MAGNOLIA — The Woodlands entered Wednesday morning with a commanding lead at the District 13-6A championships, so the primary opponent for the team became Mother Nature.
The Highlanders navigated that challenge on a rainy and windy day at High Meadow Ranch Golf Club, however, and ended the event head and shoulders above the field to win the title.
After seeing the 2020 postseason wiped out due to the coronavirus pandemic, winning the league crown was an even more satisfying accomplishment for The Woodlands.
“Last year was a bummer,” The Woodlands coach Eric Noski said. “We pretty much have the same team here. There was one senior on that team, and it broke my heart that he couldn’t finish off his senior season like that. Getting to play this year was very rewarding, and I wanted to see what these guys could really do and see them show off their talents a little bit.”
The Highlanders finished with a two-day score of 579 (285-294), good for 3 over par. College Park claimed the second spot at regionals with a score of 605 (302-303), coming in at 29 over par.
Both teams will compete at the Region II-6A championships April 19-20 at Bear Ridge Golf Club in Waco, along with the top two individuals not on a qualifying team.
The Woodlands was led by senior and district champion Alejandro Alonso, who finished 4 under par with a two-day score of 140. Alonso, who has signed to play for Loyola-Marymount, came out on fire in the opening round with a 6-under-par 66. He finished with a 74 on Wednesday.
“It was tough today because of the wind and everything,” Alonso said. “It was a little tougher today, and after hitting it so good yesterday, it was harder. But just staying in it and making pars and hitting greens was kind of what helped me today to stay in it.”
Sophomore Alex Papayoanou (68-76—144), sophomore Jake Lile (76-73—149), junior Will Jordan (81-71—152) and sophomore Ben Paylor (75-77—152) also played for The Woodlands. Those scores put all five of the Highlanders’ competitors inside the top 10.
College Park was led by freshman Bowen Ballis, who made the most of his first high school district tournament. He finished second after firing a two-day score of 143 (71-72).
“Bowen may be a freshman, but he’s very mature in his golf because he plays a lot of outside events,” College Park coach Steve Tatum said. “He’s done that since he was a little kid, so he makes very smart decisions and doesn’t try to do things he’s not capable of. He relies on his short game because he knows that’s the strength of this game.”
Senior Ryan Smiley (75-75—150), junior Mariano Aguirre (82-75—157), senior Beau Autery (79-81—160) and junior Carson Draeger (77-83—160) also competed for College Park.
“We actually kind of made a joke out of it — death by greens,” Tatum said. “I just kept telling my guys, ‘Hit greens, hit greens, hit greens.’ If you’re going to frustrate a kid, the way to do it is just keep hitting greens and be solid through the round. For the most part, we did a lot of that. We did what we needed to do. Overall, they held it together really solid.”
Willis junior Jack Wiebe was the top individual to qualify for regionals after shooting even par to finish with a two-day score of 144 (72-72). The other regional qualifier was senior Parker Mitas, who played for The Woodlands’ B Team and finished at 147 (71-76), good for 3 over par.
Other top-10 finishers included Oak Ridge junior Carson Cooper (75-75—150) and The Woodlands junior Andres Bremer (74-78—152).