MHC BOYS GOLF - Rams struggle on 14th, but recover down the stretch
by: David Ball Central Catholic's Ryan Nolan steps of the tee-box on the front-nine last week at Rose City. Playing out of the lead group, he helped the Rams build a seven-stroke lead through 13 holes.

PORTLAND - Central Catholic held off a late surge by Barlow to claim the opening boys golf tournament of the Mount Hood Conference season last week at Rose City Golf Course.

Central Catholic won the tournament with a 330 team total, seeing a slim lead at the turn become a seven-stroke advantage midway through the back nine. But Barlow mounted a comeback by picking up five strokes on the 344-yard, 14th hole. Nick Strebin led the charge with a birdie out of the second group, while Central struggled posting double-and quadruple-bogeys.

The Bruins closed to within a single stroke when Seth Misenhimer recorded a birdie on the 145-yard, 15th hole - the shortest on the course. But Barlow was unable to pull even over the final three holes, as Central's Carsten Concon tallied pars on the 17th and 18th to secure the team win.

'I'm expecting these kind of nailbiters all season, we're just that close,' Rams' coach Steve Pyne said. 'We didn't have multiple big numbers on our cards. The guys were savvy enough to hit a bad hole, say 'that's over' and move on with their round.'

Ryan Nolan tallied an 80 out of the lead group, highlighting his day with back-to-back birdies on the front nine. He set up near a pond on the edge of fifth green and drained a chip-in. Nolan followed by out driving the rest of his group by at least 30 yards on the par-4, sixth hole, hitting his approach to within six feet and rolling in the short putt.

Concon also carded an 80, finishing the day at par on a team-high 11 holes. Senior Mason Virnig, playing his first varsity match, tallied an 85 out of the fifth group, shaving seven strokes off the team's score.

Strebin paced the Bruins with a 3-over-par 75 to take home medalist honors by five strokes. He started out with pars on six of his first seven holes. He almost finished the front side with a birdie, dropping his approach shot in the center of the green leaving him with a six-foot putt that rolled just over the right edge of the cup.

Strebin picked up three birdies after making the turn, including the 466-yard, 11th hole - ranked the second toughest on that side of the course.

'He had a couple lip out on him on the front and I could sense his frustration, but once he got that first birdie he just kept stringing good shots together,' Barlow coach Ron Jones said.

Matt Holton was second on the team with an 83.

The Bruins entered the day with three players competing in their first varsity match.

'Being that close is a good sign,' Jones said. 'We're not real experienced, but they went out there and showed some confidence.'

Gresham was third in the team standings with a 346 total, holding off David Douglas by three strokes. Austin Spicer led the Gophers with an 81, while Adrian Koza shot the same in the Scots' No. 1 hole.

Reynolds' Mitchell Billets carded a team-best 87.

The teams return to play at 1 p.m. Thursday, April 7, on the eastside course at Glendoveer.

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