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Prep Golf: Blue Devils’ Mealia regains old form at Battlefield District tournament
BY ADAM HIMMELSBACH
When Culpeper’s Johnnie Mealia placed second in the Battlefield District tournament as a freshman, his potential seemed endless.
But there were times in the years that followed that his game abandoned him.
His tee shots were long, but they were not straight. He was focused on statistics, but he could not control his mental game.
First, Blue Devils coach E.J. Ouellette worked to reinvent Mealia’s swing. Then last winter, the two worked on Mealia’s focus and feel for the game.
“Last season, he basically couldn’t keep the ball on the planet,” Ouellette said. “He was hitting it a mile, but it doesn’t make any difference if you’re in the woods or a creek.”
They spent about six weeks refining Mealia’s swing without hitting a golf ball.
Instead, they used sticks and soccer balls. The point, Ouellette said, was to get Mealia to trust himself and his approach, and to clear his mind.
So at Wednesday afternoon’s Battlefield District tournament at Culpeper Country Club, Ouellette was thrilled to see Mealia turn in the round he had been working toward.
The senior carded a 71, four strokes ahead of his best friend and teammate, Charlie Peavley, to earn his first individual district title.
“Johnnie is such a hard worker, and it was frustrating last year when he was working so hard and just couldn’t get it,” Ouellette said. “I’m so thankful he won this year, because hard work does pay off. He’s such a good kid and so deserving.”
Mealia and Peavley helped the Blue Devils storm to the team title, with a four-player score of 308. Jacob Kirby shot a 79 and Thomas Foster added an 83 for Culpeper.
Michael Hundley and Amy Southall both carded 77’s for King George, which came in second with a 331.
Eastern View claimed the final Region I tournament berth by placing third with a 368. Bradley Hamilton shot an 86 to lead the Cyclones.
The top six individuals from other teams also qualified for regionals, including Courtland’s James Tate (89) and Brandon Herbert (89), James Monroe’s Marsden Dyson (87) and Blake Olsen (91), Chancellor’s James Selbe (85) and Spotsylvania’s Travis Weaver (86).
But this day belonged to the Blue Devils.
Mealia said he felt a bit off on the driving range before starting his round, so he took a deep breath and went back to the advice his coach had passed along.
He shot a 36 on the front nine, and when he made the turn, he said, several coaches told him he had essentially locked up the tournament.
Then he popped a short iron shot deep in the front bunker. Unfazed, he cleanly got up and down to save par.
“Then I knew it was going to be a special day,” he said. “It kept going from there.”
Peavley was happy to come in second, but he wasn’t necessarily happy with his 75.
He said he took 34 putts, about five more than his average. He missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the eighth hole, and a 6-foot putt on the 16th.
“I’d hit a good tee shot and get a good second shot in there, and not cash in,” he said. “But it happens.”
Ouellette said his veteran team has sometimes struggled under the glare of big tournaments. But he hopes their experience will serve them well at regionals, which will be held at Ford’s Colony Country Club in Williamsburg.
“We just need to play like we normally play,” he said.
1. Culpeper: 308 (Johnnie Mealia 71, Charlie Peavey 75, Jacob Kirby 79, Thomas Foster 83)
2. King George: 331 (Michael Hundley 77, Amy Southall 77, Andy Snyder 87, Kent Perkins 90)
3. Eastern View: 368 (Bradley Hamilton 86, Andrew Lester 88, Brad Bush 92, Ian Knight 102)
4. Courtland: 370 (James Tate 89, Brandon Herbert 89, Perrin Arnold 93, James Murray 99)
5. Spotsylvania: 373 (Travis Weaver 86, Ryan Benton 92, Braeden Schmidt 96, Conner McWhirt 99)
6. James Monroe: 390 (Marden Dyson 87, Blake Olsen 91, Nathan Healey 105, Tyler Martinez 107)
7. Caroline 400: (Gaby Rivera 94, Rory Smith 99, Collin Hess 102, Cate Cooper 105)
8. Chancellor: no team score because only three players (James Selbe 85, Jeremy Longhan 107, Elizabeth Garland 152)
Adam Himmelsbach: 540/374-5442