The Speidel Course at Oglebay Park in Wheeling is the site of the annual state golf tournament in West Virginia.
The famed Robert Trent Sr. design is also known as one of the more difficult layouts in the Mountain State.
While the course has made numerous good golfers look bad at times, over the last decade, area teams from Region 3 have fared very well, especially in Class AA.
Westside standout Colin Bowles won the AA individual title in 2014. Since that time, Region 3 has claimed six more low medalist honors. Five from Class AA and one in Class AAA.
In AA, Todd Duncan from Shady Spring won back-to-back titles in 2019 and 2020. Wyoming East standout Brett Laxton won in 2016 and Carson Proffitt from PikeView was the 2018 champion. Bryson Beaver from Herbert Hoover was the lead golfer in 2021.
Beckley’s Zan Hill added his name to the Region 3 champions list winning the AAA title in 2021.
Wyoming East was runner-up in the team competition in 2015 before winning the state championship a year later.
Westside made it two titles in a row for Region 3, and Wyoming County, prior to Shady Spring and Herbert Hoover being crowned champions in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
When the 2023 state golf tournament tees off Tuesday morning, Region 3 will once again be in the conversation for state title winners.
Greenbrier East and Beckley will both be serious contenders for the Class AAA team crown.
East, who will be making its second straight trip north, slipped past its longtime rival by one shot to win the Region 3 title last Tuesday at Big Bend Golf Club.
The Spartans have two golfers that competed in the state tournament last year in senior Jake Honaker and junior Isaac Cantrell. East also has a dynamic freshman in Isaac Hutchison. Hutchison tied Beckley’s Jonah Willson for the regional low medalist honor by shooting 66.
“The pieces are there for us, it is all about the course,” Greenbrier East head coach Doug Bicksler said. “I am hoping they can keep their heads about them. It is tough up there, but seven-over (par) won (the individual title) last year.”
The Flying Eagles also have experience on the Speidel Course having won the Region 3 title two years ago.
Willson and Ian Thompson are both seniors and were on the team that made the trip to Wheeling.
Willson, who participated in the state tournament his freshman and sophomore year, has played the best golf of his high school career heading into states. Along with being a key member for Beckley’s title chances, Willson will be a contender for the individual title as well.
“States will be really interesting because I think we have a shot this year. Everybody is playing really well,” Willson said.
Thompson was solid in the regional tournament and Beckley has received strong play from freshman Tyler Stover all season.
Nate Dolin (Greenbrier East) and Blake Nixon (Beckley) rounded out the regional squads for the AAA hopefuls.
Shady Spring heads north without the burden of expectations this year. Although the Tigers may be under the radar, they clearly have the weapons to win another AA state title.
The biggest strength for the Tigers has been consistency with all four players having the ability to score low.
Cooper Ward and Tyler Beard both played well last year on the Speidel Course. The talented sophomores finished inside the top-20 and helped lead Shady to a fourth place finish.
Ward took low medalist honors at the AA Region 3 tournament to lead the Tigers to the title, but all four Shady golfers were among the top-five scores.
Junior Jack Williams was third overall and senior Nate Richmond had the fifth best total of the day.
Winfield will be a heavy favorite to win the AA title, but after battling the Generals in a match to end the regular season, the Tigers are confident they can get the job done.
“Once you win the regional, the pressure is off of you. It is just a free run from there,” Shady Spring head coach Greg Daniel said. “We are going up there to have a good time, but we totally feel like we can win this thing.”
Nicholas County qualified for the Class AA tournament as well. The Grizzlies will be making their first state tournament appearance under head coach Tom McGirl who has led the team the last six years.
Although Nicholas County will be a dark horse to win the championship, Cole Brown, Maddox Smallwood, Caleb Jarvis and Braden Brown are capable of putting together solid rounds.
“We were fortunate to survive and advance,” McGirl said after the regional tournament. “This year we have had a lot of contributions. We have had four different medalist. Usually that is a sign that your decent. Hopefully we can relax and play golf up there.”
Kerri-Anne Cook from Westside will make a run at the AA individual title. Cook has been an accomplished player at all levels across the state.
The senior phenom has won multiple Callaway Jr. Tour Player of the Year honors and is a two-time winner of the W.Va. Jr. Am. The second win coming earlier this year.
Cook is the two-time Lootpress Female Golfer of the Year and has also made two previous appearances at the state tournament finishing third as a freshman and sixth last year as a junior.
“Hitting fairways up there really helps. Mostly though I know the course really well and I am comfortable with it. I have played the course since I was like 10 or 11, so I know it’s little tricks and stuff” Cook said.
Camden Deeb from Bluefield also qualified as an individual and will make his first ever appearance at the state tournament. The Beaver senior has only played golf for a couple of years and earned his spot in a playoff at the regional tournament.
Summers County will take the most experienced team to Wheeling this year. The Bobcats won their second straight regional crown last week and will be making their third straight state tournament appearance.
Sean Cooper, Brian Cooper and Marshall Legg have played the Speidel Course the last two seasons, making steady improvement.
The boys from Hinton were sixth two years ago and fourth last year. Sean Cooper finished inside the top-10 a year ago, only 10 shots off the lead. Brian Cooper was 19th and then freshman Xavier Honaker was 21st in his first state tournament appearance. Honaker led the Bobcats at the regional tournament with a 72.
“I am proud of my guys and they have consistently played well this year,” Summers County head coach Jarod Ewing said. “That is what we need moving forward. Anybody can get hot at anytime, but I think we have been playing pretty solid all season. Hopefully we are peaking at the right time.”
Rocky Frye from Montcalm and Andrew Addair from River View qualified as individuals. Frye shot 67 at Pipestem to punch his ticket to Wheeling, while Addair will be making his second straight appearance at the state tournament.
The 2023 state golf tournament pairings and scoreboard can be found at the link below.