Neither a late bogey nor a case of bronchitis could throw Madison Central junior Zach Miller off his game in the 9th Region golf tournament at Kearney Hill Links on Tuesday.
Miller dominated with a 5-under-par 67 to take the individual title by four strokes and lead the Indians to the overall team championship with a score of 297. That sent them to next week’s state tournament in Bowling Green along with Franklin County, which shot 302 to finish second.
Miller, who was runner-up in the 9th Region as an eighth-grader, came down with bronchitis late last week and spent several days trying to recover in time for Tuesday’s tournament. But he said the thought of sitting this one out never crossed his mind.
“That was never an option. I had to play,” he said. “I knew that my team needed me to have a shot at all of us getting to state.”
Miller came out of the gate hot, firing four birdies and five pars on the front nine to take a commanding lead he would never relinquish. On the par-3 No. 12 hole, he landed on the green but left himself a long, difficult look at birdie. When he snaked in the putt for his fifth birdie of the day, Trish Jones, mother of 2015 state champion CJ Jones from Franklin County, exclaimed to Zach’s mother Sherri, “He’s on fire. I don’t know what antihistamine you’re giving him but it’s working.”
Miller’s lone bogey of the day came on hole No. 15 when his par putt came up inches short, but he recovered quickly with pars on holes 16 and 17. As Miller’s group walked to the par-5 18th hole, a crowd gathered around the green. After his second shot landed in a sand trap he sent a beautiful chip shot to within three feet of the hole, then rolled in his sixth birdie of the day to wrap up the title amid a rousing ovation.
“I almost went in the water on No. 16, but luckily it held up and once I finished with par there I knew the round was pretty much over … I had a great feeling after that,” Miller said. “I just feel great for my team. We’ve worked really hard all year and we deserve it. I think we’ll make a really good showing at state.”
Jones, who tied for fifth place with a 73, said Miller was on top of his game.
“It was really impressive what he did today,” he said. “The way he was striking the ball was really cool to watch. I’m happy for him and for Madison Central.”
Jones, who recently committed to Ball State, is looking forward to the chance to defend his state title and take a shot at improving upon the Flyers’ second-place team finish last year.
“It feels really nice to make it back to state because there were a lot of people this year who said we wouldn’t be as strong with Jacob (Cook) going on to UK, and we kind of proved them wrong and made a statement today,” he said.
Madison Central first-year head coach Kyle Congleton, who finished 29th in the state as a senior for the Indians in 2011, said he’s thrilled that this year’s team will get to experience the unique atmosphere of the state tournament.
“State is the most fun three days you’ll ever have,” he said. “I’m excited for the boys, and I’m excited that I get to go back and take them and show them what I experienced because I’ll never forget those three days I was there my senior year.”
Lafayette’s Joe Muschong and Henry Clay’s Will Ginter both shot a 71 to tie for second place and qualify for the state tournament as individuals. Scott County’s Mario Diaz earned the final individual bid with a 73.
Teams (top two qualify for state): Madison Central 297; Franklin Co. 302; Lexington Christian 309; Sayre 314; Scott Co. 315; Henry Clay 315; Lafayette 317; Lexington Catholic 321; Dunbar 322; Model 338; Clark Co. 341; Tates Creek 343; Berea 359; Woodford Co. 395; Bryan Station 429; Western Hills 469
Top individuals (q-qualify for state as individuals): 1. Zach Miller (Madison Central) 67; t2. q-Will Ginter (Henry Clay) 71; t2. q-Joe Muschong (Lafayette) 71; 4. Will Mohen (Franklin Co.) 72; t5: CJ Jones (Franklin Co.) 73; t5. q-Mario Diaz (Scott Co.) 73; t7. Benny Haggin (Sayre) 75; t7. Jansen Preston (Lex. Christian) 75; t7. Chris Koretski (Madison Central) 75; t10. Alan Showalter (Dunbar) 76; t10. Jackson Lalonde (Lex. Christian) 76; t10. Tyler Crafton (Madison Central) 76; t13. Michael Collins (Lex. Catholic) 77; t13. Evan Davis (Lex. Christian) 77; t15. Trevor Caudill (Scott Co.) 78; t15. Blake Maupin (Berea) 78; t15. Walker Lee (Franklin Co.) 78; t18. Will Harnice (Franklin Co.) 79; t18. Kip Ginsburg (Lex. Catholic) 79; t18. Kyle Hosey (Henry Clay) 79; t18. Jake McIntire (Lex. Christian) 79. t18. Henry Lane (Lafayette) 79. t18. Taelor Witt (Madison Central) 79. t18. Robert Bratton (Sayre) 79. t18. Ethan Hill (Dunbar) 79.
Girls: Oct. 3-5
Boys: Oct. 6-8
Where: Bowling Green Country Club