Last fall, one goal of the Woodmore boys golf team was reached when the Wildcats won the final Suburban Lakes League championship.
This fall, with all but one player returning from that team, the Wildcats were looking to be the first champion in the new Northern Buckeye Conference.
Once again, mission accomplished.
Coach Steve Burner's team, led by its only senior, Bill Blausey, won the NBC title with a solid two-day effort Sept. 20-21 at the Green Hills course in Clyde and then at Birch Run in North Baltimore.
"That was the big talk with the kids last year when we were vying for the championship -- ending the SLL with a championship," Burner said. "When we won that one, we started talking about how it would be a thrill to win the first NBC title. So, accomplishing that with the kids was a lot of fun."
Woodmore, the NBC's outright champion, needed some help from Route 51 rival Genoa to deny Eastwood a share of the title.
The conference championship was earned from a combination of points accumulated from the NBC's four weekly jamboree events, plus the conference tournament at Green Hills, an event which doubled the point value for each place earned by the eight NBC teams.
Each jamboree event was worth from eight points (for first place) down to one point (for eighth place), and the conference tourney awarded 16 points for first, 14 for second, 12 for third, and so on down to two points for eighth place.
What made this title chase unusual was the scheduled jamboree at Birch Run was rained out and was not able to be made up until a day after the NBC tournament, which was supposed to be the last competition.
Heading into play at Green Hills on Sept. 20, Eastwood had won two prior jamborees at Tanglewood and Lakeland in Fostoria, and was runner-up in the other one at Maumee Bay. Woodmore had first, second, and fourth-place finishes in the jamborees.
The Eagles led Woodmore 23 to 20, and the Wildcats' only hope at a title share was finishing ahead of Eastwood in both remaining events.
"Last year, since we knew it was going to be the last SLL [tourney], we wanted to be able to keep the trophy, so we made that a definite goal," Blausey said. "This year, we wanted to be in the record book as the first winners in the NBC. We thought that was something to tell our kids down the line, that we were the first winners in the NBC.
"We wanted to go in and do our job. We didn't want to be thinking about what the other teams were doing, or who would be able to beat Eastwood. We had to do our job first, and make sure we won."
Woodmore reached the first objective by shooting 322 to win the NBC tournament on Sept. 20, two strokes better than Eastwood (324).
Blausey paced the Wildcats with a 78, and junior teammates Matt Zatko (80), Mikayla Baer (81) and Ty Burner (83) completed the scoring. Although his score did not factor in, Woodmore junior Paul Makulinski carded an 84.
That left the jamboree makeup at Birch Run, where Woodmore placed first and Genoa took second, one spot ahead of Eastwood, a finish that cost the Eagles a title share.
"It was definitely a relief when we came in finding out that Genoa played pretty well," Blausey said. "I wasn't expecting it. I was expecting Eastwood to bring their A-game. Unfortunately for them they didn't. But that's how sports works sometimes."
"When we got fourth place at Tanglewood, that put us behind the 8-ball," coach Burner said. "We knew we had to win the last two, and the kids went out and did that. That was a big thrill."
Woodmore's solid play was not limited to NBC competition. The Wildcats won the Swanton Bulldog Invitational, the Willard Invitational, the Old Fort Invitational, Genoa's Classic by the Bay at Maumee Bay, and their own Woodmore Wildcat Invitational.
"These kids have been playing together in the summer since they became teenagers, and they just kind of grew together," Coach Burner said. "It's an individual game, but it's still a team. They know if they all shoot well, that gives the team a chance to win."
"I think our experience helps," Blausey said. "When you've been there and done that, you still have nerves. But you know you can conquer that. You know you're able to handle it.
"There was pressure on when we won the SLL last year, so we knew we had the capability to do it. We believed that we were the best team there, so we just had to go out and do our jobs."
With sectional play starting Sept. 27, a difficult decision had to be made that affected the Woodmore boys' chances to advance to districts.
Baer, who plays on the boys team because Woodmore does not have a girls team, last year chose to enter the girls sectionals as an individual player. That move proved wise as Baer, then a sophomore, advanced to district and then to the Division II state tournament, where she placed 10th.
"At first it was tough on her," Burner said of Baer's joining the team in 2009. "Mykala would tell you, when she was a freshman, she kind of got pushed to the side and not too many people talked to her.
"But she's a tough cookie. She weathered that out her freshman year, and now she's just like one of the guys. She gets along with them and she hits the ball probably just as far as the guys do."
Even though Baer has been the No. 2 or No. 3 player all season for the Wildcats, she and coach Burner had to weigh her chances to excel against other girls in sectional (and possible district and state) tourney play against what she could do to help the boys' chances as a team in Division III competition.
"What we talked about since she was a freshman was that this might be the year that the boys could get to state," coach Burner said. "But, with her finishing 10th in the state last year in the girls tournament, I think she has a lot better chance of getting back there [in girls tourney] than the boys do. So, we figured she should go there."
The final decision, once again, was that Baer would compete in the girls events.
"Mikayla's probably our second best player right now, Burner said, "so that makes it tough and puts the pressure on the boys. They know they all have to shoot a low number to keep on going. But they're capable. They just have to keep their heads together."
On Sept. 27 Baer shot a 71 at White Pines in Swanton to win sectional medal honors convincingly, beating individual runner-up Alexandria Niehaus (82) of Cardinal Stritch by 11 strokes. Niehaus, a senior, led Stritch to the team title.
Baer's effort earned her a spot in Tuesday's Division II district tournament at Sycamore Springs in Arlington, where she had a chance to qualify for the state tournament once again.
Last Thursday, the Woodmore boys advanced to district play, shooting 316 without Baer in the lineup to place second behind 2010 state runner-up Ottawa Hills (313) in a D-III sectional at Green Hills.
Blausey shot 78, Zatko and Burner each had 79s, and Makulinski's 80 capped the balanced scoring. The Wildcat boys will compete in the D-III district tournament Thursday at Stone Ridge Golf Club in Bowling Green.
Steve Burner is in his second year of his second stint as Woodmore's head golf coach. He previously guided the Wildcats for 10 seasons through 1993, when he took over at Tri-County.
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com or 419-724-6461.