By Dave Morrison
Shady Spring’s No. 1 golfer, Drew Green, really didn’t want to play the respect card.
Under the circumstances, he didn’t feel he had a choice.
Prior to teeing off at the first day of the state golf tournament at the Robert Trent Jones course at Oglebay Park, Green heard a few players naming off the favorites to win the Class AAA state championship.
Parkersburg South. Wheeling Park. Cabell Midland.
The list contained a few schools
The school that was snubbed?
Green’s Shady Spring squad.
So the Tigers did something about it.
Led by Green’s 78 — which is only two shots off the lead for individual medalist — the Tigers finished with a 244, just seven shots off the lead held by Wheeling Park. Cabell Midland also had a 244.
“I don’t know that anybody can just write us off, like we don’t have a chance,” Green said. “We’re all seniors; we’ve all been here before. We didn’t compete well in the past, that’s true, but we have a good team. It’s not like we just picked up clubs for the first time.”
Landon Perry finished with an 82 and Ryan Albaugh and Dakota McComas had twin 84s, giving the Tigers not only a senior-driven team, but a consistent one as well.
“We feel like we should be a contender for the title,” Perry said. “We showed we can compete at this level, we just have to go out and finish it off. We didn’t play our best; we left some shots on the course. If we clean those up I don’t see why we can’t walk out of here with a state championship.”
The Tigers are not state tournament neophytes.
They’ve been to four straight tournaments, though, as Green said, without a lot of past success.
That is the fuel, fired by the skeptics.
“Hearing that talk just makes us want to win this even more,” Green said. “It would be a huge accomplishment. Not too many teams from our area can say they have won a state tournament in golf. The school has backed us really well. We’d like to do it for our school.”
Of course, homestanding Wheeling Park has the home course advantage, and a seven shot cushion.
“The way the course is playing, I think we have an excellent chance,” Perry said. “If we come out and put up a couple of scores in the 70s, and we play consistent, the way we are capable, we can definitely get this done.
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Like Shady Spring’s team, Westside’s Drew Bragg knows he wasn’t considered a favorite for medalist honors in the Class AA field.
He likes it that way.
“People probably didn’t expect a whole lot out of me coming into this tournament,” Bragg said.
He turned heads Monday with an opening round 76, four shots off the lead of Roane County’s Ashton Spears, who carded a 72, the low round of the day overall. Roane’s Cole Moore also shot a 76.
“All I was looking to do was come out and try to put myself in contention and I did that,” Bragg said. “I knew I could do it. A lot of people probably weren’t expecting it but I would have been a little upset if I wasn’t in contention.”
Teammate Corey Bowles carded an 84 and Katelyn Sanders a 93 as the Renegades found themselves just two shots out of second place. Roane was running away with the Class AA field.
The Jones course was set up tough, long, with quick greens that slowed as the morning turned to afternoon, but Bragg was able to traverse it with limited problems.
“I can easily see someone scoring high, but I feel like the spot I’m in, it sets up to give me a real good chance to come out with the (medalist honor).”
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Oak Hill’s Craig Buchanan qualified as an individual and had a 79, three shots off the lead shared by defending state champion Cole Hand of Wheeling Park and Alex Schreckengost, who had 76s.
Greenbrier West finished the first day with a 271 in Class A, led by Justin Estep’s 86. Richwood’s Mason Mullens had a 95 to lead the Lumberjacks, which finished the day at 307.