HOLLIDAYSBURG — Heading into the last hole on Tuesday at the District 6 Class AA Championships, Philipsburg-Osceola’s Ky Bender had an inkling he may have been in line for the gold medal.
After making an eagle on the par 5 hole No. 14, Bender was leading his group when they finished off the 18th hole at Scotch Valley Country Club in Roaring Spring.
“I had a pretty good idea,” Bender said. “Just based on the averages, I was two shots ahead, so there was a good chance. But there were still golfers out on the course that had the potential to win. I had to just bite my nails and wait.”
Once the scores were tallied up, it turned out Bender’s biggest competition came from his own teammate.
Bender’s 77 was the top score on the day, while fellow Mountie Chad Frank carded a 78.
“I would’ve been happy either way,” Bender said. “He probably feels the same. He’s happy for me.”
With the win, he moves on to the PIAA Western Regional at Tom’s Run Golf Course in Blairsville on Oct. 15.
Frank also moves on, as the top 8 scores all earned berths.
“I have never had a district champion,” said P-O head coach Jordan Albright. “Ky played his heart out today. He has embraced everything we have taught him. You tell him to do something, he does it. He does not stop. He couldn’t be more deserving of being a District 6 individual champion.”
It’s the second win in a week for Bender, who was also the co-champ at the District 6 Sectional Tournament at Windber Country Club.
Pretty good for a golfer who didn’t pick up clubs seriously until ninth grade.
Bender said he started practicing in ninth grade and has played 50 to 60 rounds so far this year.
“Every day is not the same,” Bender said. “Some things change day-to-day with what is working and what is not. I just got really lucky that I had one of my best days during the last two tournaments.
“My goal has been to keep all of my rounds in the 70s. So far, eight of my 10 rounds have been.”
Philipsburg-Osceola got four of its five golfers through to Blairsville, with Keegan Soltis finishing seventh with an 81.
Teammates Brandon Singer and Jake Vaux were tied with a round of 82 for the last and final spot, forcing a playoff.
Singer defeated Vaux on the third playoff hole to earn a trip to the Western Regional.
“We took five kids today and four of them filled the eight spots to go to the regional,” Albright said. “It’s actually a good problem to have. I was super proud of Jake. It was an awesome playoff. He didn’t back down. He had some really good shots and forced Brandon to make a putt to win it.”
Vaux still gets to play in the postseason, however, as the Mounties also won the team title by 25 strokes over West Shamokin. They will compete on Oct. 9 in the PIAA District 5-6-8 Sub-Regional at Iron Masters Country Club in Roaring Spring.
Bender said his goal is to make it to states. To do that, he will have to conquer a course in Blairsville that he hasn’t even seen yet.
“I’m going to go play a practice round there,” said Bender. “I’m just going to go out and play my best.”
And if that happens, the rest of the field better watch out.
The PIAA Western Regional tees off at 10 a.m. on Oct. 15.
(Top 8 Advance to PIAA
TEAM KEY: Bald Eagle Area (BEA), Bishop Guilfoyle (BG), Bishop McCort (BM), Central (C), Central Cambria (CC), Forest Hills (FH), Homer-Center (HC), Huntingdon (H), Ligonier Valley (LV), Mount Union (MU), Northern Cambria (NC), Penn Cambria (PC), Philipsburg-Osceola (PO), Tyrone (T), West Shamokin (WS).
1. Ky Bender, PO, 77. 2. Chad Frank, PO, 78. 3. Jack McCullough, WS, 79. 4. Eric Spencer, WS, 79. 5. Trey Heffelfinger, MU, 79. 6. Jake Taylor, T, 80. 7. Keegan Soltis, PO, 81. 8. (tie) * Brandon Singer, PO and Jake Vaux, PO, 82. 10. (tie) Zach Ramach, BM and Ian Vilcek, HC, 83. 12. Lucas Cascino, BM, 84. 13. Derek Stafford, NC, 86. 14. (tie) Gregory Caldwell, PC and Jon Rankin, LV, 87. 16. (tie) Ryan Jones, LV and Brodie O’Donnell, PC 88. 18. (tie) Gunnar Elliott, LV and Isaac Neidbalson, LV and Brian Walwro, CC, 89. 21. (tie) A.J. Marasco, BG and Nate Zik, WS, 91. 23. Luke Brooks, T 92. 24. Brent McNeel, T. 25. Jon McCall, FH, 95. 26. (tie) Cole Edwards, BM and Evan Ober, HC and Andon Suchan, H, 96. 29. Luke Barnhart, BEA, 101. 30. Mason Baker, C, 102. 31. Tanner Fogel, PC, 107.
*Won on third playoff hole to secure 8th and final spot to Western Regionals.