When it made the turn after nine holes at the Division II district golf tournament last week, the chances of the Chaminade Julienne Eagles girls golf team would qualify for its ninth straight trip were sitting, well, a little in the rough.
With nine holes still to play the Eagles were tied for third. Three teams advanced.
“I kind of talked to the other girls and told them we weren’t done. We still had a chance,” said senior Aryana Sutton.
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As it turned out they had a district championship. The Eagles – who beat the Alter Knights by a stroke – carry the momentum of their D-II district title into the two-day, 36-hole state championship Friday and Saturday in Columbus. The D-II tournament is at the Gray Course at Ohio State University.
Alter, Versailles and St. Henry – making its first state appearance – join CJ as area teams at the state tournament. Eaton senior and defending state champion Sarah Willis, who fired a 69 to win district by 11 strokes, qualified as an individual along with National Trail sophomore Makenna Jones.
CJ has qualified for the state tournament every season since 2009 and won the state title in 2011. The Eagles finished sixth last season.
Seniors Blake Wogoman, Sutton, Brooklyn Thompson and Karah Jackson are joined by sophomore Lia-Sophie Keller. Wogoman, Sutton, Thompson and Jackson were also on the state team in 2016. Sutton also on the 2015 team. It’s a tight team bond that helped the Eagles rally at district.
“All four of us seniors, I don’t think we could get any closer,” Wogoman said. “We’re with each other in the hallways and we have so much fun. We practice together when we’re out of school and we also hang out outside of golf. We have a really close relationship that really helps the game, too.”
CJ also prides itself on its relationship with Alter. The Greater Catholic League teams are friendly rivals. But Sutton admits getting that district title by one shot over Alter, 385 to 386, was special. Alter won the sectional tournament the week prior with a five-stroke victory over CJ.
“We’re pretty good friends with the girls but we always have that little friendly competition,” Sutton said. “It was kind of exciting to beat them by a stroke. … (At district) we all talked about who we had to look out for. After the turn we weren’t really expecting anything. After we got first we were all really surprised by it.”
First-year coach Todd Shuttleworth took over CJ’s program not long before the season started. With the Eagles’ tradition and four returning players he didn’t have to change much.
“For me it was trying to keep the confidence of the girls going and maintain the program,” Shuttleworth said.
“He’s been great,” added Wogoman. “We all knew it was going to be tough without coach (George) Menker this year. He started within two weeks of our season starting so that was kind of stressful for us. We didn’t really know how it was going to play out. He told us he was there if we needed him but he wasn’t going to change our swings or over think anything. He’s been so supportive all season. He’s been a great thing for the program.”
As for Alter, the Knights are led by seniors Colleen Werbrich and Megan Vosler, sophomore Maggie Pascual and freshmen Gabbie Houpt and Peyton Kuntz. Alter, which last qualified for state in 2015, makes its seventh appearance overall.
Willis returns in an attempt to lower the state record she set last season. She fired consecutive rounds of 68 for a two-day 136. That broke the previous D-II and all-division record of 139. Her brother Cameron won a state title in 2012 as a freshman.
“I really want that second one,” Willis said, laughing, “especially when you mention my brother because he didn’t win a second one. I really want to beat him out.
“I’m just excited to have made it back again. I’m trying to go in with the same mindset and improving from last year.”
Sutton couldn’t imagine winning a state championship with her team. But she’ll certainly take it if it comes.
“Just going and having fun with my girls is great,” Sutton said. “It’d be amazing to win, but no matter what I’m just happy to go with them. I’m excited to play and we’ll see what happens.”