Happy Valley left everyone else playing for second place at Monday’s District 1-A/AA golf championships at Elizabethton Golf Course.
Led by individual medalist Colton Oakes’ score of 70, the Warriors (29-1) shot a 301 to beat runner-up University High by 40 strokes. It was the senior-laden Warriors’ second straight district title and their third championship in four years. The accomplishment came with three different head coaches -- Charles Phipps, Randy Ross and Tucker Carter.
“That’s pretty amazing, but we’ve had some great golfers come through,” said Carter, Happy Valley’s current coach. “Whenever somebody is a little off, we have somebody come up and step up.”
The Warriors’ No. 1 player Cameron Dugger finished second behind Oakes in the individual competition with a 75. Teammates Joseph Matherly and Jordan Persinger added scores of 76 and 80, respectively, while Drew Burker had an 81 which didn’t count among the team total.
“Colton had a great round today, but Cameron did too,” Carter said as the Warriors look to defend their Region 1 title next Monday. “Three guys in the 70s, I’ll take that any day of the week. Last year, they played the regional tournament here and this year, they’re playing on somebody else’s home course, but I think the guys will be ready for it.”
Oakes was the class of the field, solid off the tee and spectacular on the green. He shot a 33 on his first nine holes and a 37 over his final nine to finish 2-under. He capped off the round by sinking a 15-foot putt from the edge of the collar.
“The best part of my round was the short game,” Oakes said. “Whenever you shoot a round like that, you have to have a good short game. I kept making putts today.”
University High grabbed the runner-up finish by one stroke (341-342) over Elizabethton.
Nick Sewell led the way for the Jr. Bucs with a 76, followed by Connor Bartow with an 83, Dominick Haynes with a 90, Conner Moore with a 92 and Zac Vicars with a 95.
“It’s certainly encouraging for me as a coach to see that kind of success,” University High coach Justin Penley said. “It’s the first time we’ve qualified as a team since I’ve been coaching golf at UH. It’s something to be excited about and also throughout the course of the year, the way we’ve been playing young guys. We’re anchored by Nick, who is a sophomore, so the future is obviously bright for us.”
The Cyclones were the final team to qualify for the regional tournament beating Sullivan East by six shots. Hampton’s Josh Taylor, Johnson County’s Nathan Timbs and the Sullivan East trio of Anthony Vanhoy, Spencer Nave and Ben Newman qualified for the region as individuals.
On the girls side, Elizabethton upset Hampton 86-92 as sophomore Jamie Hinkle shot a career-best 41 to earn individual medalist. Madison Campbell added a 45, while Karter Gregory had a round of 50 which didn’t count.
“The girls played excellent rounds today,” Lady Cyclones coach Brian Moore said. “All three of them shot wonderful scores. I’m extremely proud of them. They’ve worked, worked and worked and it paid off today.”
Hinkle’s round of 41 was enough to beat defending champion Michaela Matheson of Hampton by two strokes.
“It was the best round I’ve ever had,” Hinkle said. “It’s just totally unexpected. Yesterday, I was practicing for district and the coach told me to visualize your shots and not to have bad thoughts in my head. That really helped me out today.”
Hinkle said the key to the round was immediately putting any bad shots behind her.
“Most of the time, if I hit poorly off the tee, I normally don’t recover,” Hinkle said. “But I just got that out of my head and thought about how good I could do on the next shot. I stepped up and did what I needed to do.”
Besides Matheson, the Lady Bulldogs had a 49 from Hannah Irick and a 50 from Kaitlin Irick to easily take second. Unicoi County wrapped up the other team berth with a 103, which included a 50 from Maggie Hartzell and a 53 from Heavenly Shelton.
All three of University High’s girls -- Haley Bradshaw, Lindsey Wheeler and Carolee Mabe -- qualified for the region as individuals.
The Region 1-A/AA championships are scheudled for Monday morning at Woodlake Golf Course in Tazewell. In other prep action, the Class AAA state championships get underway today in Manchester.