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Published: Friday, 7/11/2003

Schoen junior match-play titlist

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Erich Schoen lines up a putt during yesterday' play at Toledo Country Club. Schoen birdied No. 1 to win, the only time in the entire tournament he had a birdie on the first hole. Erich Schoen lines up a putt during yesterday' play at Toledo Country Club. Schoen birdied No. 1 to win, the only time in the entire tournament he had a birdie on the first hole.
HIRES / VBLADE Enlarge

Yesterday's Toledo District Golf Association junior boys match play tournament final was over on the first hole.

The third time around, that is.

That's when Erich Schoen landed an approach shot within three feet of the pin and sank his birdie putt on the par-4 hole at Toledo Country Club to defeat the never-say-die Justin Bytnar 1-up in 37 holes and capture the 32-player event.

Counting Monday's qualifying round, when he shot a 7-over-par 77, it was the eighth time Schoen played No. 1 here this week. And, after seven pars, it was his first birdie on the 322-yard hole.

“I played this first hole pretty well all week,'' Schoen said. “I just needed to hit a good drive and hit a little sand wedge in. I guess it was the perfect distance.''

Schoen, who will be a senior at St. John's Jesuit this fall, earned the extra chance in the scheduled 36-hole finals match by completing a late rally after blowing a big lead.

With Bytnar ahead 2-up after 34 holes and needing to halve either hole No. 17 or 18 to clinch the victory, Schoen's par-3 on 17 kept him alive. He then birdied the 494-yard, par-5 18th hole to knot things.

Bytnar - an Anthony Wayne graduate who was the Northern Lakes League player of the year as a sophomore in 2000-01 - had grabbed an early 1-up lead on the third hole of the day, and was still even with Schoen until the match's 12th hole.

Schoen then took three straight holes to take a 3-up lead. By the 20th hole, he was 4-up and things looked bleak for Bytnar, who was also the runner-up in this tournament last year.

“I thought it was over for a while,'' Bytnar said. “I was definitely down and I told my mom that I was just about ready to give him the tournament. Then I hit a hot streak and made a few putts and chips.''

Bytnar, who scrambled his way out of trouble in and around trees on numerous holes throughout the match, rallied to even things on the 31st hole.

From the right rough amid trees some 125 yards away, Bytnar punched an approach to the back fringe 30 feet from the pin on the par-4 hole. He then sank an unlikely uphill, right-to-left birdie putt which broke about eight feet en route.

“I never would have expected my four-shot lead to go away so quickly,'' Schoen said. “But he made a lot of big putts and I missed some. You could tell he really wanted to make 'em, and that's all it took.''

Riding the momentum, Bytnar took a 2-up lead with a par on 15. But Schoen halved 16 and then launched his final chase to victory.

Nikki Harbaugh blamed wet conditions and poor putting for almost blowing the lead. Nikki Harbaugh blamed wet conditions and poor putting for almost blowing the lead.
HIRES / BLADE Enlarge

Nikki Harbaugh appeared to have yesterday's title clash in the TDGA junior girls match play tournament locked up with a 3-up lead over Brittany Newell after 14 holes at Toledo Country Club. By the end, however, Harbaugh had to hold on tight for a 1-up win in 18.

“This has probably been my best four rounds in a row,'' Harbaugh said of qualifying as the third seed and then winning her three matches in the eight-player bracket. “I've never really won anything before, so this is pretty exciting for me. I can't believe it.''

Trailing 3-down, Newell won No. 15 to pull closer, then took 16 as well when Harbaugh carded a double-bogey.

If that wasn't charitable enough for the senior-to-be from St. Ursula Academy, Harbaugh missed another chance to close things out on the 17th green. After leaving a five-foot par putt short by inches, she casually reached out for a tap-in bogey, but inadvertently nudged the ball and needed another putt for a 5 and halved the hole.

But Harbaugh clinched things when both players carded double-bogey 8s on 18. Newell, who will be a senior at Cardinal Stritch, had a chance to tie, but three-putted from 10 feet.

“It was really hard today because it was so wet,'' Harbaugh said of her late fade.



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