Undefeated dual record CHS golfers' 2021 highlight
Gillespie repeat Cranmer Award winner
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
Led by a senior's repeat performance as its top member, a steady, well-balanced lineup which saw no alteration in its five members from season's start to finish produced a strong season and one singular peak achievement for the 2021 Chillicothe High School golf Hornets.
Paced by Colby Gillespie's earning of the Roger Cranmer Memorial Award for having the team's best scoring average for the seasno, this spring's CHS squad did something no Hornets golf group – not even a pair of 1980s state title winners – had done since the late 1970s.
Beginning with a "playoff" victory over Cameron at Cameron in their March 24 double-dual season opener and concluding with a home outing in which three CHS players shared match-medalist honors, the ’21 Hornets went a perfect 9-0 in dual-match competition this spring.
In addition, they were champions of two tournaments – the Cameron Invitational with a 343 team score and the Savannah Invitational with a 354.
Their April 6 home win over Lawson produced their lowest-scoring round of the season, a 170. Senior Spencer Shira's 9-holes score of 40 and Gillespie's 80 for 18 holes the next day in the Cameron Invitational Tournament shared the distinction of best individual rounds of the season.
Although Shira hit a late-season downturn after a bit of an up-and-down campaign, fellow senior Gillespie maintained a steadier pace, needing more than 45 strokes per nine holes (or 90 per 18) only twice.
That greater consistency and stronger finish to the season allowed Gillespie to post the Hornets' lowest average – 87.4 strokes per 18 holes – and earn the Cranmer award for a second-straight time (he received it as a sophomore before the COVID-19 pandemic squashed the would-be 2020 campaign). He cut more than nine shots off his 2019 average.
Vast improvement also was the rule for the 2021 varsity Hornets' other two senior lineup regulars.
Even with his final three outings seeing a falloff in his play, Shira – who had used the exact same number of shots as Gillespie through the season's first nine events – still finished with a very respectable 91.6 (per 18) average for the season. That was exactly 15 strokes a round less than his sophomore campaign.
Third-year letterman Dalton Ripley likewise took a huge stride forward in his scoring this spring. Generally a varsity lineup regular in 2019, he came back from the season away from competition to play steadily in the team's No. 5 position and carve his season's average down from 113 as a sophomore to 104.6 this year. That included a career-low 46 in the final dual. It also was his 55 in the season opener at Cameron which was one shot better than the Dragons' fifth score that provided the tiebreaker for the Hornets' win that started their perfect duals season.
The 2021 golf Hornets' other two lineup members all season – always occupying the Nos. 3 and 4 spots – were freshmen Jackson Trout and James Mathew.
Although Mathew held the No. 3 slot in the lineup essentially all spring, like Gillespie and Shira, their averages were virtually identical most of the season. In the case of the youngsters, they actually stayed that way all the way to the end. By shooting a 90 in the district tournament while his classmate carded a 94, Trout finished the season taking a mere three less swings than Mathew. That left Trout with an 18-holes average of 92.2 and Mathew with a 92.6.
This season's squad included five seniors – Gillespie, Shira, Ripley, Keagan Valbracht, and Ethan Gabrielson. While neither of the latter two ever got a chance to play in the varsity lineup this season, both reduced their season averages from 2019 by considerable margins.
“Most of them were complete beginners at golf when they were freshmen,” head coach Jim Wheeler recounted at the team’s mid-May postseason recognition event at The Fast Lane Family Entertainment Center, “and I'm proud of how they worked and improved.
“With the seniors gone, that leaves us with the seven freshmen (out for the sport this spring) who I hope will get out and practice and play a lot of golf this summer to improve.
“I’m excited about the potential of our team for the next few years if they continue to get better,” Wheeler told the C-T.