WIESBADEN, Germany — The first champions of the school year will be crowned Friday when the two-day DODDS-Europe golf tournament wraps up at Rheinblick Golf Course.

According to tournament director Tom Richards, 28 boys and nine girls qualified for the event, which tees off at 9 a.m. Thursday and Friday. But barring major shifts, there are just two girls and a handful of boys who are expected to be battling for those titles.

To say that those two girls — defending champion Elizabeth Ward, a Ramstein junior, and Wiesbaden sophomore Hollie Salvo, runner-up to Ward in 2008 — are closely matched is a major understatement.

Under the DODDS-Europe version of modified Stableford scoring that will be used in the tournament, Ward has averaged 34.7 points in her best three outings this season, and Salvo 34.0. Ward outscored Salvo 55-48 last year after trailing 27-26 after Day 1, so the level of improvement in both girls’ games is evident.

“I’m excited,” Ward said Tuesday. “It was really fun playing with her last year.”

There’s more of a gap atop the boys’ list, where Heidelberg newcomer Lucas Clarke, a junior, put up an average of 49.3 points per round in the best three of the four meets he entered and won this season. That figure is right around the four-handicap the 17-year-old carries – a round of 18 pars would earn 54 points under the high school scoring system.

Despite playing at a less-rarefied level than he would have had he stayed in North Carolina, Clarke said last week that he’d regard a victory at Europeans as more than worthwhile.

“A European championship would look really good on my résumé,” Clarke said, “if I can win it.”

To do so, Clark will have to tame Rheinblick’s hilly and technically challenging 6,606-yard layout.

“I’ve played it once,” Clarke said. “It’s different. You can hit the ball right down the middle of the fairway and still get into trouble.”

Chasing Clarke is teammate Mike Baltich. He averaged 40-points per round this season, and unlike Clarke can call on tournament experience at Rheinblick.

“The greens are a lot faster than here (at Heidelberg) and hard to read,” he said. “The key is to try and watch where the Rhine is.”

Other boys who are scoring at better than a bogey per hole, 36 points, are Kaiserslautern sophomore Mackenzie Bradley, 38.3, and Rota senior Allen Genido, 36.7. Both could come through should either of the Heidelberg duo succumb to Rheinblick’s hillside challenges.

Ramstein’s girls won last year’s team title, and this year’s crown might be decided by the points a team’s Nos. 2, 3 and 4, for the schools lucky enough to go that deep, can add to their No. 1’s total.

The boys team title is likely to be decided by an unheralded No. 4.

Heading Ramstein’s bid to repeat as boys champion is sophomore Tyler Breed, who brings a 35.7 average into this event. Supplementing those expected points are Royals sophomore James Cho’s 35.3, and junior Jordan Linder’s 34.3.

Heidelberg has a solid No. 3 in freshman Joseph Patrick, a 35.3 shooter, so the team race looks neck-and-neck, on paper at least.

But don’t count out Rheinblick’s role in deciding those titles.

“Over two days,” Clarke said, “anything can happen.”

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