A record third straight state title hardly seemed in the cards for Churchill after the Bulldogs completed the first day of the Maryland 4A/3A Championship 11 strokes back of the lead last week.
But the Bulldogs stormed back in historic fashion on Thursday in the final round by posting a 292 -- with no member of the four-player team shooting worse than 75 -- to claim the title with an overall score of 608 at the University of Maryland Golf Course. The mark was 10 strokes better than second place Northern and just three off its own state record.
Churchill became the first school in Maryland history to win three consecutive state golf titles.
Just how the Bulldogs pulled it off is almost as noteworthy as the record itself.
Churchill's turnaround was as impressive as it was sudden. Ryan Wielgus was its steadiest performer, shooting a 74 in Tuesday's first round followed by a 75 on Thursday. However, Matt Benz, Casey Finger and Billy Peel shot a combined 242 on Tuesday but rebounded Thursday with a remarkable 217.
In all, Churchill had a 24-stroke turnaround when it mattered most.
"This one was very satisfying," said Churchill Coach Arnold Tarzy, who pointed to his players' experience in tournament play as a reason for the second-day comeback. "These kids are tournament veterans. They travel away from home, get on airplanes to play in top tournaments in the nation. So they are prepared for the pressures that are on them coming into the last day of a two-day state final.
"It was simply a matter of attitude. We weren't different golfers than we were the first round. When they played as bad as they could possibly play the first day, we still managed to come within three shots of the state record in the end. We were pretty proud of the way we did it. We needed all four players to play well and all four played well. When the highest scorer of the four is 75, that's a big-time performance."
Churchill swept all four postseason tournaments that it competed in. In addition to the state tournament, the Bulldogs claimed the Yachmetz Division, District II and Montgomery County tournaments.
Walter Johnson senior Dennis Kwon saw his six-stroke lead disappear over the final nine holes as Wilbert Lynn III of Baltimore City College birdied the final four holes for a two-day total of 140 and one-stroke victory over Kwon.
Kwon opened the tournament with a first round 69 and shot 32 over the first nine holes on Thursday. But he posted a triple bogey on the 10th hole and could not keep up with Lynn's furious pace down the stretch.
"I was rooting for Dennis, no doubt about it," Tarzy said. "I went up to him before the final round and said, 'I don't know if you believe this or not, but I'm pulling for you.' There is no reason not to pull for Dennis. He's a great kid who works hard on his game."