|Wildcats golf headed to regional golf tournament|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
April 11, 2006 - NEW BOSTON - Sulphur Springs boys golf coach Doug Evans was standing on firm ground Monday afternoon, but he felt a little like he was on a roller coaster.
The Wildcats started the day with a tenuous four-stroke lead over North Lamar for the second and final regional-qualifying spot in the District 12-4A tournament. As Evans stood on the 18th green at Oak Grove Golf Course watching his players come down the final fairway, he alternated between relief and anxiety.
"I didn't know how everybody was playing coming down to the finish," Evans said. "Word starts filtering up to the 18th green that so-and-so is this many over and their guys are shooting this, so it appeared like it was pretty close."
The Cats' No. 3 player, freshman Joe Ross, hit a booming drive to within 30 yards of the 18th green to set up a possible birdie, but his chip shot went into the water. Senior Seth Northcutt then rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt in the next group.
Then, in the final group, junior Dustin Gideon's chip hit the concrete retaining wall around the pond surrounding the green and bounced high into the air - and onto the fringe of the green.
At that point, Evans could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
With Gideon shooting a final round 76, Ross carding a 79, Northcutt coming in an 82, and Chase Helm finishing with an 83, the Wildcats not only held off North Lamar but put a little more distance between them and third place. Sulphur Springs finished the round with a 320 - seven strokes better than North Lamar - to secure a regional berth.
There wasn't as much drama on the girls' side. North Lamar and Sulphur Springs had both already virtually wrapped up the regional berths because they entered the third and final round 200 strokes ahead of third place Paris.
The only suspense was whether the Lady Cats could make up the 17 strokes they trailed North Lamar and if junior Whitney McDaniel could edge out North Lamar's Allison Felty for medalist honors. The answers were No and Yes.
Led by a final round 81 by McDaniel, the Lady Cats surged to within three strokes of North Lamar for the district title, but the Pantherettes held on. McDaniel, though, did claim medalist honors with a three-round total of 260 which included back-to-back 81s on the final two rounds.
SSHS junior Kylie Littlefield was third medalist with a 278, and freshman Britney Cheatham tied for fourth with a 284. Both Littlefield and Cheatham shot final round 92s.
Texas High shot its worst round of the three-day tournament with a 307, but it was still the best score of the day. The Tigers finished with a 904 total, and had all five of its golfers in the top 10 including Zack Fischer, who won the medalist title for the second straight year, with a 2-under 214.
That left the second regional qualifying spot to either Sulphur Springs, who came in at 647, or North Lamar, who was at 651 entering the final day.
But, the Wildcats played well on the wooded course with quite a few bunkers. Gideon was at even par at the turn and finished 4-over; Ross was at 2-over after nine and finished 7-over including an eagle on the par-5 13th hole; and Northcutt birdied the final hole to come in at 10-over.
Helm was solid at 11-over and Sam Dolan came in at 89 to round out the varsity.
Gideon finished in fifth in the medalist standings - which is First Team All-District - and Northcutt earned Second Team by finishing 10th. Ross was 11th individually.
Evans said he knew when it came down to Gideon's group that the Wildcats were in good shape to advance to regional.
"I knew Dustin Gideon was playing well, and I knew that he was ahead of his man. So, it really kind of became match play," Evans said.
The Wildcats finished with a 967 total, while North Lamar was 978.
"I'm proud of them and really excited they're going to get to go to regional. It's been a few years since we've been - I think maybe six years - so this is something that these guys deserve. They've worked hard for it, and they're a great bunch of guys," he added.
While the Cats knew they had to stay ahead of North Lamar, Evans said they did a good job of staying focused on their game.
"Our whole mindset was to take care of our business because we can't do anything with North Lamar - their game is out of our control," he explained. "The only thing we can control is our own shots. That's more or less what our focus was.
They were pretty confident, though. They just talked about us being ahead. They felt that North Lamar would have more pressure."
The SSHS No. 2 team finished ninth in the 10-team standings with an 1,124 total. Robby Moore shot the squad's best score with an 88, finishing with a 259 total. Rob Russell and Hesston Taylor both shot 94, Lane McClung came in at 101 and Price Orwosky carded a 111.
Three SSHS medalists also competed. Lance Knotts carded a 98, Jacob Cooper shot a 113, and John Holland totaled 115.
McDaniel matched her best round of the season, shooting an 81, to beat North Lamar's Felty by four strokes. McDaniel had trailed by one stroke going into the final round.
That finish helped the Lady Cats shoot their best round of the season, a 370. They finished at 1,156, just three strokes back of North Lamar.
"I thought we performed really well," said SSHS head coach Rahn Smith. "The pressure really wasn't on us - we were just going to go out, play the best we possibly could and see what happens.
"There wasn't much of a chance for us to catch them if they played well. I thought we performed well, though, and shot the lowest total we had all year. That, going into regional, is pretty encouraging."
Littlefield finished with a 278 total, while Cheatham was at 284. Jessica Anderson shot a 105 on Monday to total 348 for the tourney, and Cherish Bolton's 117 final-round tally gave her a 346 total.
But, the focus individually was on McDaniel and Felty, who were playing together in the final group.
"One of the goals that Whitney had at the first of the year was to be district champion, and along with that, it would help us as far as a team, and it did," Smith said. "I was real proud of her, the way she works especially in the last few weeks fine-tuning things to be able to do that. She performed well and made some real pressure putts at the end to put her in position to win."
The Class 4A, Region II tournament is scheduled for April 24-25 at Bridlewood Golf Course in Flower Mound.
The SSHS No. 2 squad finished fifth in the standings with a 1,513 total, including 492 on the final day. Allison Hefner led the team with a 111 and a 349 total. Kaitlyn Potts, Kourtney Hughes and Sarah Yosten shot a 126, 127 and 128, respectively, and Dunae Bain carded a 140.