State golf tournament: White Plains boys, Alexandria girls in contention
by Al Muskewitz
amuskewitz@annistonstar.com
May 13, 2013 | 3127 views |  0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
FORD CITY — Marcus Harrell has been learning things about his upstart White Plains boys golf team all season long. He learned Monday not even the biggest events intimidate it.

Maybe they’re simply too young to know they’re supposed to be nervous.

If the Wildcats felt any jitters about their first foray into the state golf tournament in recent memory, they certainly didn’t show it. Playing on clearly the biggest stage of their careers, they shot 312 as a team on the Fighting Joe Course at The Shoals and were a solid second after the first round of Class 3A play. They are eight shots behind Bayside Academy going into today’s final round — well within the 10-shot spread they sought if they weren’t leading — and six shots ahead of third-place Lauderdale County.

“It’s one of the things you really don’t know (how they’ll react),” Harrell said. “Not only have they never been (to the state), they’re just really young at the same time … but we’ve been finding out stuff all year.

“We’ve been to a lot of places they’ve never been before. I just preach to them every day that you’re here because of a reason and that reason is you’ve earned it because you worked so hard. Don’t think for a second you don’t deserve to be here. They actually do deserve to be here and I want them to understand that.”

The Wildcats aren’t the only Calhoun County team in contention here. Alexandria’s girls are second in the girls 1A-5A field. The Valley Cubs shot 261 on the Schoolmaster Course. They are 13 shots behind leader Muscle Shoals and one ahead of third-place Hartselle.

White Plains counted three rounds in the 70s led by ninth-grader Layton Bussey’s competitive-best 2-over-par 74 and a 75 from 11th-grade sub-state medalist Kyle Morrow. They also counted a 79 from No. 1 Dustin Travis and an 84 from Trevor Lane. Dylan Griggs shot 88.

Bayside posted four scores in the 70s with its Nos. 4 and 5 both shooting 74.

“The 2 and the 3 (Layton and Morrow) really, really picked us up today and put us in the position we’re in,” Harrell said. “There are a lot of players out there who can play good when nothing’s on the line. There are a lot of good practice players, there are a lot of good range pros, but I want somebody who can turn it on when the lights come on. When it’s game time can you perform at your highest peak?

“That’s what we’ve preached day in and day out. If you work hard and do the right things in everything you do, it pays off in the long run no matter what.”

The key to Bussey’s round was his flat stick. He had 32 putts, but most importantly no three-putts. He was 3 over through six, but turned things around and was back to 1 over through 11 and again through 14.

It was a big turnaround from recent rounds that included a 90 in the substate and an 86 in a practice round here Sunday.

“I was worried about my putting,” Bussey said. “I knew everything else was where it needed to be, but yesterday kind of haunted me with my putting. My goal was to keep it under 80. Just don’t hurt your team.”

Morrow was just steady — he hit 17 greens in regulation. He started the round with seven straight pars, hiccupped with a triple-bogey on the par-4 No. 8, then played his final 10 holes in even par.

It was all a matter of staying focused.

“(Harrell) just told us to play our game and not worry about (the surroundings),” Morrow said. “You’ve just got to deal with the pressure. Go with it.

“I think we really have a chance to come back and win tomorrow. It’d be awesome if we did. At the beginning of the year we were all talking about one year we’ll make it to the state. We had no idea we’d make it this year. Actually, we’re doing pretty well.”

Harrell isn’t discounting the idea of White Plains hoisting the blue plaque at the end of today’s round.

“We can definitely win it, but we’re going to have to play by far the best round of the year,” he said. “We’ve been the underdog in everything we’ve done so far this year. We’ve proven a lot of people wrong. Let’s see if we can come out and do it one more time.”

“It’s one of the things you really don’t know (how they’ll react),” Harrell said. “Not only have they never been (to the state), they’re just really young at the same time … but we’ve been finding out stuff all year.

“We’ve been to a lot of places they’ve never been before. I just preach to them every day that you’re here because of a reason and that reason is you’ve earned it because you worked so hard. Don’t think for a second you don’t deserve to be here. They actually do deserve to be here and I want them to understand that.”

The Wildcats aren’t the only Calhoun County team in contention. Alexandria’s girls are second in the girls 1A-5A field. The Valley Cubs shot 261 on the Schoolmaster Course. They are 13 shots behind leader Muscle Shoals and one ahead of third-place Hartselle.

