April 22, 2014

Prep golf: Dalton boys, NW’s Hayes will play on

VARNELL — Northwest Whitfield High School junior Ethan Hayes didn’t get the medal he wanted, and Dalton’s boys didn’t get the finish they expected, on Tuesday in the Region 7-4A tournament at Nob North Golf Course.

But both Hayes and the Catamounts competed well enough that they’ll get to play another day this season.

Hayes shot a 2-over-par 74 and finished tied with LaFayette’s Kurt Ingram and Pickens’ Clay Wigington for the lowest individual score at the end of regulation play. Wigington won on the second playoff hole with a bogey to clinch medalist honors, but Hayes will advance to the Class 4A state sectional tournament on May 5 at Bull Creek Golf Course in Columbus as the region’s lowest scoring individual on a non-qualifying team.

Dalton’s boys shot a 317 to finish third, four strokes behind LaFayette and Pickens, but the Catamounts’ score was well under the sectional qualifying line of 350.

LaFayette claimed the region title and a berth in the Class 4A state tournament — set for May 19 at West Lake Country Club in Martinez, near Augusta — when freshman Cole Ingram sank his birdie putt on the 16th green to give his team a one-stroke win on the extra playoff hole.

Pickens, Dalton and fourth-place Heritage-Catoosa — as well as Hayes — will compete at the sectional tournament. No matter how Pickens finishes in Columbus, Wigington will at least advance to the state tournament as an individual.

Hayes said he wouldn’t have been in need of winning a playoff if he could have hit a putt here or there. In his round of 74, 36 strokes were on the green.

“I stayed focused, but I didn’t make any putts, that is for sure,” Hayes said. “It was just all about fairways and greens today and getting out of there with pars.”

Hayes shot a par 36 on the back nine, losing a stroke with a bogey on the par-4 11th, but getting it right back on the par-3 12th with a birdie. His 38 on the front nine included bogeys at the par-4 third and the par-3 seventh, with pars on the other holes.

Playing steady like that should help him at the sectional tournament if his putter catches up.

“I am excited,” Hayes said. “I qualified for sectionals, and now I just want to go play my best and qualify for state. I feel good about it. I feel like I am going to practice and get better over the next two weeks and see what I can do. I feel real comfortable right now.”

Heritage shot a 321 to finish fourth, followed by Northwest (342), Cedartown (347), River Ridge (350), Southeast Whitfield (388) and Gilmer (396). Neither Cass nor Ridgeland had enough golfers to qualify for a team score in the tournament format in which up to six golfers compete for a school and the best four rounds account for the team total.

Playing on the same course this past Saturday, Dalton won the Nob North Invitational with a 314 — but the Cats were unable to duplicate or do that mark a stroke or two better Tuesday. Landon Hicks led the Cats with a 6-over 78, and he was joined by Jacob Brown (79), Davis Kirk (79) and Addison Lambert (81) with counting rounds.

Allen Behr, typically Dalton’s No. 1 golfer, is battling strep throat and shot an 88, as did teammate Miller Lovingood.

“We are not done, and I think we are disappointed as a team, but with a score of 313, hats off to Pickens and LaFayette,” Dalton coach Hunter Johnston said. “Part of that frustration is that we feel like we have a pretty good familiarity with the course. Now our deal will be to get past that and put our focus to do what we need to do at sectionals.”

Hicks said the performance was disappointing and should give the team incentive at the sectional tournament.

“Here is how we have to look at it: We all know that we left a few out there,” Hicks said. “We just have to keep working hard and know for sure that we can go to sectionals and make up for it. We will play our best and what happens, happens, and we will make the best of it.”

Region championship teams that met the 350 qualifying score for Class 4A boys advance directly to the state tournament. The remainder of the 16-team field at state will be filled by the top teams at the sectional tournament. At least eight teams will advance from the sectional to state. There are also eight individual spots at the state tournament, and the number of individual players who will advance out of the sectional remains to be determined.

While Northwest’s score met the qualifying mark to reach the sectional tournament, only the top four teams from each region are given the opportunity to advance. In addition to Hayes, other scoring rounds for the Bruins were carded by Chad Flanders (88), Chandler Lomax (89) and Tyler Clayton (91). Makray Kyer (101) and Cole Roberts (106) also competed for Northwest.

Southeast was led by Matt Cleary’s 89, with other scoring rounds from Eric Sosebee (91), Tristan Gentry (101) and Cole Shirah (107). Jeff Davis (111) and Trey Terry (who didn’t finish his round) also competed for the Raiders.

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