It wasn’t until Tuesday, when Nathan Chuwait woke up to the sound of pouring rain, that the thought of winning the Virginia AAA Northern Region golf individual title crossed his mind.
Just a freshman at Jefferson, Chuwait figured simply qualifying for the state tournament was a lofty enough goal. And even after he finished atop the leader board during Monday’s first round at the Twin Lakes Golf Course in Clifton, he knew nothing was guaranteed in a field that included powerhouses Chantilly, Madison and Langley.
But heavy rain canceled Tuesday’s round, meaning by rule that the first-day scores would serve as the final results and making Chuwait the unassuming victor with a 2-under-par 69.
Chantilly won the team competition, carding a 301 to hold off Madison (302) and defending AAA champion Langley (303).
“Honestly, I’m pretty shocked,” said Chuwait, who also won the individual Liberty District crown last week. “I wasn’t expecting to win, especially against some extremely tough competition, but it feels great.”
The freshman’s ability to remain poised on two of the course’s toughest holes, Nos. 10 and 18, played a major role in his success.
On the 10th hole, Chuwait blasted his tee shot wide right into the rough. His next shot wasn’t much better, as he hit it so far into the woods that he needed help finding the ball. After chipping out of the trees, he somehow recovered, using his 7-iron to hit an approach shot onto the green before knocking in a 15-foot putt to save par.
On No. 18, also a par-5, Chuwait decided to play it safe, using his 3-wood off the tee for a straight shot before eventually carding a birdie.
“He was just driving it straight and hammering the ball,” Jefferson Coach John Myers said. “The guys he was playing with were pretty big, but he was staying with them on drives and able to rescue himself when he needed to.
“I tell you what: With him being just a freshman, nobody is as surprised as me!” Myers added with a laugh.
The second-place finish of fellow Jefferson golfer Julie Luo proved just as satisfying for Myers. Luo shot a 70, gaining momentum off impressive shots like a 35-foot putt on the eighth hole and a 25-foot chip-in for birdie on No. 9.
“The tees we played from weren’t where we practiced from, so I felt like I was guessing where to hit it sometimes,” Luo admitted. “But those back-to-back birdies helped me gain confidence.”
Also headed to next week’s AAA tournament at Red Wing Golf Club in Virginia Beach will be Chantilly, which remains undefeated through 13 tournaments. The Chargers were led by the consistent play of Connor Messick (74), Ju Hee Bae (75), Vishal Giri (76) and Mike Sciorra (76)
“We graduated seven seniors last year, so with the exception of Ju Hee, none of our top four golfers had any postseason experience,” Chargers Coach Kurt Sporkmann said. “So for them to go out Monday and play like they did is a testament to their hard work all season.”
And as his group of newcomers continues to progress, Sporkmann also hopes his team’s fortunes at the state tournament take the same upward trajectory. Two years ago, the Chargers finished third and last year, they took second behind Langley.
“I’d love to see that progression continue and us finish in first,” Sporkmann said with a laugh. “There are going to be some really good teams out there, so we’re just hoping to compete and do our best.”
1. Nathan Chuwait (Jefferson): 69
2. Julie Luo (Jefferson): 70
3. Shannon Brooks (Madison): 71
4. Connor Messick (Chantilly): 74
5. Edric Wung (Langley): 74
6. Chris Brugge (Langley): 74
7. Won Suk Rhee (Langley): 74
8. Matt Ashley (Stone Bridge): 74
9. Ju Hee Bae (Chantilly): 75
10. Vishal Giri (Chantilly): 76
11. Mike Sciorra (Chantilly): 76
12. Justin Nguyen (Langley): 76
1. Chantilly, 301
2. Madison, 302
3. Langley, 303
4. Centreville, 315
5. South County, 322