Red Storm golf back on top

WESTPORT – A close loss to Lake Placid a week ago on the last day of the regular season provided the inspiration. A two-over par round by Ethan Sawyer provided Saranac Lake with the edge it needed.

On Thursday at the Westport Country Club, Saranac Lake captured its third straight Section VII title as schools from the Champlain Valley and Mountain and Valley athletic conferences opened play in the sectional championships.

Sawyer, a junior, topped the field with a 73 and heads into today’s second round with a two-stroke lead over Peru sophomore Jordan Guay in the hunt for the individual title. The pair were the only golfers who carded rounds in the 70s and will play in the final group today.

The Red Storm won the team title with a 333 total, which was three strokes ahead of the Blue Bombers, who finished runner-up for the second year in a row.

After falling to Lake Placid by three shots in a tiebreaker last week to come up short in a bid for a fourth straight CVAC title, Saranac Lake rebounded at Westport in what was essentially a two-horse race for the Section VII crown. Led by Guay, Peru finished third with a 344 total.

Thursday’s competition combined the lowest four scores turned in by players on each team, and Sawyer’s round was a huge factor in putting the Red Storm over the top.

Sixteen schools were represented in the tournament’s first round, which saw tee times pushed back two hours following a lightning delay. Approximately one third of the golfers in the field survived the cut of 92 to advance to today’s second round.

“Obviously, Ethan with his 73 really came through,” Saranac Lake head coach Chris Stevens said. “He’s a steady Eddie, that’s for sure. I couldn’t be any happier for the kids on our team. I really didn’t know what to expect today after Lake Placid beat us last week. What impressed me the most is our kids hung in there and made it to 18. They fought hard and came out on top.”

Dustin Fischer turned in the next lowest round for the Red Storm with an 81. The senior fired a 37 on the front nine to make the turn in a three-way tie for the lead with Sawyer and Guay, but dropped back after having a rough stretch to start the back, including taking a 10 on a hole where he drove his tee shot into the woods and then knocked an approach shot into a water hazard. Fischer, however, rebounded to grab fourth place entering today’s final round.

“Coming up short in the CVAC put a little dent in a perfect season, but I think we made up for that today,” Fischer said. “It feels really great to come back and win after being so down a couple of days ago.”

Freshman Tanner Courcelle finished third for Saranac Lake with an 89. Senior teammates Austin Ecret and Danny Strack were a shot back with 90s to round out the five Red Storm golfers advancing to play today.

Carley Sawyer was the lone Saranac Lake golfer who missed the cut. Playing in the third position for the team, the sophomore and lone female competing in the championships was in the hunt to advance after carding a 47 on the front, but she struggled on the back and finished with a 103.

Despite falling short of their goal of winning the section, all six Blue Bombers golfers made the cut and will be back on the course today for the round that will determine the nine-player makeup of the Section VII team that will head to the state championships at Cornell University.

Kiefer Casler led Lake Placid with an 80, which put the junior in third place entering the second round. Bjorn Kroes shot an 83 to stand in a three-way tie for sixth. Ryan Kane is tied for eighth after firing an 86, and Miles Lussi finished with an 87 to stand in 10th with two other golfers.

Also for Lake Placid, Pat Kane finished with an 89 and Lucas Strack advanced with a 91.

Ethan Sawyer will be bidding for a first individual Section VII title and his second trip to the state championships. Fischer will attempt to reach the states for the third year in a row. Casler is Lake Placid’s lone golfer to play at Cornell and will try to get back there for the second straight season.

“I’m really happy with how I played today,” Sawyer said. “I didn’t putt that well, but I hit a lot of greens. I just can’t get too far ahead of myself. It should be a real battle.”