Tristani tops field at qualifier
DOUG EDWARDS/TIMES NEWS Lehighton's Dave Behler watches the flight of his ball after hitting a tee shot on a par-3 hole
ORWIGSBURG - As most people who play the game of golf know, it is when one starts to relax that they begin to play well.
That is the philosophy Marian's Nick Tristani brought with him to the District 11 qualifier Monday morning.
Tristani fired a one-over 73 at the Schuylkill County Country Club and was one of three local golfers to qualify for district play next week. Palmerton's Ben Andrews and Lehighton's Dave Behler also made the cut and will play at Woodstone Country Club next Monday.
"Today my mind set was to just go out there and have fun," said Tristani. "I wasn't going to try and put any pressure on myself. That was my problem last Monday and Wednesday. Today I wanted to get all the nerves out, have a good time and enjoy the course."
Tristani's relaxed mindset paid dividends. In fact, it worked so well that he managed to beat out 97 fellow golfers for the medalist honors. Tristani was one-under through nine, but had a double bogey and a bogey on back nine to finish with his yearly average. He bested Blue Mountain's Ryan Laudeman, who was playing at his home course, by one stroke.
"It's an honor," Tristani said. "But honestly in this event it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if you shoot a 73 or an 83 - whatever qualifies gets you in (to districts).
"It's definitely an honor though to be low. My game is there. I just have to have fun and relax. I said that to myself last time, but I wasn't really listening. Today I just went out there and hit the ball like I knew I could and had fun."
The Bombers' Andrews wasn't too far behind Tristani. Andrews went low as well and posted a 75. He was even through nine with two birdies and two bogies, but suffered a triple bogey on the back to finish three-over.
Two of his teammates, Dan Costenbader and Mike Englert, were exempt from qualifying.
"Today was good," Andrews said. "I was hitting a lot of greens and I was hitting my driver straight. Most importantly I was making putts. I had a lot of up-and-downs and was getting some favorable kicks.
"I didn't feel too much pressure. I've followed two of the best golfers around in Mike and Dan and they were helping me out. They were giving me pointers before so I had a good mindset. I was ready for it."
Behler came in toward the end of the scores being recorded and was looking good at the time. However, when all the scores we submitted, Behler had made it by the slimmest of margins. His 85 turned out to be the cut line.
"I thought I did pretty well today," said Behler, who had eight pars on the day. "The greens were fast and it was a tough course. I came out and hit my irons and my woods well, but putting kind of killed me. A four-putt when I was going for eagle hurt, but everything turned out alright.
"It was a little cold this morning and I was real tense and real nervous with this my senior year. I want to play good. I want to make it to the next level. But the nerves didn't affect me too much. I was even through the first couple and was able to get through them."
Local golfers Alex Kaye (Pleasant Valley), Mike Luckenbill (Panther Valley), Matt Tucker (Panther Valley), Scott Nevenglosky (Panther Valley), Brandon McCullion (Lehighton), Drew Sherkness (Marian), Jordan Heisler (Tamaqua) and Ben Stermer (Jim Thorpe) also participated but did not make the cut.