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Cox, Galax blow away MED

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The Galax junior and his teammates overcame windy conditions to win a ninth straight title.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

No matter how blustery it got Monday at Blue Ridge Country Club -- and it got plenty blustery, indeed -- it’s a safe bet that any kid playing golf for Galax High School has been on that course a number of times with conditions a lot worse. Course familiarity, plus the fact that year-in and year-out the Maroon Tide simply has a group of unflappable golfers on its roster, helped Galax claim its ninth straight Mountain Empire District tournament championship, this time by a whopping 59 strokes over runner-up Narrows. Led by individual champion Brock Cox, the Maroon Tide posted three scores of 77 or better to finish with a four-man total of 307, with the Green Wave second at 366. Grayson County placed third at 371, followed by Fort Chiswell (425) and Bland County (477). “A 307 is a pretty good score,” said Galax coach Terry Snow, who is in his first year on the job after replacing longtime Tide boss John Patterson. “Our No. 4 guy [John Bryant] was sick today and wasn’t here, so we had to shuffle the lineup a little bit, but the boys came through. I’m proud of every one of them.” What started off as a perfect day for the event – sunny, light breeze, forecast highs in the low 70s – turned hairy just before noon as a steady wind of some 20 mph blew its way into the area, regularly producing gusts topping 40 mph.  “And as the wind picked up, the higher the scores got,” Snow said. As the Tide’s No. 1, Cox was fortunate to be in the first group off the tee and played seven holes before the winds blew in. The Maroon Tide junior handled the conditions well enough to shoot a 1-under par 69, coasting to the win by eight strokes over a trio of runners-up, including teammates Kyle Schaeffer and Eddie Hanks. Cox followed a double-bogey on No. 4 with birdies at Nos. 5 and 6 to make the turn at 1-under, and was 2-under after a birdie on the par-4 10th. A string of three straight bogeys on 12 through 14 put him back on the plus side of par, but Cox recorded birdies on both 15 and 17 to get back into the red. “[The wind] started howling pretty good when I was lining up to putt on No. 7 and I had to step back,” he said. “It hurt my putting, because it kept knocking me off-balance and I started thinking about whether the wind was going to blow it or not.” The individual title is the second for Cox, who won the championship as a freshman before finishing second by one stroke to  Schaeffer last year. To put his round into perspective, the average winning margin in the individual standings over the past eight tournaments has been 2.5 strokes; only once in the past eight years has the title been decided by more than four strokes; his 18-hole total of 69 was better than five nine-hole scores turned in by a few competitors; and only once in that span has an individual medalist broken 70. “I was happy,” said Cox. “This morning I told myself I was going for 3 [under], but 1 was pretty good, I guess.” Galax’s team total of 307 was pretty impressive as well. Even though the Tide has won the past three tournaments by an average of 38 strokes, those were nailbiters in comparison to Monday’s 59-shot difference. Schaeffer notched his third straight top-four finish, shooting a 77 to end up knotted with  teammate Hanks and Ben Thompson of Narrows. Galax’s Matthew Downey was fifth with an 84, one shot ahead of Grayson County’s Tyler Rutherford and Mark Martin of Narrows. Galax and Narrows will advance their entire teams to the Region C tournament next Monday, also to be held at Blue Ridge. Grayson County will not compete as a team but will be sending its top four nonetheless. Rutherford, Brent Graham (88), Tucker Phipps (96) and Lucas Rudy (102) all finished among the top six individuals outside of the top two teams.  “We’ll have to play better than we did today,” said Snow of next week’s regionals. The Maroon Tide is the defending Group A state champion, but Giles will enter as the defending region champ. “But considering the conditions, a 307 was pretty good. You’re dealing with high school kids here, so if we have these conditions next Monday, I’ll take a 307.”   Mountain Empire District golf championship Monday at Blue Ridge C.C. 5,995 yards, par-70   Team results (z–advances as team to Region C championship) 1. z Galax (G) 307; 2. z Narrows (N) 366; 3. Grayson County (GC) 371; 4. Fort Chiswell (FC) 425; 5. Bland County (BC) 477.   Individual results (x–advances as individual to Region C championship) Brock Cox (G)34-35–69 Kyle Schaeffer (G)40-37–77 Eddie Hanks (G)37-40–77 Ben Thompson (N)41-38–79 Matthew Downey (G)39-45–84 Mark Martin (N)42-43–85 x Tyler Rutherford (GC)44-41–85 x Brent Graham (GC)47-41–88 x Seth Carico (FC)43-45–88 Dustin Thompson (G)47-42–89 Jonathan Alouf (G)45-46–91 x Tucker Phipps (GC)49-47–96 x Cody Blessing (BC)47-50–97 Rusty Osburn (N)50-51–101 Cody Hollie (N)53-48–101 Jeff Taylor (N)52-49–101 x Lucas Rudy (GC)51-51–102 Matt Sweet (FC)48-57–105 Justin Cox (N)55-53–108 Morgan Dean (FC)53-58–111 Austin Bedsaul (GC)60-57–117 Alex Wright (BC)55-63–118 Willie Dalton (FC)65-56–121 Jordan Carter (BC)57-65–122 Coulton Havens (BC)70-70–140 Sam Nunn (FC)83-67–150 Jared Jonas (FC)82-76–158

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