La PORTE — It wasn't the way La Porte imagined earning its fourth consecutive sectional title.
Nevertheless, the Slicers tied their season-best score and their two-year best at Beechwood, carding 358 to capture their own sectional on Friday.
In an odd situation though, La Porte was awarded the sectional trophy after Marquette Catholic's Romeo Bui was disqualified for having a lower score on his scorecard than what he actually shot, then signing and submitting it to officials. Under the rules, a player who does this is automatically disqualified, so instead of the Blazers winning the sectional crown, the Slicers claimed the hardware. Marquette ended up finishing third (369) and grabbed the last regional qualifying spot.
“Our No. 2, 4 and 5 had a shaky front 9,” La Porte coach Eric Wozniak said. “And they came in real strong on the back 9 and that really elevated us to help us win today's sectional. I feel bad about Marquette. They played well today, but the ruling was in our favor. It's not the way you envision winning the sectional with the amount of time we put in on our course, but that's the rule."
Wozniak added Bui coming forward and admitting a mistake was very admirable.
"That's an act of sportsmanship like I've never seen at this level," Wozniak said. "He should be commended for his actions today."
The Slicers topped rival Michigan City (360) by two strokes to claim the title. La Porte, the Wolves, and Blazers all advanced to the Lake Central Regional Thursday at Sandy Pines in DeMotte.
Marquette's disqualification put them into third, instead of sectional champions with a 353. Bui's score of 89 was thrown out. Bui allegedly signed for a lower score than what he actually had. It apparently wasn't brought to officials' attention until the score was posted. The situation was then rectified a little later.
“We just got a really, really, really bad break,” Marquette coach Cody Ward said. “We'll just have to bite the bullet and go on. I'll definitely be thinking about this one for a while. This one will sting."
Despite the bizarre scenario, Ward remained happy for his squad.
“I'm very proud,” he said. “We played as a team really. No one tried to be the hero. This is probably the best we've played all year honestly.”
City's Nick Gushrowski earned individual medalist accolades, carding a 78 to beat out Hanover Central's Cody Donovan (79) by one stroke. Gushrowski, who notched an impressive 36 on the back 9, admitted he didn't play his best despite placing first.
“It feels pretty good,” he said. “I don't have to be at my best to still compete. I know next week though with the kids that are coming to the regional, I'm going to need to be at the top of my game."
LaCrosse's Jaye Mitzner secured the third and final individual qualifying spot with 90. The senior shot a solid 44 on the front 9.
"It was all pure happiness," Mitzner said of realizing he punched his regional ticket. "It was happiness and shock. I was in shock. Because me and coach Mitch (Semans) talked about a conversation we had three years ago after the PCC Golf Tournament after I shot like 135 when I was a freshman, when he told me I could shoot in the 80s by senior year."
This season, Mitzner also carded 85 in the PCC Tourney.
North Judson's Payton Cox took second among individual qualifiers with an 81.
In the team standings, New Prairie was sixth (401), LaCrosse eighth (420) and South Central ninth (436). Westville didn't field a full team.
Max Holmes paced the Slicers with 82, while Graham Siefker followed with 90. Jack Schable posted 92, and Cas Pulaski chipped in 94. Holmes earned a blistering 38 on the front 9.
“Getting off the tee really helped me,” Holmes said. “I actually hit 12 fairways and that's as many fairways as I've hit all year.”
Wozniak was also impressed with Siefker's performance.
"He had a 48 at the turn," Wozniak said. "He was struggling to find his ball on the front. It was really looking shaky. The nature of Graham Siefker is finish strong. He keeps it together. He's a level-headed player and it just showed. With a 42 on the back, that's a six-stroke difference, that really helped us."
For City, besides Gushrowski, Omar Serrano carded 91, and Jack Attar had 95. Jack Smith was right behind with 96.
“I'm really proud of the guys,” Wolves coach Jeff Edinger said. “We fell two shots short of La Porte, but that's alright. Last year, we shot 392, so we shaved off 32 shots. I'm very happy about that."
After scuffling with a 42 on the front 9, Edinger witnessed Gushrowski get into a groove after the turn, improving by six strokes.
“Nick really turned it on on the back 9,” Edinger said. “He made a lot of adjustments. Freshman Nick, or maybe even sophomore Nick, but definitely freshman Nick, probably wouldn't have been able to turn it around, but he's really grown a lot mentally.”
Serrano shot a career-best 40 on the back 9.
“I'm very proud of him,” Edinger said. “He puts in hours and hours and hours by himself just out there chipping, putting and playing. It's cool to see it's finally paying off.”
For Marquette, consistency was the name of the game, as Michael Sakich, Robert Pruzin and Charlie O'Halloran each finished with 88. Aidan Bartnicki rounded out the Blazers' scoring with 105. Bartnicki's round had to be counted after Bui's disqualification.
“Romeo shot 89, he played great,” Ward said. “That was my No. 5 guy. He beat the majority of those kids by himself today. That's great. I'm really proud of him. He got DQd, so that was tough and he's over there crying.”
For New Prairie, Mason Taylor and Nolan Szymanski recorded a team-best 96 apiece. Dylan Pohl followed with 102, and Nathan Middlebrook added 107.
Sam Haschel led the Satellites with 99.
John Pavolka paced Westville with 100.
Holmes said the team's goal at the beginning of the season was to win another sectional.
“And we got here today and we got the job done," he said. "This was a great accomplishment.”
La Porte Sectional
(Top 3 teams advance to Lake Central Regional at Sandy Pines Golf Club)
1. La Porte 358
2. Michigan City 360
3. Marquette Catholic 369