BRADFORD — Behind a pair of 79s and a pair of 87s, the Punxsy boys' golf team shot a team score of 332 to win the District IX championship Monday in Bradford. The Chucks even surprised their own coach a bit.
"At first, I really didn't think we had a chance," Punxsy head coach Josh Conrad said. "I just assumed Bradford would clinch it because it's their home course. But as the scores came in, and Bradford's full score was posted, we started doing the math and realized we had surpassed them. As each team score was posted, I had Mike (Blose) add them up several times, because I really couldn't believe what was happening."
Bradford didn't even finish runner-up to Punxsy, as Johnsonburg edged the Owls by two shots to earn second place in the team competition. Bradford's Josh Stauffer was low medalist on his home course, but his teammates' scores were just too inconsistent to out-duel Punxsy.
Punxsy's low men were Ian Miller and Brandon Mancuso, each shooting a 79 and "playing within themselves" as Conrad had asked them to do in the week leading up to the championships.
"Our theme during the practice round Thursday was, 'Play within yourself. Don't try to be the hero; Don't go pin hunting; And sometimes, you'll have to just take your medicine. Play your own game the only way you know how to play it.' And that's what they did," he said.
Micky DeChurch and Mike Blose were Punxsy's other players, and each shot respectable 87s to secure the Chucks' victory.
"I can't say enough about Mike and Brandon," Conrad said. "They both did exactly what I hoped they would do."
In addition to the team competition, Monday's contest included individual district championships, as well.
Punxsy's two qualifiers — based on averaging 41 or better in each nine-hole competition through the regular season — were Miller and DeChurch.
Miller's 79 was good enough to leave him in a tie for fourth, seven shots behind Stauffer, heading to Saturday's final round. The top six scorers will advance to Regionals.
Conrad is hopeful for Miller heading into Saturday's round.
"I'm happy for Ian," Conrad said. "He's deserved this for a long time, and I'm glad he actually got to experience it. Hopefully, we get another nice day Saturday, and he can qualify for regionals as an individual."
Despite matching Miller's 79, Mancuso didn't quite meet the criteria to qualify for individuals, so he won't be competing again Saturday.
DeChurch's 87 was two shots off the pace of the 12th place scorer in the individuals, and only the top 12 advance to Saturday, so Miller will be Punxsy's only representative moving forward.
"Micky just couldn't get off of the tee," Conrad said. "He was disappointed with how he played, but really did make some great saves, punching out and saving bogey and sometimes even par."
The Chucks' last district title came in 2004, and Conrad said this one means just as much as a team.
"It's as memorable as the last one with Easton Renwick, Jesse Branken and Cooper Fairman," he said. "I'm proud of them, and they really do deserve it. It'll be nice to look up at the banner hanging in the gym for years to come."
As a team, Punxsy's next step is Regionals Oct. 18 at the Tom's Run Course at Chestnut Ridge Resort in Blairsville. Punxsy will compete against the other district champions in the region, and if the Chucks come out on top there, they would advance to states Oct. 23-25 at Heritage Hills Resort in York.