As the rest of his foursome prepared for the 18th hole in Wednesday’s final round of the Maryland state golf tournament, Bennett Buch strolled off to the side of the green. From there, the Marriotts Ridge freshman carefully placed his ball in a cleaner and wiped his hands on a hanging towel, all the while studying the par-4 layout in front of him.
Normally a cool customer, this was far from Buch’s typical pre-shot routine. However, he was taking no chances with just one stroke separating him from two other opponents.
“I made sure to cover all my bases, and I actually was going for a birdie on the last hole because I didn’t want to get stuck in a playoff,” said Buch, who shot a 68 on the first day of the tournament.
Though he ended up settling for par on the hole, Buch’s wish of a playoff-free title came true as he carded a two-day score of 4-under-par 138 to win the boys’ crown by one shot. Pikesville’s Matt Oshrine (66-73 — 139) and Centennial’s Connor Flach (71-68 — 139) finished in a tie for second at the University of Maryland Golf Course in College Park.
Buch’s poise down the stretch paid dividends for his team as well. After watching their first-day lead vanish in each of the past four years, the Mustangs finally broke through for the 2A/1A title with a score of 611. Wootton won the 4A/3A crown in its first state appearance in 15 years.
After finishing as the girls’ state runner-up the past two years, Atholton junior Bryana Nguyen was so fearful of another disappointment that her hands trembled while she attempted a seven-foot putt on the final hole. Nguyen sank the shot to secure a one-stroke victory with a two-day score of 73-71 — 144.
“I was so relieved when the ball went in and it was over,” Nguyen said. “The girl I lost to the last two years graduated, so it would have been a shame if I couldn’t get it done this year.”
Just behind her was Wootton’s Delaney Shah, who used four birdies on Wednesday to fire a final score of 3-over-par 145 and help deliver the Patriots’ team title.
Entering Wednesday, Pikesville’s Oshrine was the talk of the tournament thanks to an impressive score of 66 on the first day. But once the final round got underway, Buch took control.
Following a wayward tee shot, Buch chipped in from the rough for a birdie on No. 1. Another chip-in on the fifth hole from about 20 feet out marked the third birdie of the day for Buch, who had putted just five times up to that point.
Bogeys on Nos. 12 and 14 left the door open for Oshrine, who nailed a par putt to retake the lead entering the 15th hole. But this proved short-lived, as Buch carded consecutive birdies to move ahead for good.
“To have a freshman play as well as Bennett did, that was really the closer we needed to finally get the team win,” Marriotts Ridge Coach Mark Dubbs said. “It was still a pretty nerve-wracking day, though.”