SUNBURY — Washington High School senior Max Knisley battled the cold weather and otherwise tough conditions Friday and Saturday at the Division II State golf tournament held at the NorthStar Golf Club in Sunbury.
Knisley shot 85 on Friday and came back and shot 85 again on Saturday for a two-day total of 170 for 36 holes.
He finished in a tie for 34th place out of 72 total golfers.
Knisley was one of 12 individuals from around Ohio to qualify to the Division II State tournament. Knisley placed sixth out of these 12 student-athletes.
Senior Chris Williard of Bishop Hartley shot a 154 (76 and 78) to pace the field of solo State qualifiers.
In the team competition, Bexley won the State championship with a 617 combined two-day score.
Unioto was 10th out of 12 teams with a score of 701.
On the first day of the tournament, Knisley had 10 pars, four bogies, one triple bogey, two others (scores of 8 twice on par 4 holes) and one birdie, that coming on the par 3 No. 15 hole.
On the second day of the tournament, Knisley had eight pars, eight bogies, one double bogey and one triple bogey.
“It was definitely different,” Knisley said when asked to compare the experience to two years ago when, as a sophomore, he played the same course as part of a team at the State tournament.
“I think I enjoyed it more as a (member of a) team,” Knisley said. “Individually, it was cool, too. Coach (Shannon) Bartruff was more involved; he was focused on me. But, I would say, going as a team was more fun.”
What kind of goals, if any, did Knisley have in mind for his second time at the State tournament?
“I just wanted to try my best,” Knisley said. “The course was really hard and it was cold. On Friday, it wasn’t, like, freezing, but, it wasn’t comfortable to play. It was really windy, which made it feel a lot colder.
“Saturday, our start was delayed because of frost,” Knisley said. “It was really cold. I think I was wearing, like, four layers.
“It was a struggle,” Knisley said. “I hit the ball pretty good. I think I hit it better Friday than I did Saturday. Just a couple of swings was the difference between 70-something and the 85 that I shot.
“I had my face pretty well covered,” Knisley said. “By the time I made it to the 16th hole, my hands were numb. My hand-warmers quit working. It took about six hours both days to play 18 holes.
“I wouldn’t say it was disappointing,” Knisley said. “I didn’t meet my standard, because I didn’t play very well. It was frustrating, because it was cold. After a while, I found myself getting mad. But, I just thought, ‘well, at least I’m at State. At least I made it here.’
“Coach just said, ‘focus on the next shot,’” Knisley said. “Which I tried to do. I knew it was my last golf match ever in high school. So, I just tried to enjoy it and focus on my next shot.
“I want to thank Christian (Johnson, a former teammate of Knisley’s who was a senior on the team that went to State two seasons ago),” Knisley said. “He came up to watch me and he was freezing the whole time. He didn’t have to come and watch me, but, he did. My mom (Missi) and dad (Brent) and sister (Lauren) were there the whole weekend, supporting me.”
What about his future plans, including college?
“I just don’t know yet if I want to golf or play basketball,” Knisley said. “It just depends on basketball season.”
Knisley was the SCOL individual champion golfer in 2015. He was First Team, All-SCOL.
The SCOL does not have a Player of the Year, but, Knisley would have won that as he accumulated the most medalist points in the SCOL.
Knisley shot 80 at the Sectional and shot a 75 at the District, winning a three-hole playoff to qualify to State.
“Making it to State as an individual is no small feat,” Bartruff said. “There were a lot of higher scores than what kids averaged all year. That being said, there were a couple of kids that shot one-under par for the two days (senior Cameron Karmia of Bexley and junior Connor Quigley of Dayton Oakwood both shot scores of 143).
“In the weather conditions we played in, that is extremley impressive,” Bartruff said.
“I was excited for Max just making it,” Bartruff said. “I told him that I felt the hard part of getting out of the District tournament was over. Once you get to State, you get to experience it; you’re with elite competition. They run a nice tournament at NorthStar.
