Two weeks ago, Greenbrier East, Shady Spring and Summers County picked up wins in their respective classes at the Coalfield Conference golf tournament.
Monday afternoon all three teams were again at the top of the heap, but this time the plaques read something even more special – regional champions.
Competing in their respective classes out of Region 3, the Spartans topped defending Class AAA state champion George Washington, while the Tigers bested defending Class AA state champion Herbert Hoover and the Bobcats topped Charleston Catholic to secure a spot in the state golf tournament.
The top two regional finishers in each class qualify for the state tournament played Oct. 4-5 on the Speidel Course at Oglebay Park in Wheeling.
All three teams were confident entering regional play, but they each had somewhat different motivations and expectations.
Shady Spring won the Class AA state title two years ago and finished third overall at Wheeling last year. The third place finish along with a runner-up finish in 2021 regional tournament left the Tigers with some extra motivation this year.
“This year, the regional was really important to us. It was maybe the most important that we have had since I have been here based on the feeling that we had going into it, for a lot of different reason” Shady Spring head coach Greg Daniel said. “This team has worked harder than any team that I have ever had and they have really put the time in. I would have been really disappointed if we had went down there and didn’t play well.”
Greenbrier East head coach Doug Bicksler went from not knowing what type of team he might have prior to the season, to quickly thinking he had a team that could qualify for the big dance.
Regional champions was just icing on the cake.
“Until I knew Arod (Lemons) and Jake (Honaker) were definitely playing, I would have never said we would be here (as champions),” Bicksler said. “It was fun to watch it all today. “I don’t think GW maybe played up to their level today, but for us to have the low medalist and the runner up was pretty sweet.”
Even though he wasn’t sure how his team would respond to its first regional action, Bicksler did show confidence in his team.
“I did book a cabin (at Oglebay) before the regional tournament, but I found out what the cancellation policy was before decided I would go ahead and book it,” Bicksler said, laughing. “I didn’t know how they would handle the tournament when the lights were really on. They really came to play today and hopefully we can carry that forward to states.”
An accomplished golfer himself, Summers County head man Jerod Ewing understands how fortunes in golf can change in a blink. However, Ewing has held a strong feeling all year that his young Bobcats could win the regional title and go on to contend for a state title.
“This feels great,” Ewing said. “The crazy thing today is they didn’t feel like they played the way they are capable of playing. So they are still motivated to play even better.”
The key to the win for Shady Spring was the play of its two freshman, Cooper Ward and Tyler Beard. With their best player, Tanner Vest struggling some by his lofty standards, Ward and Beard played well above their years.
Vest carded a 77 to go along with a 78 from Ward and an 80 from Beard. The team total of 235 was three strokes better than Hoover at 238.
“Tanner was tickled to death. He is such a good leader and he was really happy to see those young kids shoot a good score,” Daniel said. “They played well today and they battled. We could have folded up, but they hung right in there.”
Lemons and Honaker had been stout all year for the Spartans and they continued that strong play Monday shooting 75 and 76, respectively for the two best scores of the day.
What has made East so strong this year has been the play of its third and fourth man, Isaac Cantrell and Fielding Foster.
Both players shot 85 to help East secure a 10-shot win over the Patriots.
“We have asked for the three and four (man) to come through a few times and they have done it,” Bicksler said. “It has been nice to have them play like like that for us.”
Even though Summers County did not play as well as it had hoped, the Bobcats were still 13 shots better than the Irish of Charleston Catholic.
Xavier Honaker led the Cats with an 83, while Sean Cooper had 88 and Brian Cooper shot 89 for a team total of 260.
“The course was in great shape, but the wind about blew us away for a little while. I told them it was an even playing field. They just had to keep their head in it and take it one shot at a time,” Ewing said. “Even though we won, they were a little down on themselves about how they played.”
The top two individual scores that were not on the two winning teams also qualified for the state tournament.
The two spots in Class AA went to junior Kerri-Anne Cook from Westside and senior Cody Blake from Independence.
Playing in windy conditions with firm greens that made scoring extremely tough, Cook relied on her short-game to shoot an even-par round of 71 for the low round of the day.
Cook, who has been battle tested in tough tournament condition throughout her career on the Callaway Jr. Tour, was steady all day with 12 pars, three birdies and three bogeys.
“I think what helped me the most was that I got up and down a lot today. I guess where I didn’t hit a lot of greens (my short game) saved me a little bit,” Cook said. “The week going into regionals I really worked on my chipping and putting because I knew that is where you can lose strokes really easily.”
For the Independence standout Blake, Monday was the payoff for a summer full of hard work and dedication to take his game to another level.
Making his first-ever trip to Wheeling even more special was the fact that he was able to survive the brutal conditions and tie for the second best round of the day at 77.
“I am really glad I made it states. I really wanted that to happen,” Blake said.”I really couldn’t get anything to stop on the greens today because they were so hard. The last few holes were really stressful. I knew I had to make a couple of pars and hold it together. I played well, but birdies were so hard to come by today. I had four or five putts lip-out. They just would not fall today.”
The Class AAA individual qualifiers were Kaleb Smith from St. Albans and Will Wentz from Riverside who both shot 79 on the day.
In Class A, Webster County basketball standout Sydney Baird was the low medalist with an 82 to punch her ticket to Wheeling, while Andrew Addair from River View qualified with an 87.
Class AAA at Edgewood Country Club
Greenbrier East 236, George Washington 246, Woodrow Wilson 268, St. Albans 278, Princeton 291, Riverside 297
Class AA at Big Bend Golf Course
Shady Spring 235, Herbert Hoover 238, Nicholas County 263, Bluefield 279, Westside 281 Independence 282, Liberty 284, Wyoming East 305, PikeView 324
Class A at Pipestem State Park
Summers County 260, Charleston Catholic 273, Midland Trail 277, Webster County 285, River View 301, James Monroe 301, Pocahontas County 301, Mount View 338, Greenbrier West 338