Putter propels Palo Verde

Overshadowed by a scoring dispute between two other teams that proved to be much ado about nothing, Palo Verde’s Chris Viravongsa nevertheless emerged as the real story.

He bested the field by three shots, posting a 4-under-par 68 on Wednesday that led Palo Verde to the Sunset Regional boys golf championship.

“He’s just struggled all year,” Panthers coach Jeff Wolfram said. “He’s been in the high 70s, low 80s all year long, and I told him, ‘This is your day. You’re due more than anybody.’ “

Viravongsa helped the Panthers shoot 379 as a team at the Legacy Golf Club, besting runner-up Bishop Gorman by six strokes. Both teams advance to the state tournament Monday and Tuesday in Reno.

Viravongsa, relying on a hot putter, was one of only two players to break par. Jeremy Bellflower of Shadow Ridge was the runner-up with a 71.

“Everything was dropping since the putting green,” Viravongsa said, noting he had about 28 putts, compared with roughly 40 in a typical round. “I had a great feeling.”

With Palo Verde comfortably in front, the drama involved second place, with Gorman ultimately edging Centennial by a stroke.

The difference was three shots when the players went into the clubhouse, but a dispute erupted over a ruling at the 496-yard, par-5 17th.

Gorman’s Rod Bigelow had watched another player’s approach shot knock his ball onto the fringe. He played the ball on the fringe and then followed the rules official’s direction to drop where the ball originally had been.

“I played the ball that he told me to out,” Bigelow said.

Unfortunately for Bigelow, the official made a mistake.

“We’re talking high school kids who honor and trust adults,” Gorman coach Kelsey McCall said. “He trusted this adult, and the adult let him down.”

After he left the course, Bigelow did not immediately sign his scorecard in case he needed to take a two-stroke penalty. He signed it after being told his 70 was valid.

But the rules officials revisited the situation for about an hour, going back to No. 17 with the players as well as the coaches from Gorman and Centennial.

“I didn’t even know what the team score was, but I knew it was close,” Centennial coach Greg Bohls said. “We just wanted a correct ruling.”

The three-shot margin meant Bohls’ only hope to reach state was a disqualification of Bigelow.

Because of the confusion, rules officials decided not to disqualify Bigelow for signing an improper scorecard, perhaps because they had a big hand in the error.

Almost lost was the fact Bigelow posted an impressive round that put the Gaels in the state tournament, even though he was assessed the penalty and given a 72.

“I thought that I did the right thing,” Bigelow said.

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