The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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October 1, 2013

Greenbrier West, Westside win golf regionals

LEWISBURG — Greenbrier West had done about everything possible in high school golf going into Monday’s Class A Region 3 tournament at the Lewisburg Elks Country Club — at least during the regular season.

The Cavaliers had gone 12-2 in 14 matches and topped 31 of 34 opponents during that stretch. Austin Ransom had won multiple individual titles, and the Cavaliers were considered to be one of the top Class A golf teams in the entire state.

None of that made any difference Monday, though. The Cavs’ chances of advancing to the state tournament, which will be held Oct. 8-9 at the Speidel Golf Course at Oglebay Park in Wheeling, all came down to one round.

West was more than up to the task.

The Cavaliers fired a team total of 228, placing four individuals in the top six, to run away with the region championship and punch their ticket to Wheeling. Their 228 was 25 shots better than second-place Richwood. The defending region champion Lumberjacks posted a 253 to also earn a spot in the eight-team state championship field.

“With golf, they all strive for one thing and that’s to go to states,” said Richwood head coach David Hicks, whose team finished in sixth place in Class A in 2012. “I lost two seniors (from last year’s team). They had a lot of experience behind them, but this is still a young team. I have two juniors and two sophomores, so it would usually be a rebuilding year. But they came through for me. They’re dedicated to the game of golf, and they want to play.”

Hicks said he’s setting a goal of finishing sixth or better again this year, a big accomplishment for such a young squad.

Greenbrier West will enter with much bigger dreams.

“We thought we might see Charleston Catholic early in the year at Pipestem, but they didn’t make it up,” said West head coach Joey Fitzwater, assessing his team’s chances of taking home the big prize. “They’re always tough, and there are a few other teams that are always there. We’ll get up there and see what happens.”

Fitzwater certainly believes his team will be in the mix. Ransom, the Cavs’ top player, is back from a broken toe, and the senior is working his way back into form. He’s also a standout in the classroom, where he has a 3.97 GPA and scored a 29 on the math portion of his ACT.

But the team’s strength is its depth. Sophomore Justin Estep, the great nephew of Greenbrier West coaching legend John Estep, topped the entire field at Monday’s regional with a 74. Junior Chandler Fitzwater, the coach’s son, was close behind with a 76, the second-best score in the field, and Ransom’s 78 was good enough for third. Even the team’s highest score, senior Jared Jennings’ 81, was good enough for sixth overall.

“We had a good season,” said Fitzwater. “By going to the state tournament (last fall), they got experience. We had several kids coming back, and they dedicated their whole summers to playing. Down on little Greenbrier Hills Golf Club in Rainelle, Terry McClung runs it, they were out there playing constantly.

“I’ve had these kids through middle school and high school, and I really haven’t done a lot. We had one of the assistant pros at The Greenbrier Sporting Club come one day and go over rules, regulations, grip and a couple of simple stuff. But the kids took it upon themselves to perform, and they did.”

No performance, though, was any more impressive than Monday’s under a new level of pressure.

“No matter what you did, you throw the records out and you have to perform,” said Fitzwater. “We’ve played here in middle school and high school. I’m not saying it’s their home course, but our kids know the course. They used their heads and played smart, and the score shows that.”

Richwood’s low scores came from Brandon Johnson and Mason Mullins, who tied for the team best with 80s. That was good enough for a tie for fourth overall. Tyler Davis and Charles Baughman each shot 93 to round out the Lumberjacks’ scoring.

Man High School’s Baley Beckwith and Sherman’s Trenton Carutuers also earned spots in the state tournament as the top two individuals who didn’t qualify with their teams. Both golfers shot 83s during Monday’s round. Carutuers competed alone with no teammates in the field.

Greenbrier West will travel to Wheeling Sunday for a practice round before tournament play begins a week from today.

— E-mail: chuffman@ and follow on Twitter


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