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Reichert repeats as medalist in Section VI qualifier

It would be easy to assume Ben Reichert had an off day just by looking at his scorecard. But that thick piece of paper sometimes hides the truth.

The fact is the Williamsville North senior golfer played pretty well Monday and once again showed he is in a class of his own. During a Section VI boys golf state qualifier played in winds that ranged from 25 to 40 mph at River Oaks Golf Course, a composed, confident Reichert earned medalist honors for the second year in a row.

Reichert fired a 27-hole score of 4-over-par 112 to earn a spot in the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association Tournament for the fourth time in five seasons. While Monday’s score was worse than the 3-under-par 105 he posted during last year’s qualifier, his five-shot margin of victory on a day better suited for hiding indoors instead of playing in the great outdoors was the same as last year.

“I knew scores would be higher this year,” said Reichert, who will play collegiately at East Tennessee State. “This year I played just as good if not better than last year. I knew if I played well I would be able to do it again.”

No one in the 69-player field broke par, and three players who qualified for states last season failed to do so this year.

Reichert not only won his second straight sectional title but also captured what Section VI chairman Nate Leary considers the “Public Schools Grand Slam of Golf” for the second year in a row. That happens when a golfer captures medalist honors at both his league meet and at the Section VI championships.

“Amazing feat, just amazing,” Leary said.

“He’s matured not only as a young man but into a fantastic golfer for his era,” North coach John Burns said. “It’s been great to see him grow as a player small in stature to one who hits the ball forever.”

Reichert is still determined to improve even though he’s coming off an impressive 2015.

After winning sectionals last year, Reichert followed that by winning the New York State Junior Amateur and the American Junior Golf Association’s New Era Championship. He also qualified for his first Porter Cup and reached the quarterfinals of the prestigious International Jr. Masters.

Still, Reichert’s drive to improve his game led him astray after he captured his second ECIC title last fall. He slumped while playing competitively in Florida until reuniting with previous swing coach Gary Battistoni in March. Reichert showed Monday that he has found his way.

“I owe him a lot,” Reichert said.

Reichert pulled away from runner-up Nolan Ditcher of Randolph on the final nine holes of the tournament, shooting a 2-over 38 while Ditcher had a 43. Both finished the first 18 holes tied at 2-over 74.

Reichert took the lead for keeps on the 21st hole with a par. He closed with five straight pars, a birdie and bogey after a double bogey on his 20th hole enabled Ditcher to draw even. Ditcher’s undoing: seven bogeys on the back nine.

“The whole third nine the wind got up,” Ditcher said. “It really exaggerates your mistakes. I wasn’t hitting it my best.”

Ditcher, a five-time state qualifier who will play collegiately at St. Bonaventure, shared second-place with Niagara-Wheatfield’s Matt Pawlak.

The top nine finishers advance to the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association tournament June 3-6 (first two days are practice rounds).

Others earning spots on the Section VI state caravan include Orchard Park’s Mitchell Smith and Jack Devic, Lake Shore’s Cary Ignaczak, Wilson’s Connor Seeley and Ellicottville’s Cam Eddy and Alex Fisher. The alternate is Aidan Shaw of Orchard Park.