Knight Train Rolls On
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Sep 13, 2012, 12:29
Prince George's Bragg Russell putts on the first green at River's Bend Golf Club during a Central District match with Thomas Dale on Monday. Paced by medalist Griffin Clark, Thomas Dale won the match 153-172 (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
CHESTER – It was business as usual for the Thomas Dale golf team on Monday.
Led by senior stalwart Griffin Clark, the Knights cruised to a 153-172 nine-hole win over Central District foe Prince George at River’s Bend Golf Club in Chester.
Clark countered two bogies with three birdies to card a one-under 34 and claim medalist honors on the afternoon. Last year’s Group AAA runner up, Clark described his round as “steady,” saying, “I birdied the holes I should birdie.”
The circles on Clark’s scorecard came on the second, fourth and sixth holes. The latter two are short par fives, the former is a 398-yard par four.
“I had a couple nice drives on the fairway,” Clark said of the par fives. “I put a couple balls on the green and had a couple two putts. There wasn’t much to it.”
Besting par on the second hole was more strenuous for Clark. His approach left him 20 feet from the pin, but the reigning Central District player of the year converted with his putter to jumpstart his round.
“That’s really what got me going for the day,” Clark said.
Thomas Dale senior Jeremy Craft turned in the only other sub-40 round of the match, birdying the first hole en route to a three-over 38.
Prince George senior Nathan Britt and junior Mark King paced the Royals with matching scores of 42. Britt’s score could well have been lower. The four-year player narrowly missed lengthy putts on the seventh and eighth.
Giac Buffo (40) and Michael Brooks (41) rounded out the scoring four for the Knights while Austin Britt and Bragg Russell carded qualifying scores of 43 and 45, respectively, for the Royals.
Craft, who played on the team as a freshman but opted to play volleyball as a sophomore and junior, returned to the golf course this year and laid claim to the Knights’ No. 2 spot.
His return added depth to a roster that already featured an abundance of ability and experience.
“The boy has some talent,” Thomas Dale coach Dave Duncan said of Craft. “He can flat put the number down. Sometimes what he considers to be a bad round could very well be a good round for somebody else.”
A two-time medalist so far this year, Craft joins two players – Clark and senior Eric Blythe – that qualified for the state tournament last year. Clark lost in a one-hole playoff to Mills Godwin’s Mark Lawrence Jr. and Blythe finished in the middle of the field.
Brooks and Tyler Gray complete the Knights’ all-senior top five. Duncan said the wealth of experience could be one of the team’s greatest assets down the stretch.
“Sometimes you have to take your medicine,” Duncan said. “I think over the course of time, they’ve learned when to take that medicine and when to ante up and say, ‘We’re just going to launch this thing and see what happens.’”
The Knights have their sights set on reaching the state tournament as a team. Doing so would mean qualifying for and emerging from a Central Region tournament that promises to be wrought with formidable opponents.
Excluding his team, Duncan identified Mills Godwin, Midlothian, James River, Deep Run and Matoaca as the region frontrunners, but said postseason golf is anything but predictable.
“To get to the state tournament, everybody has to be hitting it right for two days,” Duncan said. “So it’s fair game at that point.”
If the Knights fail to claim one of the region’s two state tourney berths, Duncan said the goal will be to place as many individuals as possible.
“It is not impossible to not come in first or second [in the region], but to place four players into the state tournament,” Duncan said.
Achieving individual excellence would be par for the course for Thomas Dale, but Clark said a team berth would make for a storybook ending to an outstanding four-year run.
“We have so many people that have played together for so long,” Clark said. “We’re really close and we kind of feed off each other, so that helps out a lot.”