WESTPORT - While many of the golfers in Friday's second round of the Section VII Championships experienced some rough moments that turned into double bogeys or worse, Ethan Votraw kept his troubles to a minimum on the Westport Country Club's par-72 layout.
After playing in the Section VII Championships for the sixth time and earning five trips to the state tournament at Cornell University, Votraw finally claimed his first individual title with a two-day total of 149.
He shot a 75 on Thursday to share the first-round lead with defending champion John Hickey, then fired a 74 in the second round to clinch a two-stroke victory. In a bid to repeat as champion, Hickey, an AuSable Valley senior was runner-up with a 151.
Saranac Lake sophomore Dustin Fischer tees off on the 17th hole in Friday’s second round of the Section VII Championships at the Westport Country Club. Fischer finished fourth with a 158 total.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
With a 35 on the front nine, Votraw stretched his lead to four shots to put distance between himself and the rest of the field early. That proved to be valuable late as Hickey played steady down the stretch and Votraw finished with three bogeys, his only three of the round.
"I'm glad I got a win before I finished high school," Votraw said. "Since seventh grade, I've wanted to win this tournament. If it hadn't been for the last few holes, this would have been a really good round. For the most part, I stayed out of trouble, struck the ball well and made putts fall when I needed to."
While Votraw was nailing down an individual title and qualifying for his sixth state championships, Saranac Lake's Dustin Fischer and Kyle Dora were earning their first trip to Cornell. Fischer was only one stroke behind Votraw and Hickey after firing a 76 Thursday, but the Red Storm sophomore fell out of contention for the title over the final 18 holes. He claimed fourth place with an 82 and a 158 total. Dora added a second-round 84 to his 82 Thursday to finish fifth with a 166 total.
Northeastern Clinton's Nolan Reid carded rounds of 77 and 76 to place third with a 153 total.
"My goal was to win, but I definitely wanted to make it to Cornell," said Fischer, who played in the final foursome with Votraw, Hickey and Reid. "When we started today, I was looking to win. But when Ethan shot a 35 on the front, I didn't think I had much of a shot at it. I got a little hope back when I birdied 10 and 11, but then I double bogeyed 12. At that point, I just wanted to keep playing well and make sure I made it to states."
Consistent play helped Dora take advantage of his last opportunity to compete at the high school level. As a senior in his third season playing with the Red Storm golf team, Dora reached his goal of heading to Cornell.
"It's a relief, it's awesome," Dora said. "On the last two holes, I was getting pretty antsy. I did finish with a double and triple (bogey), but I'm pretty happy with how I played. I just think I played too fast at the end. My putting really helped me over the last two days. Now it's on to Cornell."
All six members of Saranac Lake's sectional title winning team made the cut to play Friday, and all had hopes of getting their first taste of competing in the state tournament. But only Fischer and Dora saw that happen. For the second straight year, Matt Clark was as close as you could get. By finishing 10th a year ago, Clark was the Section VII alternate. On Friday, the senior landed in the same spot in his last bid for a state berth. He was easily in the running with an 80 in the first round, but turned in a 91 Friday for a 171 total.
Ethan Sawyer, a freshman, finished 12th with a 172, Devin Darrah was 18th with a 178 and Blake Gregory finished tied for 25th with a 189 total.
Senior Dustin Jacques and Nick Reid represented Lake Placid in the final round. Jacques shot a 79 Thursday and was in the hunt for a top-nine finish. But he struggled with a 92 Friday to finish in 11th place with a 171 total. Reid was tied for 20th, shooting rounds of 86 and 96 for a 182 total.