Knights' Tale: Dale Wins Region in Storybook Style
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Oct 4, 2012, 13:07
The Thomas Dale golf team poses with the Central Region Golf Tournament Trophy on Tuesday at Stonehenge Country Club in Richmond. The Knights overcame a seven-stroke deficit to win the region title (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
RICHMOND – Ice water in veins, the Thomas Dale golf team completed a four-year journey to the summit of the Central Region on Tuesday.
The top-seeded squad from the Central District started Day 2 of the Central Region Golf Tournament at Stonehenge Country Club seven strokes out of first place, but the senior-laden Knights erased the deficit by carding four scores of 76 or lower en route to a team score of 288.
That showing brought Thomas Dale’s two-day tally to 601, tying Mills Godwin’s team output and forcing a four-on-four playoff for the region crown. The Knights edged the Eagles on the second hole to claim the region’s No. 1 seed at next week’s Group AAA tournament.
“That’s an insane number,” said Thomas Dale coach Dave Duncan. “Day 2 at Stonehenge is good to some of these players.”
That much was clear on this drizzly afternoon.
Griffin Clark and Eric Blythe led the Knights with matching scores of two-under 69 while Jeremy Craft and Michael Brooks came into the clubhouse at 74 and 76, respectively. All four of the Knights’ qualifying scores came from seniors.
“It’s unreal,” Craft said of the comeback. “It was always our goal and we knew it was possible, but coming out today we thought, ‘Let’s just go for No. 2. Godwin is going to be Godwin, let’s just make it to states.’ So to pull out what we did – you couldn’t ask for any better.”
Mills Godwin sophomore Mark Lawrence Jr. – the reigning state champion – claimed medalist honors by opening with a 71 on Monday at Jefferson Lakeside Country Club and registering a 69 on Tuesday.
The Eagles will join the Knights at the state tournament, which begins on Monday at Redwing Lake Golf Course in Virginia Beach.
Manchester junior Lyberty Anderson finished one stroke behind Lawrence with a cumulative score of 141 (71-70) while Clark (74-69), Matthew Padgett (Matoaca, 73-70) and Kyle Hart (Midlothian, 71-72) all notched scores of 143.
In addition to Anderson, Padgett and Hart, Jason Park (James River), Danny Pedrazzi (Deep Run) and Brian Jones (Monacan) secured individual berths to the state tournament. Glen Allen’s Matthew Cox carded the only known hole in one in the tournament’s 45-year history, acing the 186-yard ninth.
Chase Northcott’s chip-in from several yards shy of the 18th green on Monday gave Matoaca a score of 306 and sole possession of the lead after one day. Perennial powerhouses Mills Godwin, James River and Deep Run all lurked within three strokes of the lead.
Thomas Dale’s 313 was good enough for fourth place and an outside chance, but Duncan said the team “delivered what they were capable of all year” on Tuesday.
“I've never seen this group this focused,” Duncan said. “I saw them focused going into the district tournament and they shot well there. But they just had a look in their eyes today.”
After a short rain delay, the Knights overcame a sluggish start and slipped into a zone that Duncan described as “systematic.” Clark, who started on the back nine, eagled the par-five 12th to jump-start his round.
“I hit a really good drive and I only had a six iron left,” Clark said. “I kind of hit it a little thin, but it worked out to be within about 10 feet. I just made the putt, and that really got me going.”
Blythe, who finished 36th among individuals at last year’s state tournament, operated with his trademark consistency and the Knights got a boost from Brooks in the No. 5 slot.
“This is a special group of guys,” Duncan said.
For Mills Godwin, Tyler Bennett complimented Lawrence’s stellar play with a Day 2 score of 73. After a few nerve-racking minutes of addition, Mills Godwin and Thomas Dale returned to the course for a playoff.
The tension was somewhat tempered by the fact that both teams knew a state berth had been solidified, but the region crown was at stake nonetheless.
Clark and Lawrence – who faced off in a playoff for last year’s individual state title – both opened with birdies and the dueling foursomes were still deadlocked after one extra hole. A third hole appeared imminent before Craft provided the winning moment by draining a 10-foot, left-to-right breaking putt to save par on the second.
Craft was nervous before the decisive putt but said he drew confidence from the fact that it was a similar shot to the one he holed in a playoff against Blythe to win medalist honors at last week’s Central District tournament.
“I knew if I made it that we’d probably get the win,” Craft said. “I knew I at least needed to keep it close if I missed it to give myself a tap-in so we could move on to the next hole.”
Brooks kept his composure to finalize the result with a tap-in that clinched the long-awaited victory.
Two years ago, Clark was Thomas Dale’s lone state qualifier. Last year, Clark and Blythe emerged from the region bracket. This time around, the team sought more than just individual success.
“This goes way beyond taking a stick and hitting a ball,” said Duncan, who was named Central Region coach of the year. “I’ve loved these guys from Day 1 and I love them the same now. They’re on top of the world and I’m speechless. I’m up there with them."
*Thomas Dale 601
Mills Godwin 601
Deep Run 609
James River 618
*Won in two-hole playoff
INDIVIDUAL STATE QUALIFIERS
Lyberty Anderson (Manchester) 141, Matthew Padgett (Matoaca) 143, Kyle Hart (Midlothian) 143, Jason Park (James River) 145, Danny Pedrazzi (Deep Run) 145, Brian Jones (Monacan) 153.
Zachary Wood (Meadowbrook) 165, Peyton Durham (Dinwiddie) 174, Maddy Crocker (Hopewell) 182, David Markins (Colonial Heights) 182, Nathan Britt (Prince George) 186, Mark King (Prince George) 198.
Prince George junior Mark King chips out of a bunker during the Central Region Golf Tournament at Jefferson Lakeside Country Club in Richmond on Monday (photo by Jacob Vaughan).