WILLIAMSPORT — Two years ago, as a sophomore, Max Knisley was a member of the Washington High School golf team that qualified to the State tournament.
As he wraps up a fine prep golf career, Knisley is heading back to the State tournament, this time, as an individual.
Knisley shot a 74 at the Division II District tournament Wednesday at the Crown Hill Golf Club in Williamsport.
After his round, Knisley’s coach, Shannon Bartruff, informed him that he needed to stay loose, that he might have to play another hole in a playoff.
Indeed, that is what happened as senior Mitchell McFarland of Wheelersburg came in with a 74.
After waiting to make sure no other golfers would be taking part, Knisley and McFarland began the playoff on the first hole.
Both players recorded a par and moved on to the second hole to continue the playoff.
Again, both players made par and moved on to the third hole.
On this hole, Knisley had his third consecutive par, while McFarland had a bogey (one over par).
Knisley had made it through the pressure-packed playoff and was soon greeted by his coach and teammates Griffin Shaw, Kyler Mount, Trevor Mustain and Tyler Rood.
As a team, the Blue Lions placed seventh out of 10 teams with a score of 351.
Junior Kyler Mount shot an 85; junior Griffin Shaw shot a 90; senior Trevor Mustain shot a 102 and freshman Tyler Rood shot a 121.
Knisley began his District round of golf at 9:40 a.m. Wednesday.
“I played the back nine first,” Knisley said. “That was alright. I shot 39, which is three over par. After that, I felt like I needed to make some birdies on the front nine. I had two birdies on the front and none on the back.
“When I finished, Coach B told me to stay loose, you might have to play more,” Knisley said. “The Wheelersburg kid came in and he shot a 74, too, so, it was just a matter of whether anyone was going to beat us. If not, we’d have to have a playoff.”
Knisley recounted the playoff experience with a trip to the State tournament awaiting the winner.
The first hole was a par four.
“I was pretty nervous starting off,” Knisley said. “I hit a good tee shot on the first hole. I followed that with a pretty good second shot.
“Then, I putted way past the hole,” Knisley said. “My back was against the wall. I thought I wasn’t going to move on. Then, I made that putt (for par) and we moved on to the next hole.”
The second hole was a par five, with a dog-leg to the left.
“We both hit our drives right down the middle,” Knisley said. “I hit a three wood up to the left rough. He was also in the left rough, but, he was closer.
“My third shot was a little chip over the hole,” Knisley said. “I hit it way too hard. I thought I was going to be done after that.
“He hit it up to within about 10 feet,” Knisley said. “I had a 20-foot putt and I left it short. I tapped in for a par. He barely missed his birdie putt on the right side.”
The third hole, Knisley explained, was a short par four, about 340 or 350 yards.
“He killed his tee shot,” Knisley said. “He was probably 70 yards out. I hit one right and I was right up against a pine tree. I had to punch a little nine iron up and it went left of the hole.
“He hit his shot over the green,” Knisley said. “I thought I had a chance then. I putted first. I was on the fringe, about 30 feet from the cup. I putted and I still had about 10 feet for par. I made that putt for par. He had about a seven-foot putt for par and he missed it and I had won.
“This is a dream come true,” Knisley said. “I didn’t think I had chance of going to State again, but, it’s happened.
“I want to thank God,” Knisley said. “I want to thank my parents (Brent and Missi) who made this possible. I want to thank my coach for always giving me encouragement on the course.”
“You kind of know going in (to the District) what you’ve been shooting, team-wise, during the season,” Washington head coach Shannon Bartruff said. “You know the scores that won the different Sectionals. So, we knew we were going to have to play really, really well to make it out as a team today.
“I really thought that we’d have a chance to get somebody out,” Bartruff said. “I thought Max had a good shot, because he’s been playing well. I thought he would have to shoot right around par.
“We started off on the back nine, which, to me is the tougher nine at Crown Hill,” Bartruff said. “Max shot a 39. He had three bogeys. He had a couple of good looks at birdies; made some nice pars.
