ELYRIA — Avon High finally lived up to its potential as an area power Wednesday by winning the seventh annual Pioneer Invitational at Forest Hills Golf Center on a near-perfect summer day.
The Eagles shot a team score of 314, led by medalist Ryan Sikora’s 4-over par 74, and had two other players in the 70s — Danny Kelley (77) and Preston Olson (79) — to edge host Elyria (318), which was paced by Kevin Koepp’s 74.
With four regulars back from the 2011 season, coach Jeff Stevens was expecting a very good team this fall but the Eagles struggled in the first two tournaments of the year.
They had a 333 to finish sixth in the Amherst Invitational at Oberlin Golf Club on Monday and placed fourth in the Grey Hawk Invitational with a 329 Tuesday.
“Today they came together and showed why they are so excited about this season,” Stevens said.
Sikora, only a sophomore, took the medalist honors by beating Koepp in a one-hole playoff on the 10th hole with a par five, while Koepp, who had a 78 for fourth place Tuesday at Grey Hawk, took bogey.
“It was very nice weather today,” said Sikora whose 74 was a career best, topping his previous of 75 shot last year at Oberlin Golf Club and while finishing second in a North Ohio PGA summer tournament at Big Met in Fairview Park this year. “The only trouble with the weather today was a heavy fog early in the round. But it cleared up after the first several holes. I was really confident with my irons today.”
Earlier this week, Sikora shot 81 Monday in the Amherst Invitational and 81 Tuesday at Grey Hawk.
Sikora had only one birdie Wednesday, sinking a 25-foot putt on the ninth hole. His best shot of the day came on the third hole when he used a 4-iron from 150 yards to hit within 10 feet of the cup to save par. He shot 37 on the front and back.
Koepp’s 74 came on nine-hole rounds of 36 and 38.
“Today was my best round of the year, maybe best ever,” said Koepp, a senior who missed qualifying for last year’s district tournament by one stroke. “The weather today was fantastic. I’m pretty excited and confident I can get out of the sectionals this year. My irons were the best today than they’ve ever been. I was pretty consistent. I had no birdies but just one bogey.”
Without a three-putt hole, Koepp’s putting was highlighted by a 20-footer on the 16th green to save par.
No other team could match Avon’s three golfers in the 70s, with Kelley’s 77 following individual scores of 78 and 82 in the first two tournaments this week.
“My driving wasn’t all that good but my irons were my strong suit,” he said. “My irons were so good I was able to consistently get up and down all day.”
His best shot came after a poor drive on No. 16, when he used an 8-iron from 170 yards out and twisted the ball around a contingent of trees to reach the green.
“I almost didn’t take that shot,” the senior said, “thinking seriously of hitting a short iron to safety in the fairway.”
Olson’s 79 was three strokes behind a 76 he shot in the tournament at Red Tail earlier this summer.
“My irons were really good today,” Olson said, “and I was also pretty good off the tee, but my putting was terrible.”
Defending champion Avon Lake did not defend its title. Elyria has won three of the seven Pioneer Invitational titles.
Avon 314, Elyria 318, Columbia 334, Normandy 335, Midview 337, Lake Ridge 353, Vermilion 355, Fairview 357, Keystone 359, Elyria Catholic 360, North Ridgeville 362, Firelands 376, Parma 384, Valley Forge 385, Wellington 444. Open Door had only two players and thus has no four-man team score.
Ryan Sikora, Avon, 37-37—74 (won one hole playoff for medalist honors), Kevin Koepp, Elyria, 36-38—74, Danny Kelley, Avon, 39-38—77, Ryan Messer, Elyria, 38-40—78, Zach Stopper, Columbia, 37-41—78, Preston Olson, Avon, 39-40—79.
Contact Jerry Rombach at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.