HINCKLEY TWP. — Justin Roth stood alone Wednesday in a thick crowd of people near the scoreboard at Pine Hills Golf Club.
The Brunswick senior looked nearly straight down with a blank stare, and the hand that covered his mouth eventually moved over his eyes as he slightly shook his head.
Finally, Roth lifted his head and tried to crack a half-smile of disbelief. He was still in shock.
The reason for his body language was simple: The Blue Devils missed qualifying for their dream, the state tournament, by one stroke at the Pine Hills Division I District.
It marks the first time since 2004 Medina County boys were shut out of Columbus.
“When it comes down to one shot like that, it’s stuff you joke about during the season,” Roth said. “You don’t think it’s going to happen, and when it does, it’s just, I don’t know, it’s weird.”
Behind a back-nine charge led by Roth (78) and No. 4 man Howie Gross (80), the Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division champion Blue Devils moved into contention. There were no blowups in the furious comeback attempt, but plenty of what-if putts on the 6,748-yard layout.
Brunswick’s 321 was one stroke behind fourth-place Twinsburg for the final team position, and the all-senior Blue Devils owned the tiebreaker over the Tigers thanks to a grind-it-out 86 from No. 5 man Jake Perdok.
One shot, however, negated everything, as All-Gazette selection Tim Monroe added an 80 and Jared Toom, the most-improved player in Medina County, carded 83.
“It would be one thing if we played our best and didn’t make it, but all of us left a lot out there,” Gross said. “I had an 80 and came down the stretch and played well, but I missed a lot of short putts. Jared’s a lot better than an 83, Timmy’s better than an 80 and Justin’s better than a 78. It is what it is.”
The Blue Devils began a little slowly on their home course, making the turn with a 162 that was five strokes higher than their season average. They then showed the mettle of a champion with a 37 from Roth, a 38 from Gross, a 41 from Perdok and 42s from Monroe and Toom on the more difficult back nine.
The effort ultimately wasn’t enough to overcome Twinsburg, champion St. Edward (302), Walsh Jesuit (311) and St. Ignatius (317). Roth was three strokes behind an individual spot as well.
“(At the turn), we didn’t know where each of us stood,” Roth said. “We just played our own games. I was making a comeback, and I had three straight putts on 16, 17 and 18 that all burned the edge and lipped out. If I had made one of those, we’re tied and going to the fifth-man playoff. That’s how close it comes down to. It really makes you realize how much each shot really counts.
“Today doesn’t take away from anything we did this season,” he continued. “We went 10-0 and won the conference (for the first time since 1965). I mean, it’s everything we would have asked for. We wish we would have went to the state tournament, but it was great. Playing with these guys was fun.”
Much like the Blue Devils, Highland (326) recorded an uncharacteristically high score on the front to put itself in a hole.
The Hornets were led by junior Andy Grayson’s 80 and 81s from senior Ryan Scherler and sophomore Chad Dubiel, but recorded a 166 on the front, which is where they played their dual matches.
That’s what frustrated the players most en route to a ninth-place finish.
“We’ve shot better here before,” Grayson said. “We would have liked to play better, but some of the teams here are good. We’d have to play one of our best rounds of the entire year to compete with them.
“Some of the scores I wouldn’t expect out of our team on the front nine. We’ve played rounds out there and shot 155 and we come in here with a 166. That’s not something we would expect at all.”
Wadsworth’s Connor Sherrill and Brunswick native Nick Schley (Padua) competed individually and fired 82s.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or email@example.com.