COLUMBIANA - Leetonia's Luke Janci had a summer on the links he will never forget.
Now he's following that up with a pretty good autumn.
The senior booked his spot in the Division III state tournament with a strong performance at the district tournament at Seven Hills Country Club in Hartville last week. He'll open play in the state tournament at 9:40 a.m. Friday at Northstar Golf Resort in Sunbury.
This run to the state tournament might not have been possible, though, if a stroke of incredible luck in the summer didn't go Janci's way.
In June, the Northern Ohio PGA notified Janci that it had selected him to attend an all-expenses paid trip to the Ryder Cup Junior Academy at the beginning of July in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
"When I got that it was crazy," Janci said. "I think it's like hitting the lottery."
The seven-day trip saw Janci being put up at a top-rate hotel at the PGA Village resort. He said all of the accommodations were great including the food.
"We would get up at 6:45 a.m. every morning and head down to breakfast," Janci said. "After breakfast, we went across the street to the huge PGA practice facility. They have tons of greens and sand traps. They'd let you warm up for about an hour on the range. After that they separated us into groups where we would do different exercises."
Janci said everyone at the academy was examined and graded by a point system the first day. He said the scoring determined where one was placed in the program.
The last three days the golfers were separated into teams to play a Stars vs. Stripes version of the Ryder Cup using the famous international competition's rules and format.
"I still talk to people I played with," Janci said. "They were from all over. My partner was from Texas. We ended up winning."
In addition to all of the quality competition, Janci got instruction from some veteran professional golfers including former Ryder Cup captains Billy Casper and Dow Finsterwald. Casper had 51 PGA Tour victories in his career.
"I got a private putting lesson from (Casper)," Janci said. "He's the reason I have a new grip on my putter. He hit the same shot with my putter and missed on the same side of the hole as I did like three times in a row. He looked at me and showed me the putter. He said 'Your grip is off.' I said 'Is it?' and then he told me to get a new grip."
After coming back home from such a special experience, Janci said his confidence was boosted and he felt like a good senior golf season was possible.
"I feel at the beginning of my career I set my standards low," Janci said. "I didn't think I could compete with everybody. This year I felt like I had to gain confidence because it was my last year. I had to try my hardest. If I didn't make it to state it would have been unsatisfying."
Janci, who averages around 80 or 81 for 18 holes, said he's due to play some good golf because his putts have not been falling.
South Range graduate Brandon Pluchinsky, who is now a member of the Youngstown State golf team, qualified for the state tournament the past two years at the same course Janci will play this weekend.
Janci said his mother and Pluchinsky's mother know each other. He's been told to call Brandon to pick his brain about how how the Northstar course plays.
"We know each other pretty well from playing tournaments together," Janci said. "I'll be definitely taking notes."
Leetonia golf coach Jim DeJane said that Janci has come a long way in his quest for a state berth - the first of its kind for a Leetonia golfer since Dan Goodman did it in 1994.
"I've had him for four years and he's a great player," DeJane said. "As a freshman, he was a good player, but he was a little erratic and was playing little boy golf. A couple of times I told him in practice, 'If you try that in a match, I would go ballistic on you.' And I went ballistic on him. Last summer, he went down to (Florida) and worked on his game. Now I told him, 'You're playing big boy golf.'"
Janci plans to major in either civil engineering or nursing when he attends college next fall. He hopes to be playing golf at whatever institution he chooses, but hasn't made up his mind yet.
In the meantime, his eyes are on the state prize.
Janci is the only player in Leetonia history to shoot in the 30s in every regular season match, which he did 15 times this season.
Janci said his pre-round strategy for just about tournament or match he plays is to look up the course layout on Google Maps.
"I'll go on there and take notes to see how many yards I have to hit the ball," Janci said. "It's good for figuring out how to deal with the blind shots."
Janci's favorite pro golfer is Luke Donald
"He's such a consistent player," Janci said. "He's what I want to be."
Janci's favorite local course to play is the Kennsington Golf Club in Canfield.
"For being a public course, it's the closest thing to a country club you can get," he said.
Janci also plays basketball and baseball at Leetonia. Golf is by far his favorite though and he's not scared of baseball ruining his golf swing.
"A lot of people say that baseball affects your golf swing and it does to an extent," Janci said. "But, I think it can only make it better because you're doing close to the same motion. That builds muscles."
Janci's local swing coach is Mike Shulas of the Salem Golf Club.