Anthony Wayne's Ryan Burdo, Justin Bytnar and Chris Malczewski played in the Division I boys state golf championships as sophomores.
They vowed they'd return.
After failing to return to state as juniors, the senior trio has the Anthony Wayne golf team heading to Columbus once again.
“Last year was a really big disappointment for us,” Malczewski said, “but we knew we had the talent to do this as long as we set our minds on it.”
The Generals, a group that also includes Antonio Verne, Brian Roser and alternate Chris Mathews, are one of 12 teams which will contend for the Division I state title when play takes place Friday and Saturday at Ohio State's Scarlet Course.
Anthony Wayne won sectional and district championships en route to its state tournament trip.
A year ago the Generals didn't make it out of the sectionals even though more than half the team had competed in the state championships the previous year. It was a season in which the Generals didn't come close to playing up to expectations.
Malczewski said he believes that the experience of failing to meet their goal of making it to state as juniors served a valuable purpose for this team this fall.
“As juniors we thought we could just walk through [the competition] and get to state, but that wasn't the case,” Malczewski said. “We learned you can't let up. You have to go out there and grind it out.”
Steve Mossing is in his 25th season coaching at Anthony Wayne. With five seniors among the six golfers making up this year's team, Mossing didn't have to do much motivating to get this group going.
“I've been pretty pleased and cautiously optimistic all season about this team,” Mossing said. “We've been a pretty balanced team.”
Burdo leads the group with an average of 77 for 18 holes, while everyone else has been averaging around 78. Burdo led the way to the district title in Lima last week with a team-best round of 73, which was one stroke shy of equaling Findlay's Pat Anderson for medal honors. Roser and Malczewski shot 77s and Bytnar came through with an 80 to help the Generals pull off a mild upset to claim the district championship.
“What we tried to explain to them was to go out and do well as a team and hopefully we'd have four or five scores right there in the hunt,” Mossing said. “On paper, Findlay was a strong team in districts, but I thought if we played well we could have a chance at winning.”
The Generals will tee off with Centerville and Dublin Coffman on Friday morning at 9:18 in the first round of the state championships. They're heading to Columbus tomorrow for a practice round on the long and challenging course. Mossing believes preparation for dealing with tournament pressure will be a key to playing well.
“Hopefully, we'll get comfortable with the golf course and be prepared to play well both days,” Mossing said. “I don't want to talk about winning - just enjoying the experience and seeing where that puts us.”
Malczewski's recollection of the Generals' trip to the state tournament two years ago brings back memories of insomnia and butterflies, but a more experienced and hungrier team doesn't expect to struggle with nervousness as it did in 2000.
“I feel we are one of the best of the best in the state,” Malczewski said. “I feel like we can win it. We have the talent. We know what we're up against. We know the format. We know what we have to do.”