By Brian Eller - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- As players trickled into the clubhouse Tuesday, ready to report their scores, one by one they noticed a particular round already posted on the scoresheet.
"Man," one player said out loud. "How does that kid shoot a 69?"
"That kid" is Skyline's Zack Henry. And how he does it is a mystery, even to him. Just a few weeks into his final season with the Hawks, Henry has already established himself as arguably the top golfer in the Northwestern District and one of the top golfers in the area.
Tuesday provided no evidence to the contrary. Henry finished with the day's top score, posting a 69 and winning the medal in the Northwestern District Mini Tournament at the Shenandoah Valley Golf Club.
"I didn't start out as well as I would've liked to, but I ended up playing a really solid round," Henry said. "I was driving the ball well and on this course, it's not always about pounding the ball as far as you can. It's a good course, but it's tight and sometimes you have to compensate for that by taking a little off your drive to keep it in play."
It's that knowledge of the course that helps Henry shoot as well as he does. In addition to Shenandoah Valley being Skyline's home course, Henry said he's able to recognize different elements of the round, whether it's the pin locations, weather conditions or the speed of the greens, all of which boost his game to a higher level.
Unfortunately for Henry, his 69 wasn't enough to help lead the Hawks to the top team score. That honor went to Sherando, which finished with a 325, nine strokes in front of second-place finisher James Wood. The Colonels edged out Handley by one stroke, while Millbrook shot a collective 339 and Skyline finished at 347.
For the Warriors, coach Rob Wright was impressed with his team's performance, particularly after running into trouble at Monday's match.
"It was just one of those days where a few things went wrong early on and then it started to snowball," Wright said. "I think today really could be a defining point in our season because our guys could've come in today and fell apart. But they bounced right back and played well."
Leading the way for Sherando was Cory Hammons, who finished with a 79. Chris Slater followed with an 81 while Cameron Wiseman and Kolby Madigan shot 82 and 83, respectively.
And while the Warriors were able to bounce back as a team from a disappointing outing Monday, two other golfers took significant steps forward Tuesday. Millbrook's Matt Fazenbaker finished second overall with a 73, while Handley's Aubrey Wilkerson took third place with a 74. Both players' scores dropped dramatically from the Curly Licklider Invitational played just a few weeks ago on the same course. That day, Fazenbaker shot a 79 and Wilkerson recorded an 81.
For Wilkerson, he said his improvement came from a round of golf he had in between the two tournaments with his father, who helped him focus on the mental aspects of the game.
"I'd say that round with my dad really helped me out," Wilkerson said. "We went out a few weeks ago and really stressed the psychological part. [He reminded me] not to get hung up on a mistake or a bad shot and just to push through and focus."
His father proved to be a good teacher, as Wilkerson's 74 was the lowest score in his high school career, beating his old best by two strokes.
"It was just a solid round out there," Wilkerson said. "I was driving [the ball] well, didn't strike the irons as well as I thought, but made some good putts. I'm just getting into the groove of the season."