It's becoming one of the great rivalries in

By David Carducci Record-Courier staff writer Published:

It's becoming one of the great rivalries in northeast Ohio high school golf.

Last year Roosevelt beat Hudson twice during the regular season, each time by a mere stroke, setting up a duel at the Western Reserve Conference championship.

The Explorers held off Roosevelt by seven strokes in the tournament to force a share of the WRC title.

The stage is set once again for the two teams to battle for the conference championship Thursday at Windmill Lakes Golf Club Thursday.

"This is kind of what we expected," said Roosevelt coach Garry Black. "It was this way last year and we've had some tough battles through the years.

"Last year we bet them in the dual matches by one shot each time and they won the tournament so we were co-champions. This year we split during the season ... and we both finished 9-1, so it will all come down to whoever wins the tournament."

If Roosevelt has an advantage over Hudson, it could be experience. Four of the Rough Riders top six have experienced the WRC tournament, including two-time defending champion Justin Miller.

"Justin won as a freshman and a sophomore," said Black. "I don't want to put too much pressure on him, so I'll tell him to just go out and play well ... But he is certainly capable of winning again. He has one of the best averages around (37.6 over nine holes), so he is definitely a favorite."

Behind Miller are seniors Nate Marshall at No. 3 and Bret Beatty at No. 4, each boasting matching scoring averages of 39.5.

The Rough Riders No. 4 man will be junior Steve Fowler, the most improved golfer from last season with a 40.5 average.

Making their first appearance in the WRC tournament are junior Ryan Williams and freshman Danridge Giltz.

Hudson coach Rob Yanko is counting heavily on his team's No. 1 man Pete Phipps (37.0 avg.) to improve on last year's performance at the conference championship when he shot 77 and finished third overall as a freshman.

"We are looking for Phipps to lead us," said Yanko. "For a sophomore he shows amazing poise and steadiness. A lot of young kids get flustered under pressure, but he has consistently held his own ... As usual, it is going to be a dogfight between us and Kent. It's been a good healthy competition for us even prior to being in the WRC."

While Roosevelt and Hudson battle for the championship, Ravenna will be battling to finish its season on an positive note after a discouraging final three weeks of the season.

The Ravens dropped their last 14 matches of the year after losing their top two golfers to injury and sickness three weeks ago.

"Our No. 1 man Mike Fenstermacher slashed his hand and was out for three weeks," said Ravenna coach Russ Flarida. "On the very same day Mike was injured, (No. 2 man) Jeff Pyles was admitted to the hospital with mononucleosis. We lost him for the duration of the season, and he was just beginning to play his best golf of the year before the illness."

Ravenna welcomed Fenstermacher back to the lineup Monday against Marlington.

"He shot a 43 for nine holes, and he said it hurt a little bit," said Flarida. "He's a class act. He hasn't been walking around sulking. Even though his hand was hurting, he came to me and said `coach, this is my senior year and I'm not going to miss the conference tournament and I'm not going to miss the sectionals. I'll play with the pain."

While Fenstermacher and Pyles were out, sophomore Tom Ludwick stood in as the Ravens' No. 1 and showed great improvement with rounds averaging in the low 40s.

Ludwick's emergence and the varsity experience thrust on other young Ravenna golfers has Flarida hoping the Ravens can surprise some teams Thursday.

"I hope we can score well," said Flarida. "Hopefully there are some teams we can beat. We are not far behind teams like Barberton and Nordonia. And hopefully we can gain something positive going into the sectionals at Good Park next week."

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