt’s playoff hole was intense because the winner of it goes to states and the loser goes home,” Hoagland said. “It was a clutch performance for sure. To sink a 10-foot putt with all that pressure on you ... that was just some putt.”

Hoagland noted that the rules for playoff holes state that whoever is in it, their coach has to walk with them. Section VI chairman Nate Leary assigned Hoagland to walk with LaCongo — who was in a playoff himself for overall medalist honors after finishing the 27-hole round with a score of 117 strokes — and Klimchuck to walk with Jeffe. Both playoff pairings took place on the first hole.

LaCongo was sent out first since the final scores at the bottom of the pack were still being tabulated, and by the time Williamsville North’s Kevin Halpern had wrapped up the individual sectional championship, Hoagland bumped into Klimchuck as he was walking down the fairway. That’s when he noticed Jeffe lining up his second shot in the fairway and got the scoop from Klimchuck.

“I play all the time and take lessons, but they’re all so much better than me,” Hoagland said. “I just make sure they’re in the right spot at the right time for a match. They’re all serious year-round golfers, and you can see it when you watch them strike the ball. Fundamentally, they really know what they doing. They’ve all had really excellent professional coaches in the past. At this point, it just comes down to whether or not you can play your best when the pressure is on.”

East Aurora/Holland, which has seen LaCongo and Roach compete at sectionals in the past, had not had anyone advance to states in Hoagland and Klimchuck’s four previous years of coaching the team. Hoagland and Klimchuck spent the ride home from Gowanda trying to recall if East Aurora had ever even sent an individual to states before — sections used to send team champions to states before the switch to the current individual based format in the mid-1970s — and weren’t positive if one had since it would have been before their time.

A search of the records showed that, in fact, Thad Wier reached the state tournament in 2008.

“On paper, we thought all four had a chance to be in the top nine if they played well,” Hoagland said. “Having three kids qualify for states is absolutely fantastic and just a real bonus.

“We’d run into our guys from time to time as we were crisscrossing the course in the first part of the day, and Andrew was four over after the first four holes,” Hoagland continued. “But, after the first 18 when I ran into him he said he was clicking and went on birdie run. That helped him actually led the way after the first 18 with a 76. And Jake came on really strong in the second nine, he told me, which helped him finish tied for fourth overall at 120. Matt started out slowly with a 43 and then shot a 37 on the second nine to come out of nowhere.”

Senior Evan Ensminger also competed at sectionals, missing the cut by six strokes with an 18-hole round of 94. It took his mom reminding him that he had a tennis match that afternoon — Ensminger’s main sport in the spring is tennis — to tear him away from supporting his teammates in their final push for spots on the state team.

All four players got in a practice round at Gowanda over the weekend, and Hoagland was confident that they all had been working on their game on their own to varying degrees in the weeks leading up to the tournament. All four are either junior members, or members with their families at the East Aurora Country Club.

“I know for sure that Jake was in a national-level tournament in Florida over spring break because, since I’m retired and was actually down there at that time as well, I walked the first 18 holes with him at that tournament,” Hoagland said. “His game was in great shape then.”

For now, the three sophomores will continue to work on their individual games leading up to their trip to Cornell June 2-5. Anything that happens from here on out is a bonus in Hoagland’s eyes, but so long as they all enjoy the moment, that’s all it will take for the trip to be a success in Hoagland’s eyes.

“I know all three guys are excited to be going to the state meet for the first time,” Hoagland said. “Cornell is a spectacular golf course and this is just a wonderful opportunity for them. We’ve never been to the state meet before, so we have no idea what the competition is like at the state level. But, since they’re only sophomores, they can certainly have a shot to come back if they keep playing well.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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