Eli O’Connor back to lead the Rangers on the links

J. Patrick Eaken

        Last year in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference boys golf tournament, Northwood finished fourth, scoring 499, to place behind Ottawa Hills (345), Toledo Christian (367), Maumee Valley (403) and ahead of Emmanuel Christian (507).
        Northwood golfer Eli O’Connor was a first team All-TAAC selection after scoring an 87 at the league tournament. Northwood golfer Kaiden Wilson was honorable mention. Both return along with three teammates this year.
        “I have the whole team back from last year. Hopefully, we will be a little bit better. We won’t be super-competitive, but it all depends. If they all golf well on the same day we will compete with a few teams from around the area,” said Northwood 25th-year coach Reese Snyder.
        Snyder says almost every other team in the TAAC this year has at least one highly skilled golfer returning, too.
        “The rest of us are probably pretty competitive — we all have one really good one. My number one (O’Connor), he is pretty good,” Snyder said.
        “I think Ottawa Hills is probably going to be the favorite — they have a couple good kids and all the rest of us, like Emmanuel and Maumee Valley, have a good kid, and we have a good one, and Toledo Christian had one graduate, but they will still have a good one. The rest of it can be up for grabs, I guess. We’ll see who develops along with their one good one and see where it goes. I don’t know if anyone else can win — Ottawa Hills is just that good. Not as good as they used to be but still pretty good.
        “I’ll see if I can get another one (earning) honorable mention or sneak one in there for second team or not. We’ll see how they develop throughout the season,” Snyder continued.
        Snyder says O’Connor has continued working on his game, which he hopes will pay off when the league and sectional tournament arrives.
        “He played the Toledo junior golf circuit (TJGA) this year and he did OK. He wasn’t one of the top 10 or anything, but he did well and had some fun with it. They have the Perrysburg and St. Francis kids in there, but he sharpened it up a little bit,” Snyder said.
        “Last year, he shot around 43 for nine holes. I’m hoping he can get it down there a little closer to 40. I don’t know if he can consistently be below 40, but I think he’ll do it a few times. I’m hoping as a goal for him that he can get out of the sectionals and into the districts, but we’ll see,” Snyder continued.
        “We have probably the toughest sectional in the state over there at Green Hills. You’ve got Lima Central Catholic and the Catholic schools are usually pretty decent, so it will be a tall order. He is going to have to have a really good day. I’m thinking it is going to take at least an 81 to get out as an individual. There again, if he’s peaking at the right time I think he can do it.”
        The issue Snyder deals with is what happened at the Rossford Invitational. Besides O’Connor, only one other Ranger shot below 60 and the team scored a 220.
        Other returnees include Jet Stribrny, Cecil Niederkorn and Brad Smith.
        “I see some improvement in the other ones. I’m hoping to get them where they can break 50,” Snyder said. “Now, if they do it all on the same night, we’ll be pretty competitive that night, but if I only get one or two and one of them scores a 55 or a 60, well then it won’t be as much. Eli will anchor it and I think he’ll be consistent.”
        One positive is the team’s home course — Chippewa Golf Course in Curtice. It has length, small greens, and golfers have to navigate a creek on nearly every fairway. Snyder says that should help prepare his golfers.
        “You have to manage your bag. You can’t just wail on the ball — straight is best,” Snyder said.
        There is a new side to Northwood golf — the potential of a girls team down the road. Snyder has 11 in the program, including four girls.
        “My girls are real young so I’m going to get them to play the home matches, and three of them are really new to the game,” Snyder said. “They are probably a year away from actually playing varsity. If they stick it out this year, I think next year they will be ready to compete as a girls team into the sectionals and do that kind of stuff. Right now, they are sticking it out and they are having fun and that is the main thing. It gets them outside and gets them moving.”
        For Snyder, now retired from teaching, it has been a quarter-century coaching golf and he does not expect that to end anytime soon, but who knows? Besides coaching, he golfs in leagues at Eagles Landing and Bedford Hills and with a group of men who scramble every Tuesday, but turns most of his attention to his team once August rolls around.
        “I have an opportunity to still do it at Northwood. I enjoy it still. I enjoy the kids — the kids are always good kids and willing to learn. Every year I keep saying maybe this will be the last, but it’s not,” Snyder said.


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