Four holes into the Maryland State Golf Tournament on Monday at Clustered Spires Golf Course in Frederick, defending champion Joe Gross of La Plata had his swing in check and his round in rhythm. Gross, who won the individual title as a freshman with McDonough last year, made four routine pars to begin his round and his quest for a second straight title.
Then he got to the fifth tee and waited. And waited.
When he finally stepped up to his tee shot, 30 minutes had passed in the chilly, rainy Frederick morning.
"I was rolling along pretty good," Gross said. "Then there was a big wait on the tee box, and I kind of tightened up and got cold."
Moments later, a thinned approach shot led to a double bogey blemish on Gross's scorecard. "My round just kind of went down from there," he said.
It took a painfully slow seven hours for Gross to finish his round with a 4-over-par 76. He wound up in an eight-way tie for ninth place, eight shots behind champion Brian Carneal of Northeast. Carneal made a three-foot par putt on his final hole to edge Nick DeSimone of Liberty by a stroke.
Sophomore Stephanie Connelly completed a sweep for Northeast by winning her second consecutive girls' state title. Connelly shot a 2-over-par 74 to beat both Chrissy Gonzalez of Great Mills and Michelle Grilli of Pikesville by two strokes.
La Plata, which went unbeaten during the regular season and won every tournament it entered, placed third in the Class 4A/3A team competition with 321 points.
Churchill of Montgomery County won the team competition with 307, and Liberty was second with 318. Wootton (325) was fourth, followed by Severna Park (329).
A restructured format accompanied the inclement weather and slow play, which included a four-group pile-up on the par-3 16th. As a result of the sniper attacks in the Washington area, the tournament was moved from its usual location at the University of Maryland, postponed a week and shortened from two rounds to one.
"I think the biggest disappointment was that it was just one day," La Plata Coach Mike Meiser said. "I mean, put it on any course but make it a two-day tournament. Because on one day you can have people have a career round and have a great one-day tournament. It doesn't give [players] time to get a feel for the course."
No one in La Plata's feared foursome, which set Southern Maryland Athletic Conference match records for low 18-hole team score and low nine-hole team average this season, appeared to have that feel. Kyle Murray shot an 80, Brent Martin an 81 and Tim Deavers an 84.
"It wasn't the equivalent of a usual state championship," Gross said. "It just felt kind of jammed and there was a lot of waiting. A lot of waiting. Congratulations to the guys that shot well, but I know this didn't benefit me at all."
Gonzalez's round also took nearly seven hours, but the Great Mills junior tried to make the best of it.
"The slow round, I kind of got used to it, so I took my time with everything," Gonzalez said. "I had a positive mind frame for the rain and the cold, and I guess I did fine."
Gonzalez started with five pars but bogeyed holes 15, 16 and 17 to fall behind Connelly. She made her lone birdie at the par-3 second.
"I played pretty solid golf, and I made a few errors here and there, but that's how it is," Gonzalez said.
Other area competitors included D.R. Cox of McDonough, who tied for ninth in the boys' competition with a 76, and his teammate Matt Wagner, who tied for 32nd with an 80. Calvert's Ian Umphrey tied for 43rd with an 81. Sarah Pineda (96) of Thomas Stone placed 23rd in the girls' competition.