YORK – Mike Englert went toe to toe with the best field of high school golfers Pennsylvania has to offer. For a while, he was beating all of them.
The Palmerton senior held the outright tournament lead for several holes during the second and final round of the PIAA Golf Championships, held Monday and Tuesday at Heritage Hills Resort in York before finishing sixth and earning a state medal. He shot a first-round 69 on Monday and a second-round 78 Tuesday for a total of 147.
"I just went out there and had fun," Englerst said. "I'm not going to beat myself up for not winning. I had fun out there. I'm glad I don't put that kind of pressure on myself."
Palmerton teammate Dan Costenbader also competed at states, placing in a tie for 26th at 152 (76-76).
Englert was tied for the lead after the first day and took sole possession of the tournament lead Tuesday on the second hole. He made up for a bogey on the first with a birdie on the second that put him one shot up on West Allegheny's Garrett Browning and Lower Merion's Greg Jarma.
Englerst stayed at two under and in the lead until the sixth hole when Jarma birdied to tie for the lead.
But Browning, who also shot a first-round 69, started to heat up. After falling to two over through 10 holes, Browning got it back to one over at the 11th and parred seven straight to head into the last hole at one over par.
Englert took bogeys on 15 and 17 and headed into the last hole at plus two. Jarma got back to plus one with a birdie at the 17th as well.
Down one stroke with one to play, Englert pushed his tee shot into the right rough on the 471-yard par 4 18th. He had an uphill lie in wet grass and had to carry a pond to get to the green. If he wanted any chance to win the tournament, he had to go for the green. He didn't get over the pond, leading to a triple bogey 7, his only number higher than bogey in two days.
"I knew it was going to be tough to pull it off," Englert said. "I didn't have much of a choice. He was in the middle of the fairway. He was up one. I can't really expect him to miss the green and make bogey so I had to go for it."
Browning parred the hole to win the tournament at 144, two over par for two days. Jarma bogeyed for second.
Englert's game wasn't on like it was a day earlier. But he made the most of what he had and kept himself in contention. One week after an incredible shot got him through regionals, he had to make an even tougher one to give himself a shot at the state title. This time it didn't happen, but that won't put a damper on what has been a very successful high school career. He made three straight trips to states and saved his best finish for last.
"Overall I was pleased," he said. "I had a good tournament. Placing was definitely a goal. I wanted to win, but at worst come in the top 10. I got one of the goals accomplished."
Costenbader, a two-time Colonial League champ and a sixth-place finisher at states in 2008, shot 76 on Monday and was one under for the day on through 11 holes on Tuesday. But he took four bogeys and one double over his final seven holes to finish with another 76.
"I was playing good until I got midway through the back nine," he said. "I just started making bogeys couldn't stop."
Costenbader shot 77 in his first round last year and was able to climb back up the leaderboard with a second-round 71, so he was optimistic heading into the final round this year.
"I was like all I've got to do is the same thing as last year," he said. "After 11 I knew I could do it. Then I couldn't get off the bogey train."
Costenbader, who will play college golf at the University of Delaware, isn't going to dwell on what could have been.
"I don't really keep the losses or the bad tournaments in my mind," he said. "When I do look back I am going to look at the good things. I did my best out here and that's all you can ask from yourself."