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Ditcher overcomes slow start in Jr. Masters

Nolan Ditcher didn’t turn too many heads on his journey to the semifinal round of the International Junior Masters. The 16-year-old Randolph native has been consistent and methodical, but not dominant through the first three days of the tournament. Still, he has earned a spot in the final four of the championship flight, which will tee off this morning at East Aurora Country Club.

He played well in the first two rounds but failed to break par as he shot a 145. He didn’t exactly dominate his opponents in match play. He was 1-up after 18 holes against both Jack Gianniny and Brandon LaCasse, blaming rough beginnings for the close calls.

“I don’t know what led to,” the slow starts, Ditcher said. “I’m just glad I turned it around.”

Ditcher found himself in a similar situation in his quarterfinal match Thursday afternoon. He again started poorly and fell behind by three holes to his opponent, Colin Dubnik.

“He was hot out of the gate, I was slow out of the gate,” Ditcher said. “It turned into a really solid match.”

Ditcher soon began to work his way back as he took advantage of Dubnik bogeys on No. 6 and No. 8 to pull within one. After the 8th hole, lightning was spotted in the area, which led to a half-hour delay.

The postponement didn’t seem to bother Ditcher as he birdied on the 9th and 12th holes to take a two-hole lead.

Frustration soon began to set in for Dubnik, who bogeyed on 10, 14 and 17, and he took just two of the final 13 holes. This boosted Ditcher’s confidence, making him feel he had taken control of the match. “I felt there was a time around the seventh or eighth hole where the momentum started to shift back over to me,” Ditcher said. “I just kept at it and went with it.”

Ditcher joins Blake Gerber, Trevor Ranton and Will Thomson in the semifinals. Ditcher is scheduled to face Thomson at 8:50 a.m. The winners play for the championship this afternoon.

Ditcher knows he likely has another close match on his hands and his mindset going into it isn’t any different than it was for previous matches.

“Go out, play well and see what happens. That’s all you can do.”

This mindset has worked quite well for Ditcher this year. He finished third at the Section VI championships for Randolph High School and was the top Section VI finisher at the state championships.

Ditcher isn’t new to the Junior Masters either. He qualified in 2013. He struggled in the early rounds and didn’t make the championship flight. He ended up making it to the semifinals of the silver flight, where he missed a two-foot putt that would have extended the match.

While he had his eye on the championship flight going into this year’s tournament, he said that last year wasn’t an inspiration or motivation. “You go into every tournament with goals,” Ditcher said. “I try not to dwell on it too much. This year’s a new year and, obviously, it’s turned out well.”