Zornes Mid-Ohio runner-up after playoff
WEST LAFAYETTE — Maybe Josh Zornes should get a bad feeling before every tournament.
The former Ironton Fighting Tigers’ golfer who will be a senior on the Shawnee State Bears team this fall, came within one shot of winning the prestigious Mid-Ohio Invitational on June 28 that was shortened to 18 holes due to rain.
Zornes birdied his final hole of regulation to create a three-way tie for the lead and force a playoff.
But on the eighth pressure-packed and grueling playoff hole, Justin Arens of Austin Peay University birdied the final hole and Zornes had to settle for a par.
Jack Carter of Iowa State was eliminated on the first hole of the longest playoff in the tournament’s history.
The first day was cancelled but Zornes took the opportunity to get some practice on the driving range. That was when he began to get some bad vibes.
“My papaw (Ray Zornes) and I were the only ones there and — to be honest — I was not very confident. I did not hit the ball well,” said Zornes.
When the tournament finally began on Sunday, the bad feelings began to get worse.
“The first five holes of the tournament were pretty scary, but I was able to manage only one bogey,” said Zornes.
“The putter saved me. But I birdied hole six to get back even. I was still hitting the ball so-so.”
That’s when the sinking feeling left and Zornes’ game began to click on the back nine.
He put together back-to-back birdies on a par 5 No. 13 and a par 3 No. 14.
“I told myself there was only one hard hole to get through and if I can make a few birdies, I could put a low number out there and see what happens,” said Zornes.
He lipped out for a birdie on a par 4 No. 15 and then dropped a birdie on a par 5 No. 16, but he had a bogey on No. 17 from the sand.
Just before the final hole, Zornes said his papaw told him this hole could mean something big, possibly winning or losing the tournament.
“He said ‘make it.’ I end up making the left to righter for birdie to past 68, a minus 3, the lowest I have ever shot in a competitive round,” said Zornes.
The bad feelings could have returned when Zornes was the first to tee off in the playoff. His shot ended in the rough while the other two hit great tee shots.
But Zornes recovered and hit a 212-yard shot to within 3-feet of the hole. Arens put his ball within 10-feet and they both birdied the hole.
The two golfers continued to alternate playing the No. 1 and No. 18 holes. After matching shots for seven holes, Zornes had to layup the Par 5 No. 18 after hitting out of a heavy rough.
“I layed up nicely and just hit my first poor wedge shot of the day and Justin took advantage and he had a 4- or 5-foot (putt) for birdie and I had to chip for birdie and I didn’t make it and he made his for the win,” said Zornes.
“I won’t lie. I was so surprised how well I played because of the start and my confidence was lacking in my irons. Still, it was a great experience and hopefully this play continues on to the fall semester for my senior year at Shawnee State.”
A total of 105 golfers from seven states competed in the 51st annual event.
The tough one-stroke loss kept Zornes from becoming the second Ironton golfer to win the event. Nathan Kerns — now playing on the pro tour — claimed the title in 2012.
However, the performance by Zornes just added to his already successful résumé.
Zornes was an All-Mid South Conference first team selection in golf and was named to the conference all-academic team. He was a second team all-league in golf as a sophomore.
Zornes was sixth in the Mid-South Conference tournament in 2014 and was 17th this past spring. He was seventh at the Bluegrass Fall Classic and was medalist at the Shawnee State Invitational.
Zornes currently ranks sixth on the Shawnee State all-time list for career averages with a minimum of five rounds.
He has had 39 rounds with a 78 average score.
Several former Ironton golfers are among the top 20 on the SSU list.
Brad Washburn is ninth with 35 rounds and a 78.2 average, Doug Joseph 16th with a 79.1 average over 28 rounds and Tony Brown — a former NAIA All-American — is No. 18 with a 79.3 average over 82 rounds.
At Ironton, Zornes was a two-time all-district selection and reached the state tournament.