CRANSTON – Jonathan Wahl left Cranston Country Club with a deeper appreciation of what it means to truly contend to win golf tournaments.
All the Lincoln High junior had to do was look over at what his playing partner – Portsmouth’s Jake Bauer – was doing over the final three holes, then refer back to his own scores. While Bauer closed strong with consecutive birdies on Nos. 16-17 and a par on 18, Wahl went par, par, bogey.
For the second straight year, Bauer found himself in the hunt for the Interscholastic League individual state championship. The numbers he concluded his round with ensured that the 11th grader would once again remain in the conversation. In Wahl’s case, he was going through a trial-and-error session that he hopes will lead to bigger and better when he returns to state competition a year from now.
After entering Day 2 of with a two-stroke advantage and a bull’s-eye entrenched on his back, Wahl posted an 8-over 79 to close with a two-day total of 150. He shared third-place honors with John Howell of Barrington and wound up one shot off the runner-up Bauer and three behind Barrington’s Dave Kraunelis, whose even-par 71 on Wednesday enabled him to defend his individual title.
“I wasn’t expecting to win, so coming in (third) isn’t bad,” Wahl acknowledged not long after being handed a registration form for the 18-hole New England high school golf meet, set for Monday, June 17 in Keene, N.H. “Of course, when you’re a couple of strokes off, you would like to be one shot better somewhere, and I know I could have found that somewhere out (on the course) today.”
Kraunelis helped lift the Eagles to their second straight team championship and the 24th in program history. The outing wasn’t without controversy, as La Salle’s Matt Corio would have finished second outright had he not signed an incorrect scorecard. Corio posted his second straight 74 to finish with a 36-hole total of 148.
As for Wahl, all he could do is tip his cap and marvel at the upward swing Bauer enjoyed as the pair made their way down the home stretch. Bauer unleashed a Tiger Woods-esque fist pump upon sinking a long and winding putt on the 545-yard, par-five 16, while Wahl two-putted for a par save.
Wahl deserves praise for rebounding after a tough beginning that saw him bogey five of the first seven holes. He birdied the 120-yard, par-three 8th before bogeying the next hole to end the front side with a plus-five 40. A day earlier, Wahl was two-over 37 as he made his way to the 10th tee box.
“Bogeying five, six and seven is what killed me,” said Wahl.
After enduring a tough time on the 125-yard, par-three 12th – a flubbed second shot out of the bunker and a three-putt left Wahl with a tough-to-swallow, double-bogey five – the Lincoln golfer strung together five straight pars.
He was able to rebound after his tee shot on the 348-yard, par-four 14th landed amongst a gathering of trees located to the left of the fairway. From roughly 150 yards out, Wahl hit a low liner with his 8-iron that rolled onto the green and up toward the hole. He two-putted to notch par.
“I felt that if I shot the same thing as Jake (over the final nine holes) that I had a chance,” Wahl felt. “I felt pretty good going through the back nine, but he made a couple of long putts and that was the difference right there.”
Wahl’s summertime golf itinerary will include entering as many R.I. Challenge Cup and American Junior Golf Association events as he possibly can.
Wahl wasn’t the only local golfer to see his Day 2 score experience a spike in the wrong direction. Burrillville’s Matt Morse fired an 82 to finish with a two-day score of 159. He sandwiched a pair of birdies around a bogey on No. 4 and a double bogey on five.
North Smithfield’s Max LaPlante and Tom Crudele of Mount St. Charles each finished with 36-hole totals of 164. LaPlante rebounded from a shaky 48 on the front nine to post a 39 on the backside to close with an 87. Crudele also experienced better results upon making the turn, shooting 39 on the back nine to post an 84. He shot a 45 on the front.