His Grand Island neighbors might have wondered what he was doing alone in his backyard with a golf club, but Aaron Schauger knew.
It takes a lot of practice to win the Section VI golf championship, and Schauger’s willingness to take advantage of any grass surface paid off big time on Monday.
The Grand Island senior won the title by a mere one-stroke, bettering a field of 72 golfers from 59 schools. The 27-hole event was played at Diamond Hawk Golf Course in Cheektowaga on what was an ideal day weather-wise to take out the sticks.
Schauger said his work ethic helps separate him from his high school competition.
“I practice in my backyard just to keep my short game sharp. I practice all the shots I use on the course,” he said. “I just take out my lob wedge or different wedges and hit different shots ... short game is my strength and I put a lot of time into that. That really helps bring the numbers down.”
Schauger shot 38-36-74 for his first 18 and came back with a 40 over his final nine for a 114 total. He claimed the title by one-stroke over Williamsville North senior David Berkun.
Schauger birdied his last hole of the day, No. 9, but did not know at the time it would be the difference in him winning. Berkun was not playing in Berkun’s foursome. Schauger hit a solid drive on No. 9, a par 5, 489-yard hole. He was within 15 feet of the hole after his second shot and two-putted for birdie.
Schauger said he plans to continue his golf career at Division III RPI in the fall.
Tied for third, three shots back, were freshman Ben Reichert of Williamsville North and senior Mark Joslin of Hamburg.
Like most in the field, Schauger was just looking to secure one of the top nine spots, but after a string of birdies on Nos. 12, 13 and 14 helped give him the lead after 18 holes, his focus began to change.
“After that I knew if I kept going, I’d have a good chance of winning,” he said. “The course was playing tough and I thought if I put up a good number that it would hold up.”
The event was also a qualifier for the New York State Championships on May 31-June 3 at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Course at Cornell University.
Also making the state team were junior Joe Conti of Fredonia, senior Mark Lesinski of Williamsville North, junior Wil Lockwood of Maple Grove, senior Dan Weimer of Silver Creek and freshman Nolan Ditcher of Randolph.
Berkun, Ditcher and Reichert were also members of last year’s state team.
Team-wise, no one performed better than Williamsville North, which landed three of the nine spots. Last fall, the Spartans went 12-0 in ECIC I playing out of Westwood CC. Coach John Burns said he talked to his team all season about being “tournament tough.”
Berkun, Lesinski and Reichert are the nucleus of his team that bought into his concept that they would play better individually if they played as a team.
Reichert’s round got off to a slow start as he was four-over after eight holes, but birdies on No. 9 and No. 11 righted the ship.
Lesinski, who lost last fall’s ECIC title in a playoff, was happy with his round and got a lift from his birdie on No. 14.
Berkun said he benefitted from three birdies and was pretty consistent off the tee.
Joslin said he putted well and birdied No. 9 twice.
Conti recovered from a triple-bogey by dropping several 10- to 15-foot putts.
Weimer was especially satisfied with his spot on the state team. He missed out last year by two strokes and by one the year before. It didn’t look promising early after he went four over after his first six holes, but he rallied to par the rest in his first 18.