By Bob Gaines
For The Daily Item
SHAMOKIN DAM -- Standing on the 18th tee, C.J. Tyler pretended to ignore the pressure. His goal was simple: one more birdie.
On a beautiful afternoon at the Susquehanna Valley Country Club, the Shikellamy ace nailed a near perfect drive 268 yards down the left center of the fairway, a direct opening to the green. Tyler was 75 yards out, his sand wedge placing a high and soft shot barely eight feet from the hole.
"Now I was really nervous," said Tyler. "I needed that putt."
Thanks to a smooth touch by the lefty, the ball found the heart of the hole.
While Tyler's sizzling 5-under-par 65 was easily the top individual score to open the Heartland Athletic Conference Division I season on Thursday, he also notched a personal best, topping his old mark by one stroke. Perhaps more important, he was part of a powerful contingent of Shikellamy golfers who combined for an overall score of 320, bettering runner-up Midd-West by 29 strokes. Loyalsock was third (358), followed by Selinsgrove (359), Williamsport (378), and Mifflinburg (412).
"I played really well today," said Tyler, who earned first-team all-league recognition last season as a sophomore on his way to the District 4 title. "I got lucky a lot and only had one mess up."
That would be a string of two bogies at the 11th and 12th holes.
"I kept myself from getting angry," he said. "I was still playing well and didn't want those holes to ruin my record."
"C.J. made a lot of crazy good chip-ins," said Selinsgrove's Colin Rice, who was the first to congratulate his opponent and friend after the brilliant performance. Rice had some problems on the greens, finishing with a disappointing 81, but still good enough for fourth place. Shikellamy's Dakota Portzline was second medalist at 74, followed by Adam Winey of Midd-West at 80. Shikellamy's D.J. Clark and Midd-West's Blake Zechman tied for fifth at 83.
Nobody was close to the leader.
"I'm very happy," said Tyler. "This was fun."
Ditto for the rest of the Braves as Portzline and Clark also registered personal bests.
"My drives were a little iffy on the front nine," said Portzline. "Chipping and putting saved me."
Portzline registered chip-ins on the 11th and 16th, plus saved par on the 12th green with a 15 footer.
"I'm real proud of them," said Shikellamy coach Ernie Tyler, who is also C.J.'s father. "Three guys with personal bests. It was a great start."
Selinsgrove's Justin Geedy (86) and Logan Sears (88) also finished in the top 10, along with Shane Connahan (89) of Midd-West.