More golfers from central Ohio may have a chance to compete in the Division I boys and girls state tournaments this fall.
An influx of teams from the East/Southeast District means an additional team and individual will qualify for state from both the Central District boys tournament at Apple Valley and the girls tournament at New Albany Links.
For the boys, it will be the first time since 2014 that the top three teams and the top three individuals not on those qualifying teams will advance from district to state in Division I. The girls will have three teams and three individuals for the first time since 2005, when the state consisted of one division.
“We have always been around 44 (boys) teams and have been as high as 48 (at district), but the additional teams (from the East/Southeast District) have pushed us (to 53),” said Larry Morris, who is the Central District boys and girls golf tournament director. “The girls have also taken on some teams (49 total), and they have also added another team and an individual to state.”
The Central, East and Southeast district boards also plan to vote Aug. 10 on the addition of a fourth boys sectional. Approval would put area sectional tournaments on par with the Southwest District, which has four for 56 Division I boys teams.
“I don’t see any way around (adding a fourth boys sectional),” said Morris, who is dean of students at Fairbanks. “With 16 or 17 schools in a sectional, that can not only put a strain on the courses but on the (sectional) course managers.”
Before 2015, a team from an East/Southeast sectional advanced to the Central District tournament. An increase in Division I teams gave the East/Southeast its own district – and its own automatic state berth – from 2015 to 2021.
During that span, the East/Southeast champion never finished better than 11th (Vincent Warren in 2016) in the 12-team state field. Central District teams never finished lower than seventh and had three champions (Dublin Jerome in 2017-19), three runners-up (Jerome in 2015, St. Charles in 2016, Olentangy Liberty in 2017) and two third-place finishes (Jerome in 2016, Dublin Coffman in 2021).
New Philadelphia and Dover moved to the Northeast District after last season, relocating three East schools (Dresden Tri-Valley, New Concord John Glenn and Zanesville) and five Southeast schools (Athens, Chillicothe, Jackson, Logan and Warren) into the Central District pool .
The top of the Division I boys district scoreboard is usually close, and the third- and fourth-place teams often miss state by a few strokes. In 2020, Olentangy Orange (298) and Jerome (302) held off St. Charles (303) and Liberty (304) to advance to state.
Last fall, Coffman (294) and Jerome (295) advanced ahead of Liberty (297) and St. Charles (300).
“This has been a long time coming, and I think we’re all pretty happy with it,” St. Charles coach Brian Unk said. “For the last two years, we shot scores that had always made it to state in the past. It’s such a tough (district) tournament and that helps us some.”
The East/Southeast sectional had been played at Cambridge Country Club, and the district had been at EagleSticks.
If a fourth sectional is added to the Central District, all four would send four teams and four individuals to the district.
“I figure we would just bump the pairings from threesomes to foursomes (if the district tournament increases from 12 to 16 teams)” Unk said. “We have to see if this passes first.”