Panthers stop Caesar Rodney streak in golf tourney

 

Milford’s Kyle Strassle hits his second shot from the 4th fairway. (Special to Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

DOVER — Probably not many people were surprised that Kyle Strassle won the Henlopen Conference Tournament individual golf title on Tuesday.

The Milford High senior was the defending champion after all.

But Polytech capturing the Henlopen tourney team trophy was another story.

It may have been the first time the Panthers have won the title and they did it by edging a Caesar Rodney squad they lost to by 24 strokes during the regular season.

Polytech carded a four-player score of 339 to top the second-place Riders, who had a 341, in the 18-hole tourney that was played at Maple Dale Country Club on Tuesday. CR had won the team championship eight years in a row.

“I felt pretty confident we’d make a good run,” said Panthers’ coach Steve Yiengst. “(But) I was surprised that we won it because CR’s been so dominant over the years. We got a few lucky breaks here and there from my guys — and their guys really. It just kind of worked out.”

Connor Young of Polytech chips the ball onto the 4th green.
Special to Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

Connor Young and Jackson Cecchett put Polytech in contention when they both carded 78s. They both tied for second place behind Strassle, who fired a three-over par 75.

CR’s Vincent Alois also shot a 78.

But after the Panthers got an 89 from Justin Chapin, they needed a 95 or lower from one of their two final players to finish ahead of the Riders. James Larrimore came in with a 95 before Jordan Speed put up a 94 to clinch the crown.

“We were only up by one and that’s when it got interesting,” said Cecchett. “James came in with a 95 and that’s when me and Connor started going crazy. It’s awesome.

“We definitely put Polytech on the map. I think people came in here not expecting Poly to win — not even come close.”

“I was informed Jackson was playing well and Jordan told me he was playing well,” said Young. “But I had no clue we were coming in like that. It’s an awesome feeling.”

Only four players broke 80 during the sometimes-rainy event.

Interestingly enough, Strassle started out with a double-bogey on his second hole of the morning. But he played the final 16 holes at just one-over par to make it back-to-back individual championships.

“This year what I told myself was just ‘Go to the next shot,’” said Strassle. “I know how to make birdies and get back a few strokes. I never gave up.”

Strassle’s 75 was two shots better than the 77 he carded to win the title last year on the same Maple Dale course. Last year, he had to win a four-way playoff.

Matthew Miller of Caesar Rodney reads the 4th green while Polytech’s Connor Young marks his spot. (Special to Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

He also finished fourth in the 2017 state tourney, which was also played at Maple Dale.

“I felt pretty good,” said Strassle. “I’ve had a pretty good track record at the course. I just come out here to play.”

“We knew this year would be tough trying to repeat,” said Milford coach Todd French. “It was exciting.

“He came in pretty relaxed — not a ton of pressure. At the same time, he wanted to see what he could do again.”

For CR’s Alois and Polytech’s Young, their finish on Tuesday was almost a duplicate of last season. The two players were both part of the four-way tie with 77s a year ago.

After winning the team crown on Tuesday, the Panthers wouldn’t mind surprising some more people next week at the DIAA state tournament. The two-day event starts on Tuesday at Odessa National in Middletown.

“There’s a lot of good teams up there — including CR,” said Yiengst. “We’ve got our work cut out for us but we’ll see.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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