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State title worth the worry

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By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

BRISTOL –– Taking a nine-stroke lead into the second day of the Group A state golf championships Tuesday at Clear Creek Golf Course, Galax would have liked nothing better than a repeat of its first day’s performance. That’s what it got – nothing better. But it was more than enough.

Although the Maroon Tide players, their coaches and their numerous followers trudged around the hilly, meandering Clear Creek layout the entire gloriously sunny, unseasonably warm day with worried looks and rueful observations, the 324 that Galax put on the board Tuesday was just a whisker off of the 322 it turned in Monday. All the anxiety turned out to be unnecessary, for the score was still a dozen shots better than the rest of the state could muster as the Tide claimed its fourth state golf championship with a 12-stroke win over runner-up Giles.

The championship matched Galax’s most recent title, coming in 2004, the last time the Tide played as a regional runner-up in a state event hosted by Region D. Galax also won a title in 1998 and a Group AA crown in 1974.

“This one may be better,” said Galax coach John Patterson. “We’ve been staying at home the last two years. They’ve been having it without us.”

One of the unique things about high school golf tournaments is that, until the numbers are posted on the leaderboard in the scoring area, nobody really knows how things actually turned out. The concern was evident throughout the day.

As the golfers finished their rounds Tuesday and gathered around the 18th green, (which was actually the par-5 ninth hole, as team play started on No. 10), the growing Galax contingent felt uplifted as Kyle Schaeffer, a junior, saved par by getting up and down out of a greenside bunker, dealing with an impossible lie with the ball well below his feet. They watched as senior Rob Guynn, the Tide’s first-day leader, finished up with an 86. They watched as sophomore Brock Cox, the most consistent Galax player in the tournament, wrapped up a round of 81, nearly matching the 80 he posted the day before. And they watched gleefully as Scott Alouf drilled a 240-yard second shot, leaving himself a 90-foot putt for eagle. He settled for par and a 77.

Alouf, playing last as Galax’s No. 1 seed, was nearly left at the green as the maroon-clad gang, and nearly every other school color in the spectrum, exited the area en masse, making its way to the scoring area.

As each player’s score was hand-written, hole-by-hole, on a dry-erase board, tense looks gradually became more relaxed, fewer fingernails were nibbled and hushed comments were soon accompanied by grins. With each squeak of the scorer’s Sharpie, it became more and more apparent that Galax had pulled it off.

It wasn’t so clear earlier in the day, as cell phone conversations from each player’s followers to the other’s rarely brought good news.

“I was walking around and I had no clue what was going on,” said Alouf. “I heard we were playing alright, then I’d hear a bad hole came up.”

“It was tough,” said Guynn of the course. “You’ve got to keep it straight. I had a 9 on a par-five on the back nine. It wasn’t really bad shots, just out of bounds. At one point about halfway through the front nine, I was thinking that nobody’s playing very good, and I just thought we had to keep working on the back nine.”

“I thought we had to play better than we did today, and I guess we played better than we thought we did,” said Cox, who felt the difference was in Galax’s taking what the course gave instead of shooting for low numbers.

“All the other teams were whipping out a driver on every single hole,” he said. “Sometimes they’d hit the shot, sometimes they didn’t, but our coach told us we needed to play safe on every hole, and that’s what we did. In the long run I think that’s what saved us. Being slow and steady is what got us there in the end.”

Alouf was one of a handful of players who could say they completed the round playing the same ball with which they started. Good thing, as his grandfather was riding on the ball.

“I just want to play today for Welch Deboard, our [former] assistant coach,” he said, “and my grandpa had a stroke not too long ago, and he’s having a rough time. I put ‘Pops’ on the ball. Played it all day.”

A surprise move by the Virginia Golf Association to use the blue tees all but ruined any advantage held by host Virginia High, which was 32 strokes off the pace on Monday and finished sixth out of eight teams. Aided greatly by the 81 of sixth man Eddie Hanks, a freshman, Galax took a nine-stroke lead over Chatham and Appomattox after Monday’s first round. Hanks’ low score allowed the Tide to drop an uncharacteristic 94 by Schaeffer, which included an 11 on one hole.

“Hit it in the water three times,” said the Mountain Empire District champion. “You can’t recover from an 11. Today I double bogeyed it. I was very happy with it.”

Schaeffer more than recovered on Tuesday, posting an 80.

“I just tried not to think about it,” he said. “I just focused in more on every shot, just making sure I was going to hit it right.”

