Nick Ortiz captured the ECIC Golf Championship on a day in which the course was not forgiving and neither was the field.
The Frontier senior won the event after surviving a two-hole playoff against three other golfers, all of whom tied at 77 after 18 holes.
Diamond Hawk Golf Course presented plenty of challenges for the field of 84 representing 21 schools in the ECIC. There was a frost delay before the tournament began and the course was soggy in spots. In fact, last year’s winning score by Andrew Romano of Lancaster was nine strokes lower than this year’s.
Ortiz overcame it all after he sunk a birdie putt on No. 9 to beat Zach Felder of East Aurora in the playoff. Ortiz made a lot of good decisions during his round, but among his best was to replace his driver with an iron after watching Felder hit into a hazard on his drive.
“We both brought up driver and he happened to hit not a great shot. Right away I knew I was just going to need a par because he’s going to have the extra stroke from the drop,” said Ortiz. “So I went back and got my four-iron and put it out 200 yards safe into the fairway. Then I put a hybrid to about 40 yards, and then I ended up getting it to around 12 feet [from the hole] and made the birdie. It was a nice way to top it off.”
Felder is a junior and will be heard from again. “I should have taken a little more time with the drive. I don’t know, it felt good, but it kind of flared out right,” he said. “That was the first bad shot with that club all day. Nick played great. I was confident, just made a mistake.”
Mark Lesinski of Williamsville North and Mitch Feneziani of West Seneca West also were also involved in the playoff, but were eliminated after the first hole.
The event was also a qualifier for sectionals as the top 23 advanced. Four players were exempt as returning members from last year’s state team: Ortiz, Brad Belote of Lancaster, Ben Reichert of Williamsville North and Dave Berkun of Williamsville North. Sectionals are in the spring.
• Kenmore East swept the team title and the individual medal in the Niagara Frontier League Championship played at Willowbrook. The Bulldogs fired a collective 418 to outdistance runnerup Grand Island’s 441.
Only one stroke separated the top four finishers. Medalist Mike Davern shot a 77, Kevin Borowicz of Grand Island had 78, Ricky Shotwell of Kenmore East was at 79 and Aaron Schauger of GI shot an 80.