WHEELING – Green, yellow, orange, red, orange.
It sort of seems like a twisted game of Simon (For the younger readers, you might have to Google what Simon is).
But it hasn’t been a game at all to the Buckhannon-Upshur Buccaneer golf team.
The Bucs earned a berth into today and tomorrow’s state tournament last week while finishing second in the Region I championships while the county was coded as yellow on Governor Jim Justice’s DOE COVID-19 map.
Then they watched as the county went orange on Saturday, red on Sunday and back to orange on Monday.
When the county went red on Sunday, it meant no state championship for the Bucs.
That news was broken to the Bucs as they were already in Wheeling on Sunday preparing for the state outing at the Speidel Golf Course at Oglebay
So the team went from the high of preparing to compete for a state championship to being told by the WVSSAC that they weren’t…all because the county went red.
Frantic to get the team back into the championship, parents and supporters of the team were encouraged to call the governor’s office asking him to reconsider letting the Bucs play in the title contest.
What made it even worse for head coach Jason Westfall and his Bucs was that as a preventive measure, the team was all tested this past Saturday and the entire team came back with no positive results.
Then the good news happened on Monday morning as the county went back to orange, which meant the Bucs were back in business to compete for the state title.
“It’s been a wild ride the last few days,” noted Westfall.
A wild ride that now appears that it is going to end with a state tournament appearance and a celebration of the climb back for Westfall and his Bucs.
The Bucs made the state tournament in 2014 and 2016 with teams led by Christian McKisic who earned low medalist honors at the state tournament in 2016.
But by the time Westfall took over the team in the fall of 2018, the roster he inherited was predominantly made up exclusively of underclassmen with most of it being freshmen.
To say that the young team of 2018 took their lumps would be an understatement.
The team stayed the course though, and got better in 2019 before topping off the resurgence this year with a berth to the state tournament.
The foursome that will be playing for the Bucs today and tomorrow will be four juniors – Evan Coffman, Isaac Lane, Landon Hitt and Tucker Hurst.
“I have the best job in the world,” remarked Westfall. “Spending time on the golf course with great people and a great team. It is very gratifying seeing these young men set goals, and buy into the fact it does not happen instantly and commit to their goals long-term with hard work. This has been a commitment from their families as well. The time they have spent on the golf course building, shaping and growing their game through all the peaks and valleys is tremendous. To be along for the ride is very special to me.”
Westfall said that despite not finding much success early during their freshman years, he could see this team was building into something special.
“When I saw the commitment to their game with the countless hours spent on their game, yes I knew they would be successful,” stated Westfall. “I believe in reaping what we sow, and they sowed hard work, determination and they honored their natural abilities by believing. These are ingredients to success.”
Westfall said his team’s commitment to improve was second to none.
“They are extremely committed to the game,” noted Westfall. “They understand that the golf course should be like their backyard. They have traveled to Florida and South Carolina to play during the winter. They travel three to four times a week all year to lessons in Weston, Clarksburg and Morgantown. They use simulators, indoor driving ranges and their own garages. They spend time playing with other golfers from all over the country. They meet new people, play at different courses and spend the time when no one is watching hitting ball after ball. Make no mistake they have worked countless hours on their games. When I step in front of them, I am able to work with them on competitive golf situations on how to score and manage the game. It’s a tremendous advantage coaching players at that level. And they have seen other great golfers do the same from other schools and our own Christian McKisic.”
Joining the Bucs for the 36-hole Class AAA championship will be Cabell Midland, George Washington, Jefferson, Parkersburg South, Washington, Wheeling Park and Woodrow Wilson.
Westfall sees three teams, along with his Bucs, possibly emerging as the 2020 champion.
“Wheeling Park, George Washington and Parkersburg South are all very talented teams,” stated Westfall. “They score well and limit their mistakes. It seems like they all are long ball hitters with a soft touch around the greens. That said, we expect to play up to our abilities and to compete for the state title as well. We know that everything is in front of us and for us to achieve it we need to continue to step forward. We look at this as a great experience and another check point along our way to our goal. This is the best competition at the highest level in the largest class. This is what we wanted, and we are prepared for. I expect us to be in the mix for the state championship as a team and individually.”
Regardless how the Bucs fare over the next two days, Westfall remarked that the support for his team this season has been tremendous.
“I want to thank the community for their support of this team,” concluded Westfall. “I want to thank Buckhannon Country Club and special members Rick Stocking, Bobby Gompers, Howard Feola and Hank Ellis. I want to thank Bel Meadow Golf Course and Stonewall Golf Course for all their support. I also want to thank the other members of our team Brady Hurst, Brayden Hamer, Bryson Bastida, Jaden Westfall, and Tucker Burr.”