WHEELING, W.Va. — Three schools without a golf state championship in the 21st century can now lay claim to having one following the second and final day of state tournament play Wednesday at Speidel Golf Club’s Jones Course.
Huntington posted a 66-over par total of 492 for a six-shot victory in Class AAA, giving the Highlanders their first crown since they finished off a three-peat in 1999.
Fairmont Senior easily claimed the Class AA title with a 35-stroke win at 78-over par. The Polar Bears, who totaled a 504, earned their first golf championship following runner-up finishes in 2016 and 2017.
“We’ve never had the lead before in a state tournament,” Fairmont Senior coach Luke Corley said. “I told the guys we don’t want to outdo ourselves and do too much, because that’s where you run into trouble.”
St. Marys finished 106-over par with a 532, which was good for a 21-shot win in Class A. It marks the Blue Devils’ first golf title since 1989, when they won the Class AA/A championship.
While the Polar Bears claimed their title in dominating fashion, no golfer was more dominant over the 36-hole event than Brooke’s Ryan Bilby.
Bilby, who qualified as an individual, was the low medalist among all golfers after a second round 71 left him with a two-day total of 145, only three shots over par.
On Wednesday, Bilby made birdies on the second, third and 18th holes, while making bogey on Nos. 15, 16 and 17 en route to shooting even par.
“I just needed to play aggressive, but smart,” Bilby said. “I didn’t want to do anything stupid. I started out really well and I was 2-under on the front. I just tried to keep it going on the back and I did what I needed to do.
“I didn’t really do anything special. I just played good golf.”
The junior was the Class AAA low medalist by 10 shots, with Noah Seiverston of runner-up Wheeling Park second at 13-over par.
Bilby admitted he was comfortable playing a course he’s plenty familiar with.
“You have to know how to play this course. I’ve played it for three years now a lot,” he said. “If you don’t know how to play it, it’s tough to play good rounds. You really have to know where to miss on this course. That’s the biggest thing about it. If you don’t know where to miss, you can make some big numbers.”
Bilby had the largest margin of victory among low medalists in each of the three classifications, although Shady Spring’s Todd Duncan was hardly threatened in Class AA.
Duncan led all individuals after an opening round 72 and followed with a 78 to finish tops in AA by eight shots.
Petersburg’s Nick Fleming was the AA runner-up after posting 83-75 in his two rounds.
There was no shortage of drama in deciding the Class A medalist, which went to Ravenswood’s Gavin Fox in a one-hole playoff.
In the playoff, Fox used a lengthy and accurate drive to make par on No. 1. That was good enough to get past Webster County’s Rigel Wilson, who was behind Fox from the get go and needed four shots to get near the green and five to get on the putting surface.
“My heart was beating, but I wanted to make a statement with my drive to hit it pretty far,” Fox said.
Both Fox and Wilson had a two-round total of 165, with Fox shooting an 82 to pick up three shots Wednesday.
“It means the world,” Fox said. “It’s been my biggest goal for the longest time and to accomplish it as a senior means everything.”
As is almost always the case, balance was a big factor among each of the three team champions.
Huntington entered Wednesday tied with Capital for second in Class AAA, with both teams trailing Wheeling Park by two shots.
The Higlanders again relied on Jacob Perry, Tanner Dorsey and Connor Campbell to lead the way. Perry carded a 79, while Dorsey and Campbell shot an 81 and 85, respctively, allowing the Highlanders to post a 245 and better their first-round total by two shots.
Fairmont Senior entered Wednesday’s action with an 11-shot lead and got solid play from a trio of golfers to expand its advantage.
One day after Clark Craig led the Polar Bears with an 82, he came back with an 83.
Zach Morgan led FSHS in the second round with an 81, while Gannon Satterfield matched Craig’s 83.
“Our experience kind of helped,” Corley said. “Clark had experience from last year and Zach and Gannon played there freshman year in the state tournament. Everyone had a little bit of experience.”
North Marion was the runner-up in Class AA with a 539, edging Shady Spring by four strokes.
St. Marys held a nine-shot lead following the opening round and only built on it Wednesday. Grant Barnhart followed his first round 86 with a team-best 85, while Brandon Lawhon and Ethan Davis signed for a 91 and 93, respectively.
Ritchie County was Class A runner-up with a 553.