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Science Hill wins state golf title; Skeen is co-champion individually

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Sep 26, 2018 at 8:23 PM

MANCHESTER — Science Hill claimed its fourth boys golf state championship Wednesday when rain washed out the final round at WillowBrook Golf Course.

By rule, the results reverted back to the last completed 18-hole round, giving Science Hill a 291-304 win over runner-up Farragut in the TSSAA Division I Large Schools Golf Tournament. The Hilltoppers' Jackson Skeen was named co-champion individually with Lance Simpson of Farragut after each finished with a 1-under-par 71.

Sean Anderson had an even-par 72 to finish third individually. Other team scores included a 1-over 73 by Gavin Nickels, a 3-over 75 by Tarun Hoskere and Carter Counts’ 10-over 82, which didn't count toward the team title.

Other members of the state championship team are Ross Boehling, Hendrix Price and Jacob Oakley.

It was the second state championship for coach Kevin Vannoy, who led the Science Hill girls to the 2013 crown.

"It really is a team effort. Our record was 91-1 for the season and collectively, we had the best team around,” Vannoy said. “When one individual would shoot higher than normal, the other guys would pick up the slack. That was the strength of our team and it was that way all year long."

Skeen, a junior, had four birdies in his round of 71, the final one coming on the par-3, hole No. 17 to share the individual medalist. He would have liked to have had a playoff with Simpson, but wasn't complaining about the end result, especially with the team honors.

"It's just an incredible feeling. I'm so proud of everyone," Skeen said. "Honestly, if I had finished last and we still would have won as a team, I would have been fine with that. This team means everything to me and it's such a special moment for all of us. Twenty years from now, we can look back and say we were state champs."

Anderson came up just short of tying his teammate for the individual honor. More important than that, he ended his high school career by helping the Hilltoppers win their school's first state title since 2003.

"We're a pretty close-knit group, so we practice together a lot," Anderson said. "We're all competitive and we have great coaches. I wanted to birdie that last hole and be up there with Jackson, but it was still a great way to end the year."

Nickels called playing for Science Hill the best four years of his life. The team faced some challenges on Tuesday after rain had hit the course, although it didn't hurt their putting as Anderson and Nickels each had three birdies.

"The greens were great despite being a little wet," Nickels said. "The course played a little tough, but we kept grinding when things didn't go our way. We put it behind us and moved on, and we came out the better team."

Counts loved seeing the Hilltoppers meet their ultimate goal after finishing fifth in the state in 2017.

"After last year, we knew we had to get it done this year," Counts said. "This year, we were always picking each other up. We always posted four good scores. I was happy with the way we finished, even though I didn't do as good as I wanted. But it's like Jackson said, I could have gone dead last and for us to win as a team, it makes it all worth it."

Hoskere also talked about the camaraderie of the team. His score of 75 came in large part to the way he was effectively able to read and execute on the greens.

"I had a tough time with my irons," he said. "But my putts were falling so it was pretty good. It was just good to see all of us playing well. We're just so pumped, so excited. It's such a blessing to play with this group of guys."

SPECIAL THANKS

Vannoy praised his assistant, Kelly Lane, for the enthusiasm he brought to the team and the work in planning out the matches. He also thanked the local golf courses that allowed Science Hill to practice and play throughout the season.

"I want to thank coach Lane for being such a valuable part of our program. We would break down hole-by-hole, go over it and make team decisions," Vannoy said. "I want to thank the Johnson City golf community with Blackthorn Club, Johnson City Country Club and Pine Oaks for allowing us to develop that kind of program. Without them, we can't do it."

VAN DER "BEST"

Dobyns-Bennett sophomore Isabella van der Biest won the individual medalist on the girls' side after posting a 5-under 67. She won by a single stroke over Lynn Lim of Station Camp.

It was the low round of the season for van der Biest, who is committed to Alabama, and the eighth-lowest opening round in tournament history. She also led the Lady Indians, which included Katerina Scott and Erin Colhoun to a third-place team finish, one stroke behind Houston.

Station Camp won the girls' title, while Kara Carter of Sullivan South finished 10th individually after a 4-over 76 round.

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