“As competitive as he is, Max wants to play well,” Bartruff said. “The conditions were tough. It’s a tough golf course. It didn’t necessarily play long, but it was cold and windy. It was hard to get yourself moving, it’s hard to get feel in your hands. You have to have feel to play golf, just to chip and putt, as much as anything.
“Max hit some great golf shots over the two days,” Bartruff said. “He hit some shots that didn’t turn out great. I cost him two shots on Friday. His 85 on Friday really should have an asterisk beside it. He really shot an 83. Two of those strokes were 100-percent my fault.
“After that two-stroke penalty, he bounced back and I think he shot one over, or maybe even par, the rest of the way on Friday,” Bartruff said.
“On Saturday, he hit some great shots,” Bartruff said. “Our yardages were off by half a club both days. We would have wind in the face and we’d be in the rough. He hit some great shots that sometimes were just a little long and left him in some extremely tough spots to get up and down.
“In hindsight, I wish I would have made some different decisions, as far as club selection,” Bartruff said. “Max beat himself up, but, I was proud of him. The conditions were miserable; he had some terrible breaks. He got a bone-head decision from his coach, me. He probably lipped out five or six times on Friday.
“He hit some really good shots over the two days,” Bartruff said. “He really didn’t shoot what he wanted to shoot, but, he still finished a little better than middle of the pack in really, really tough conditions.
“As far as I’ve been able to research, Max is the only Blue Lion golfer to make it to State twice,” Bartruff said. “Regardless of whether it was team or an individual.
“Max played in the District tournament all four years,” Bartruff said. “We actually won the league, the Sectional and the District his sophomore year.
“Max really worked on his game the last eight to 10 months,” Bartruff said. “And it paid off for him. I was proud of him for the way he handled the adversity. He battled hard for two days. His attitude was great.
“The only thing I tried to talk to him about on Saturday — he was frustrated because he wanted to play well,” Bartruff said. “He’s competitive and he’s devoted a lot of time to it. It’s understandable. I just tried to tell him — we were in the middle of the 11th fairway — ‘look, you’ve got six, seven holes left here. You’ve got maybe 30, 35 shots left in this tournament.’ I said, ‘enjoy it. You’re going to look back in five or 10 years and you’re going to think fondly of this time. Even though you’re not playing well at the moment, you’re going to remember this in a positive light.’
“I said, ‘regardless of how you hit the golf ball, for these last seven holes, take time to enjoy the atmosphere and the environment you’re in,’” Bartruff said. “A lot of kids don’t ever get that opportunity, let alone to be there twice. After we had that little chat, he was great.
“Actually, he was great for the two days,” Bartruff said. “But, I just wanted him to take time to reflect on what he’s accomplished. He’s done a great job. He would have loved to have shot in the 70s both days. And, really, I thought he had a really good chance to do that. But, it didn’t work out that way.
“Regardless of where he finished, I’m proud of him for all the time and effort he put in to Blue Lion golf,” Bartruff said. “The leadership that he provided this year. He was pretty much our low man about 95 percent of the matches we played.
“It was great to be there again,” Bartruff said. “It was completely different having just an individual as opposed to having a team there. I have much more respect for PGA caddies now. Just trying to help him manage the round and pick a yardage, pick a club, what kind of shot shape are we going to hit.
“His dad did a nice job helping to diagram all the greens on our practice round,” Bartruff said. “When you give information to someone and they swing the club and execute the shot exactly the way you pictured it and it doesn’t turn out right; you’re a little short or a little long, I felt awful about that and it probably happened five or six times. That was very stressful.
“I want to thank Brent, too,” Bartruff said. “He has taught Max how to play golf and how to be a gentleman on the course. He helped develop the game plan we took up there for the weekend, as far as club selection, how the putts are going to break. He deserves a lot of credit, as well.”
Reach Chris Hoppes at 740-335-3611, ext. 1104, or on Twitter @choppes1