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DRAPER –– For a golf team accustomed to playing for championships, second place never looked so good to Galax.
Seemingly out of contention at one point for one of the two available state tournament berths, Galax’s superior depth came through in the form of its fifth- and sixth-seeded players, Dustin Thompson and Eddie Hanks, as the Maroon Tide squeaked into the second spot by two strokes over Radford at the Region C tournament Tuesday at Draper Valley Golf Club.
Though Galax’s four-man total of 313 was well off of the sizzling 297 it shot on the same course a week earlier in winning the Mountain Empire District tournament, it was good enough to propel the Tide into the state tournament, set for Monday and Tuesday at Clear Creek Golf Club in Bristol.
“I thought we were toast after about three people [finished],” said Maroon Tide coach John Patterson. “I thought maybe we’d be going down [to Bristol] in a Volkswagen rather than driving a bus down there. But then those boys on the bottom end came on strong. All of them played good on the back nine, and brought us through. We’ve got six that can play, and that made the difference.”
A steady Giles won the team championship with a 304. Radford finished third at 315 and Grayson County finished a strong fourth at 328 as Blue Devils sophomore Tyler Rutherford advanced to the state tournament with a 76. Tyler Bond missed the cut by just two strokes with a 79 while Richard Pugh carded an 86 and Josh Whitaker finished with an 89.
Rounding out the team scores were Parry McCluer (335), Chilhowie (335), George Wythe (343) and James River (347).
Galax’s season seemed to be drawing to a close as the scores of each team’s top two seeds were posted. Radford showed a 13-stroke lead on the Maroon Tide as the Bobcats’ James Woods and Zeke Shaffer posted a 71 and a 73, respectively.
Galax top seed Scott Alouf shot a 75 during MED play a week before but settled for an 82 Tuesday despite birdies on the first two holes.
“I was still even heading to 8, and I had perfect shots going into 8 and 9 but I double-bogeyed both of those and I never got it back,” said Alouf. “I just couldn’t putt. Number 17 just about killed me. You’d putt it up there and it would roll back. You’d putt it up there and it would roll back. I had a three-putt bogey on that hole. Some of the pin placements were ridiculous, but everybody had to play it.”
Giles appeared still within reach, five strokes in front of Galax, but the Spartans remained steady while it was Radford that faded as Jake Giesen turned in an 83 and a trio of Bobcats finished at 88.
“We may have counted our chickens too soon,” said Cox.
But as bleak as things looked with two-thirds of the field in the clubhouse, the Tide’s hopes rose as Thompson, a sophomore, parred the 18th to finish at 79. Hanks, a freshman, steadied himself after falling to 7-over-par after nine holes. He reached the par-4 18th green in two, with a 30-foot birdie putt between himself and a 1-over-par back nine. Hanks lagged to within four feet, and though his par put lipped out, he sank the 2-footer coming back to punch Galax’s ticket to the state.
“The more I thought about it the more I realized that it was just a real gutsy performance by the lower seeds,” Patterson said. “We’d said all year that nobody knows whose scores are going to count when you get done and here we are, the ones we’ve been depending on all year didn’t play very well that day, like they have been all year. But everybody else played their game and brought it in, and it was just enough. Everybody fought hard. The seniors just didn’t have it that day. Hopefully they will when we get to state.”
Cox, a sophomore, battled through a bit of nausea early in the day carded a 75, tying for third in the individual standings with Tanner Carbaugh of Giles. Despite the tummyache, Cox rolled in several lengthy putts, including a 20-footer for par on No. 6 and another 20-footer for birdie on 8. Cox had back-to-back birdies on 12 and 13, but doubles on 10 and 18 ruined his shot at an individual title.
“It’s not bad, but it could have been better,” he said of his 75. “I guess I’m satisfied with it. This morning I wasn’t feeling too good. I guess it was nerves. After a couple of holes I started feeling it coming a little bit, but I held it down.”
Rutherford said he would have taken a 76 had it been offered to him, but three birdies in the first three holes had him looking for more.
“It just fell apart after that,” he said. “The greens were a little slower on the back and I kind of lost my touch after making the turn. All in all it’s good enough, but it should have been better.”
Galax returns to the state tournament as a team for the first time since 2005, the year after it won its second state championship. And nobody seems too worried about making the field as a regional runner-up, as the 2004 title came after finishing second in the region.
“You just have to get there,” said Patterson, who added that the team has played Clear Creek three times in recent weeks.
“I feel like we’ve got a good chance,” he said. “It’s pretty hard to keep it together for two days straight, and I feel like we’ve got some solid ones.
“I’m just tickled to death. I’m going to go down there and eat me some good steak and lobster if nothing else.”
Region C tournament
Tuesday at Draper Valley G.C., par-72
x Giles – 304 (Tanner Carbaugh 75, Caleb Tilley 75, Trevor Myers 76, Michael Carbaugh 78).
x Galax – 313 (Brock Cox 75, Kyle Schaeffer 78, Dustin Thompson 79, Eddie Hanks 81).
Radford – 315 (z-James Woods 71, z-Zeke Shaffer 73, Jake Giesen 83, Tyler Wood 88).
Grayson County – 328 (z-Tyler Rutherford 76, Tyler Bond 79, Richard Pugh 86, Josh Whitaker 89).
Parry McCluer – 335 (Blake Nichols 78, Matthew Sizer 79, McCagy Wright 86, Trey Mills 92).
Chilhowie – 335 (z-Connor Haydon 77, Tyler Sheets 84, Aaron Clampitt 88, Cody Hafley 91).
George Wythe – 343 (z-Chris Scott 77, David Clark 83, Robert Herndon 89, Jesse Cochran 94).
James River – 347 (Grant Sowder 84, Brent Cummings 86, Travis Sprinkle 86, John Bennett 91).
x-Team qualifier for Group A tournament.
z-Individual qualifier for Group A tournament.
Other individual qualifiers
Scott Olbenshain (Glenvar) 75.