White Plains counted three rounds in the 70s led by ninth-grader Layton Bussey’s competitive-best 2-over-par 74 and a 75 from 11th-grade sub-state medalist Kyle Morrow. They also counted a 79 from No. 1 Dustin Travis and an 84 from Trevor Lane. Dylan Griggs shot 88.

Bayside posted four scores in the 70s with its Nos. 4 and 5 both shooting 74.

“The 2 and the 3 (Layton and Morrow) really, really picked us up today and put us in the position we’re in,” Harrell said. “There are a lot of players out there who can play good when nothing’s on the line. There are a lot of good practice players, there are a lot of good range pros, but I want somebody who can turn it on when the lights come on. When it’s game time can you perform at your highest peak?

“That’s what we’ve preached day in and day out. If you work hard and do the right things in everything you do, it pays off in the long run no matter what.”

The key to Bussey’s round was his flat stick. He had 32 putts, but most importantly no three-putts. He was 3 over through six, but turned things around and was back to 1 over through 11 and again through 14.

It was a big turnaround from recent rounds that included a 90 in the sub-state and an 86 in a practice round here Sunday.

“I was worried about my putting,” Bussey said. “I knew everything else was where it needed to be, but yesterday kind of haunted me with my putting. My goal was to keep it under 80. Just don’t hurt your team.”

Morrow was just steady — he hit 17 greens in regulation. He started the round with seven straight pars, hiccupped with a triple-bogey on the par-4 No. 8, then played his final 10 holes in even par.

It was all a matter of staying focused.

“(Harrell) just told us to play our game and not worry about (the surroundings),” Morrow said. “You’ve just got to deal with the pressure. Go with it.

“I think we really have a chance to come back and win tomorrow. It’d be awesome if we did. At the beginning of the year we were all talking about one year we’ll make it to the state. We had no idea we’d make it this year. Actually, we’re doing pretty well.”

Harrell isn’t discounting the idea of White Plains hoisting the blue plaque at the end of today’s round.

“We can definitely win it, but we’re going to have to play by far the best round of the year,” he said. “We’ve been the underdog in everything we’ve done so far this year. We’ve proven a lot of people wrong. Let’s see if we can come out and do it one more time.”

Class 1A-5A girls

Jordan Gregoria shot a 5-over 77 with four birdies — three on the back nine — to keep Alexandria in contention.

The Valley Cubs also counted a 91 from Courtney Randle and had 93s from Katie Roberts and Jessica Howard. Muscle Shoals counted two 82s and an 84 on a course it has local knowledge.

Alexandria got off to a slow start, playing the front nine in 30 over, but recovered well on the back to close on the leaders. Gregoria, currently fourth individually, played the back in 1 over.

“I knew I could pull it together on the back, because the back just plays easier and I knew it was an easier opportunity for me to come back and make up what I did wrong on the front,” she said. “Everyone, even in my group, we all played better on the back.”

Gregoria and Alexandria coach Brenard Howard are confident the Valley Cubs can make a run today.

“I think we can make up the difference,” said Howard, who is guiding the team through its last state finals before retiring.

Individuals

Alexandria teammates Dalton Chandler and Cole McNeal shot 80 and 83, respectively, on Fighting Joe and both are in the top 20 in Class 4A boys.

Chandler, the Calhoun County champion and substate medalist, had three birdies in his round. He was 1 under with two birdies through five holes, then lost seven shots to par on two of the next three holes.

After that he lost confidence in his driver and played less aggressively the rest of the round.

“I could never get anything going after that,” he said. “I didn’t play badly — except for two holes. I just could never get that streak going.”

McNeal won’t have that problem with his driver today. He doesn’t have one.

After hitting three balls off the tee on the par-5 12th — one he thought he lost and two he hit out-of-bounds — he snapped his Ping driver over his right knee. The action injured his right thumb and left a piece of the shaft embedded in his upper thigh. He’ll play the round today with a 3-wood.

“I can’t tell myself to put it down and not to hit it, so I put it over my leg just so I couldn’t pick it back up,” the long-hitting left-hander said of his driver. “I was making good swings with all my clubs, but the driver was killing me. I had to do it or I would keep hitting it. There’s no way I can hit good shots with it with the flex it has. It’s just way too light.”

Meanwhile, Cleburne County’s Hayden Crowe, playing alongside Chandler, shot 97 in 4A boys and Piedmont’s Hunter Pike shot 86 in 3A boys.

Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Anniston Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.
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