BLAIRSVILLE - Elk Catholic's Darren Simons was one of the 22 golfers who qualified for the PIAA State Golf Tournament on Monday at the PIAA West Regional Golf Championship, held at Tom's Run Golf Course in Blairsville. The PIAA State Tournament will be held on Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 25-26, at the Heritage Hills Golf Resort in York. A practice round will be played on Sunday, Oct. 14.
Simons finished in a tie for eighth place in the tournament as he fired a one-over-par round of 73. Darren carded a three-over-39 on the front and a two-under-34 on the back. Simons was the only District Nine player to qualify for the state tournament.
"I wasn't at my best today," said Simons following the round. "My ball striking wasn't as crisp as I would have liked (and) as a result, I had to make some tough up-and-downs to save pars."
"On the front side, I struggled on a couple of holes, the par-three eighth where I double-bogeyed and on a couple of par fours where I picked up bogeys," noted Simons. "On the back side I didn't hit the ball much better, but I was able to chip close and I made a couple of putts that allowed me to be under par on the back side."
"For some reason, I never really got into a consistent rhythm, especially early, on as I would hit a couple of really good shots, then a bad one," Simons said. "On the back side, it started coming together as I was able to score much better and finish the round with a one-over-par score of 73, which was good enough to qualify for the State Tournament, which was my goal today."
Taking the top spot on Monday at Tom's Run was Eric Urda of Central Catholic, who finished with a four-under-par round of 68 (34-34). Finishing second was Garrett Damich of Brentworth with a two-under 70 (35-35) and Ryan Prokay of Grove City, also with a 70 (36-34). In fourth place was Greg Podufal of Cathedral Prep with a one-under 71 (34-37).
Three players tied for fifth with even-par 72s: Garrett Browning of West Alleghany (38-34), Chris Cline of Hempfield (36-36), and Brett Cox of Baldwin (38-34).
Simons tied for eighth with three other players, all with one-over 73s: Brian Glesler of Slippery Rock (36-37), Brett Rinker of Slippery Rock (35-38), and Austin Romeo of Erie McDowell (36-37).
Nine players tied for 12th with two-over 74s. Jim Ferguson of Tyrone (37-37), Mike Kloecker of Cathedral Prep (35-39), Mike McNulty of Seneca Valley (39-35), Jeremy Merich of Peters Township (39-35), Justin Miller of Riverview (35-39), Tommy Nettles of Peters Township (36-38), Graham Nye of State College (36-38), Will Wears of Greater Latrobe (38-36) and Colton Wiggins of Indiana (37-37).
Rounding out the 22 qualifiers were Bo Lustig of Belle Vernon (39-36) and A. J. Steger of Blackhawk (37-38) with 75. They won a special one-hole playoff over Hunter Stanchak of Peters Township, who also hit 75 (36-39).
Simons started the day off with a par on the par 4 No. 1 hole as he reached in regulation and two-putted. On the second hole, a par 3, he bogeyed as he missed the green on his first show, hit on and then two-putted.
He bounced back with a birdie on the par 4 third hole as he reached in regulation and one-putted to get back to even par. He then proceeded to par the next three holes, a par five and two par fours, to remain at even par.
On the seventh hole, another par 4, he hit his drive long but into a fairway bunker. He picked the ball clean on the bunker shot and sent it sailing over the green. He then hit on and two-putted for a bogey. On the eighth hole, a par three, he hit his tee shot heavy, then hit his next shot into the green side bunker. From there, he proceeded to make a double bogey and fall to three over par. He parred the ninth hole to final the front side at 39 (three over).
On the 10th hole, he reached in regulation and two-putted for par. On the 11th hole, a par three, he hit on the green and two-putted for another par.
On the 12th hole, he hit a good drive, then hit a great second shot to within a couple feet of the pin. He made the putt to go to one under on the back and two over on the round. On the par 5, 13th hole, he reached in regulation and two-putted for par. He parred the 14th with two putts, then on the 15th he hit into the rough. He hit his second shot short, but chipped within two feet of the pin on his third shot to save par.
On the par 3, 16th he reached in regulation and two-putted. On the 17th, he reached in regulation and two-putted to remain at one under for the back.
On the par 5, 521-yard, 18th hole, Simons hit his drive down the middle and his second short just short of the green. His third shot stopped inches from the hole. He tapped it in for the birdie to finish the back nine at two under and the 18 holes at one over 73.
Other District Nine players in the tournament finished as follows: Josh Stauffer of Bradford, 39-37-76 (tied for 24th), Eric DeSalve of DuBois 43-39-82 (35th), Logan Wetzel of A-C Valley 42-43-85 (tied for 40th), Garrett Hawkins of Venango Catholic 42-44-86 (tied for 42nd) and Tyler Ruby of Redbank Valley 47-48-95 (47th).
In the girls' meet, none of the District Nine girls qualified for the State Tourney. Allison Fye of DuBois finished 18th (44-49-93), Larissa Roberts of Union finished 19th (48-46-94) and Samantha Dinger of Redback Valley finished 24th (49-52-101).