“Kyle’s been our most steady player all year,” Patterson said. “We just thought [the 94] was a one-time thing. He got bent out of shape on No. 7 and couldn’t save himself, and just put a bad number up there, but we had four more [good scores]. He came in today strong. We don’t even check on him, he’s that solid. We knew he’d be there. We didn’t know where we’d get the other three [scores], but we knew he’d be there.”

Dustin Thompson and Matthew Downey shared the fifth-spot duties for Galax, Thompson shooting a 90 on Monday and Downey an 87 on Tuesday.

“Our boys will struggle, but they’ll bring it on in,” Patterson said. “There’s no give up in any of them. They may not score well, but it’s not because they don’t concentrate and do all they can do. They played hard today.”

As he normally does, Patterson was quick to deflect the credit to his players, and citing middle school coach Terry Evans, who sends Patterson a steady stream of tournament-ready youngsters, and local pro Ron Ferguson.

“Ron just adopted the team,” Patterson said. “He’s been there every day, on weekends, working with the kids. We’ve got 10 kids that can play, and it’s made all 10 of them tougher. If they don’t hang in there very strong mentally, they don’t even make the traveling squad.”

Alouf finished tied for eighth in the individual standings. Northumberland’s Zach Hall topped Goochland’s Rick O’Connell on the second playoff hole for the individual title. They both concluded regulation tied at 149. Radford’s Zeke Austin defeated Washington & Lee’s Austin Evans in a playoff for third place.

Grayson County’s Tyler Rutherford, a sophomore making his first trip to the state tournament, finished tied for 23rd with a two-day total of 165.

Group A state tournament

Monday/Tuesday at

Clear Creek G.C., par-71

Team results

Galax (322-324–646)

Scott Alouf 81-77–158; Brock Cox 80-81–161; Rob Guynn 79-86–165; Eddie Hanks 82-90–172; Kyle Schaeffer 94-80–174.

Giles (335-323–658)

Tanner Carbaugh 77-76–153, Trevor Myers 85-77–162, Caleb Tilley 85-86–171, Chad Robertson 93-84–177, Michael Carbaugh 88-90–178.

Chatham (331-329–660)

Andrew Arnold 79-77–156, Jacob Hardy 82-86–168, Rachel Nicholson 82-89–171, Jesse Wells 96-77–173, Stanley Shelton 88-91–179.

Appomattox County (331-330–661)

Rob Sears 81-82–163; Patrick Franklin 83-82–165; Patrick Mayberry 82-87–169, Tyler Mullins 85-84–169; Eric Moore 101-82–183.

Northumberland (343-334–677)

Zach Hall 75-73–149; Kelly Sumner 79-82–161; Justin Welch 91-83–174; Devan Cockrell 97-96–193.

Virginia High (354-339–693)

David Talley 83-78–161; Wes Fletcher 80-85–165; Austin Clifton 93-79–172; Tyler Austin 99-97–196, Zack Dean 98-100–198.

Castlewood (375-359–734)

Derek Allen 86-78–164, Justin Smith 90-80-170, Grant Marshall 88-93–181, Jordan Lovelace 111-109–220, Seth Justice 132-108–240.

Middlesex (403-398–801)

Alexander Crittenden 89-92–181, Harley Moore 99-92–191, Jake Fletcher 96-96–192, Drew Pitts 119-131–250, Eric Sosa WD-118–n/a.

INDIVIDUAL TOP 20

1 x-Zach Hall (N’umberland) 76-73–149

1 Rick O’Connell (Goochland) 75-74–149

3 y-Zeke Shaffer (Radford) 80-72–152

3 Austin Evans (W&L) 75-77–152

5 Tanner Carbaugh (Giles) 77-76–153

6 Andrew Arnold (Chatham) 79-77–156

7 Brian Daiger (W&L) 80-77–157

8 Scott Alouf (Galax) 81-77–158

8 Clint Lowe (Gate City) 79-79–158

10 Conner Hayden (Chilhowie) 83-76–159

11 Chris Scott (G.Wythe) 86-74–160

11 Scott Obenshain (Glenvar) 80-80–160

13 David Talley (Va.High) 83-78–161

13 Brock Cox (Galax) 80-81–161

13 Kelly Sumner (N’umberland) 79-82–161

13 Jacob St.Clair (Twin Valley) 77-84–161

17 Trevor Myers (Giles) 85-77–162

18 Rob Sears (Appomattox) 81-82–163

18 James Woods (Radford) 79-84–163

20 Derek Allen (Castlewood) 86-78–164

20 Graham Clouse (Tho.Walker) 85-79–164

20 Hunter Johnson (Dan River) 80-84–164

x-Won individual championship on first playoff hole.

y-Won third place on second playoff hole.