|District golf tournaments get underway at Paris|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
March 25, 2006 - Fifty-four holes from today, the Sulphur Springs Wildcats and Lady Cats will know if there will be more golf for them to play this year.
The District 12-4A golf tournament gets underway Monday at Paris Golf and Country Club, the first round of a three-round event which will also be played in Greenville and New Boston over the next two weeks.
The top two teams and top six individuals advance to the regional meet.
Last year, the Lady Cats won the team championship, while the boys finished third but sent two medalists to regional. This season, they are both once again favorites to advance.
Texas High, the defending district champion, is the favorite to repeat because they have been the most consistent team again this year. Plus, the final district round will be played on the Oak Grove Golf Course in New Boston, which is the Tigers' home course.
But, SSHS head coach Doug Evans said the Wildcats, who haven't lost to a district team this year other than Texas High, can rank right up there with the Tigers.
"They are the caliber to compete with the best in the state. Talent-wise, I think we have the talent to compete with them, man-for-man," Evans said. "They just don't make mistakes, and we've got to learn to do that. We've got to learn not to give shots away."
He has two of the top golfers in the district back this year in junior Dustin Gideon and senior Seth Northcutt. They both went to regional last year. The Cats also have senior Chase Helm, junior Sam Dolan and freshman Joe Ross.
"I think Dustin right now is playing as well as anybody in the entire district, including the kids from Texas High," Evans said. "Seth Northcutt has been working on his swing a little bit and been more concerned about that. I think he's finally gotten everything where he wants it to be, and so for the district competition, he's ready to go."
Ross has started playing much better the last few weeks after getting over the usual freshman shock, while Helm has adjusted to a new putter, and Dolan has been able to devote more time to golf after missing a few weeks with agriculture projects and shows.
"I think all the guys are ready to go," Evans said.
To get one of the top two spots, they will have to hold off a strong Mount Pleasant team, a North Lamar squad that finished second in district last season, and a Greenville team with potential.
"Mount Pleasant has proven that they are the same caliber team we are," Evans explained. "We've beaten them head-to-head every time this year, but for the most part, it's just been a few strokes."
North Lamar, meanwhile, is playing the first round on its home course.
"It's a multi-team race in the district," Evans said.
The girls scenario isn't as closely-bunched. It's likely going to be Sulphur Springs and North Lamar battling for the top spot. Last year, those two teams beat everyone else by at least 150 strokes.
Last year, the Lady Cats fell behind NL the first two rounds, then made up the difference on the last round, played at SS Country Club. This year, they don't have the luxury of playing at home. North Lamar, though, does in the first round.
"We know they'll have an advantage playing on that course the first round," said head coach Rahn Smith. "So, I think it's going to be important for us to stay close. If we could get a lead after the first round, it could pretty much do North Lamar in, as far as their confidence goes.
"But, we at least have to stay close and can't let them get too far out in front."
The Lady Cats once again have one of the top golfers in the district in junior Whitney McDaniel. She has finished in the top three in all of her tournaments this year and has twice shot rounds of 81.
She is joined on varsity by juniors Kylie Littlefield and Cherish Bolton, senior Jessica Anderson and freshman Britney Cheatham. They all have the capability of shooting under 100. Collectively, the team has shot over 400 just once this year.
Smith said the girls have played in bad weather conditions and on tough courses, so they should be prepared for what they will see the next two weeks.
"We've played a tough pre-district schedule as far as the golf courses we've played. We're not going to see any golf courses as near as hard as what we've played and what we've been successful on," he said. "I think they've worked hard. I think overall they've lowered their averages from the last couple of years, which is a testament to how hard they've worked."
Now, the challenge goes from physical to mental.
"I think we're ready - we've just got to be mentally tough enough to overcome the bad holes and tough stretches they'll have during these tournaments," he said. "Three rounds is a long time, so stretching it out like that means we've got to be mentally tougher than the other teams."