“I didn’t think that was bad,” Bartruff said. “He left some shots out there, but, he made some nice pars.
“When he turned to the front, he got it going a little bit,” Bartruff said. “He made a long putt off the fringe on 10. I think he parred 11 and parred 12. He made a nice par on 13, which is a little par five with kind of a nasty green. He hit a great chip up to about five feet and made the putt.
“On six, which would have been his 15th hole, he made a nice birdie,” Bartruff said. “Coming into seven, which would have been his 16th hole, he hit a decent drive, but didn’t hit a very good second shot. His third shot wasn’t great and he made bogey there.
“No. 8, which was actually his 17th hole, is a tough par three up hill,” Bartruff said. “He left that a little short on a tough green, sloping from back to front. He ended up making a great putt for par.
“On the No. 9 hole, his 18th hole, Max and (Jordan Tieman of Portsmouth West) were tied at this point and they both knew where they stood,” Bartruff said. “Max hit a great drive. He had about 215 yards to the pin. He pulled out a four iron and hit the ball hard, but kind of pulled it into a hazard.
“After the drop, he’s sitting three and has to get up and down to save par,” Bartruff said. “He made a great up and down. To stand there with the competition and (Tieman) was pin-high in two. Max knew what he had to do. Max was about 40 yards out. He hit the ball to within two feet and saved par.”
On the third playoff hole, the suspense was building, according to Bartruff.
“Max made his par putt and it was time for (McFarland) to attempt his par putt,” Bartruff said. “He probably had three or four feet. At this point, I’m looking straight down at the ground. I heard (McFarland’s) putter hit the ball. I’m waiting for the ball to hit the cup. I looked up and he was tapping in for bogey.
“Max really gutted it out,” Bartruff said. “He’s worked so hard to get to this point. I knew he had a chance today, but he had to play really well and he did.
“In the two pars that he made on the last two holes and the three pars he made in the playoff, there aren’t too many kids, there aren’t too many adults that I play with that have played golf for 25 years who would be able to stand there with 50, 60 people watching you and knowing that, if you make a mistake, you miss your chance to go to State.
“Kudos to Max,” Bartruff said. “It was tremendous. He made the shots when he had to make them, and in the most pressure-packed situation. Now, you go to State, and it’s just, ‘let’s go compete and have fun.’ To me, the pressure’s off. Now, you’ve earned the right to go up there. He’s played the course before. It’ll be a little different for him now, because he’s bigger and stronger. He hits the ball farther.
“I’m excited for Max,” Bartruff said. “I’m excited for Brent and Missi. Brent rarely missed a match. I think he walked every single hole with Max this year with maybe a couple of exceptions. It’s nerve-wracking. For the father, I can only imagine.
“Our guys, to their credit, they asked me if they could storm the green if he won,” Bartruff said. “I said, let’s be a little classy about this, because, someone is going to win and someone is going to lose. So, they gave Max time to shake Mitchell’s hand. After that, they were right up there with him. It was a pretty cool scene.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Max,” Bartruff said. “He made great golf shots when he had to.”
The Division II State golf tournament is a 36-hole, two-day affair, to be held Friday and Saturday, Oct. 16 and 17 at NorthStar Golf Club in Sunbury.
Knisley has a practice round beginning at 11:50 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 15.
“We’re going to hope for good weather and hope Max goes out and shoots a couple of good scores.”
Unioto won the District championship and will be heading to State. The Shermans shot a 313. Peyton Cooper was medalist with a 73.
Division II District golf results
Crown Hill Golf Course Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015
Unioto, 1st, 313; Piketon, 2nd, 323; Fairfield Union, 3rd, 329; Sheridan, 4th, 334; Logan Elm, 5th, 345; Gallia Academy, 6th, 350; Washington, 7th, 351; Portsmouth West, 8th, 354; Waverly, 9th, 357; Portsmouth, 10th, 377.
There were also indivdual golfers from Ironton, River Valley, Fairland, Wheelersburg, Zane Trace, Meigs and New Lexington High Schools.