KINGSPORT — Consistency paid off for the Science Hill boys’ golf team at Ridgefields Country Club on Monday.
With four players posting scores of 83 or under, the Hilltoppers edged host Dobyns-Bennett 322-324 to win the Region 1-AAA championship.
“I attribute this to senior leadership,” Science Hill head coach Kevin Vannoy said. “Four of them played in the state tournament as sophomores, and then last year D-B came in and went low on us. I think that was a driving force.
“At the first of the year, we said it was going to be about the team, and it was a team effort which got it done for us today.”
Vannoy’s words rang true as Science Hill’s No. 1 player Zach Botts shot an 83, and his score was actually the highest of the four scores that counted.
On a day when the players battled a rain-soaked 18 holes, Drew Poland came in with the low round of 77. Peter Chang and Stephen Wang each posted 81 scores, while Evan Crigger added a 97 that didn’t count among the team total.
“Our goal when we got off the bus today was to get four guys in the 70’s,” Vannoy said. “Obviously, that didn’t happen, but the conditions played a major part in it. I’m just happy for the guys because it was a true team victory.”
Poland, the Hilltoppers’ No. 3 player, was in position to qualify for the state tournament as an individual before the final scores were posted. He was happy to be able to share in the moment with his teammates.
“It was a great win for the team, more so than just me going,” Poland said. “It’s a much bigger opportunity for the team to have a chance to win. I think we have a great shot at going down there and making a name for ourselves.”
Cayman Ratliff of Sullivan South won individual medalist after posting a 75, and beating William Nottingham of Dobyns-Bennett and Nick LaBar of Tennessee High in a three-way playoff.
Among the other efforts, Taylor Smith of Daniel Boone shot 81 to miss qualifying for next week’s state tournament by three strokes.
On the girls side, the day was marked by a tough-as-nails effort by Allison Woodward.
The Science Hill junior started her round with an eight on the par-4 10th, but quickly recovered from the opening-hole jitters and shot par the rest of the way. Her 76 left her just one stroke behind Cassidy Gibson of Cocke County for individual medalist honors.
“In the past, I’ve let things bother me,” Woodward said. “This year has been a really big learning season. I just smiled because I had 17 holes left. I thanked the Lord to have 17 more, and I just kept going.”
Outside of the first hole, she felt it was as good as she’s ever played, especially considering she fought through a pesky rain that picked up towards the end of her round. She felt it was even better than the round of 71 she shot a week earlier on the same course to win the district championship.
“It was the best mentally prepared round of golf that I’ve had,” she said. “It seemed like everything was working. I hit my driver really well and it put me in play. Those putts just would not drop. I had so many birdie putts that would not go in, but I hit the ball well all the way around.”
Sullivan South, paced by Lacie York’s 77 and Allyson Dunn with an 81, won the team competition 158-164 over Jefferson County. Science Hill, which had scores of 89 from Caroline Rhea and 99 from Erica Qin to go along with Woodward’s 76, was one stroke back in third.
Daniel Boone’s Haley Wagner defeated Alexandra Strong of Jefferson County in a playoff to earn the final individual berth. Wagner birdied the second playoff hole after both girls finished with an 83 at the end of regulation and bogeyed their first playoff hole.
“I’ve been in a playoff before so I expected the pressure,” Wagner said. “But this was for something that I really wanted so I had the motivation to play well. It’s my first time going to the state, so I’m really excited. It’s really a big event for me.”
Now qualified for next week’s state tournament at Willowbrook Golf Course in Manchester, it gives new optimism for those who qualified.
“That was the goal coming in, and I’m glad I achieved it,” Woodward said. “We’ll go see what happens at state. I think I have a chance to win.”
Added Vannoy, “Anytime you’re a coach at Science Hill, going to the state is a major goal. We’re happy to go as a team and to have Allison go as an individual. Now, we’ve got our work cut out for us to go down there and make some noise.”