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Kaufmann celebrates two milestones; Iroquois senior beats Romano by one stroke

Ryan Kaufmann had more to celebrate on Monday than just his 18th birthday.

The Iroquois senior also won the Section VI golf championship after he fired a 116 over 27 holes to take the title in a field of 69 at Diamond Hawk in Cheektowaga. The top nine advance to the New York State Championship at Cornell University on June 2-4.

"This is by far my best birthday ever," said Kaufmann, who had never qualified for sectionals until this year. "On the first hole when the nerves were really going, I was about 150 yards out and I put a 9-iron to about a foot. I saw that my game was on, so I thought maybe I can do something special."

Kaufmann edged senior Andrew Romano of Depew, who shot a 117, and was hoping to win since claiming the title as an eighth grader. Kaufmann was two shots back after the first 18, but then turned in a solid 36 over his final nine holes.

Kaufmann and Romano both carded 80s after the first 18. Kaufmann was just one stroke better over the final nine.

"I had a ton of chances to make up a lot of strokes [but didn't] because I can't putt out here, and with my driver, I lost like three golf balls," said Romano. "The first 18 I wasn't worried about anything because you can't win it in the first 18. I made three birdies [over the final nine holes] and the one on 18 [out of a bunker] was probably one of the best birdies in my life, but it doesn't mean anything if you make bogies everywhere else."

The event was slowed by a 30-minute lightning delay with 23 golfers still on the course with two holes remaining. Twenty-three golfers made the cut of 84.

Kaufmann and Romano are joined on the state team by sophomore Kevin Borowicz of Grand Island, junior David Berkun of Williamsville North, eight-grader Nolan Ditcher of Randolph, junior Nick Ortiz of Frontier, freshman Brad Belote of Lancaster, eight-grader Ben Reichert of Williamsville North and sophomore Wil Bathurst of Olean. Bathurst won a one-hole playoff over senior Ryan Sweeney of Clarence and junior Wil Lockwood of Maple Grove, when all three finished tied at 123.

The field included junior Mike Rusk of Williamsville East, who last week won the ECIC tennis championship. He is the No. 1 seed going into today's first round of the sectional championship.

"Both sports are really my favorites," said Rusk, who made the cut with an 83. "Tennis is mainly my dominant sport, but I picked up golf just a couple years ago, and my backhand in tennis, since I'm a lefty, is kind of similar to a golf swing. It helps, and I have pretty good hand-eye coordination."

Chip shots: Ortiz advanced despite taking an eight on No. 12. He rallied back with birdies on No. 10, No. 15 and No. 17. Reichert birdied his second-to-last hole on the first 18 to make the cut by one stroke. Bathurst played on Olean's Section VI champion basketball team. Belote had a nice chip-in for par on No. 18. Berkun saved par on the first of the last nine holes after hitting into the greenside heather. Borowicz holed out of the bunker on No. 7 for birdie. Eight of the nine qualifiers will be making their first trip to states. Romano is the elder statesman making his fourth trip to Cornell. He will continue his career at Canisius College where he received a partial scholarship. Kaufmann will play collegiately at Mercyhurst in Erie, Pa.