By Brian Eller - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- The 13th hole at Jackson's Chase Golf Course is not for the faint of heart. It's a challenging, 478-yard, par 5, with the fairway hanging to the right of the tee box. It's one of the five longest holes on the course and for any golfer, the prospect of a par or even a bogey is satisfactory.
Not for Stonewall's Coleman Johnson, however. For the Generals' No. 2 golfer, the 13th hole Tuesday became the stage for the day's most impressive tee shot, a nearly 400-yard strike that brought Johnson into within just a few yards of the hole and left the golfers ahead of him on the course wondering where exactly the shot came from.
"I didn't see the cart path there, but I hit it pretty solid," Johnson said. "I didn't know where the fairway was at first, so I asked the Strasburg kid and he told me it was to the right. I aimed it and hit it right, and it just kept going onto the cart path."
It was that type of day for Johnson, who finished with a match-low 78, leading the Generals to a team-best 333. Strasburg came in second place with a 364 and George Mason finished third, shooting a collective 396.
Weather conditions were hot and dry Tuesday, testing golfers' perseverance, particularly on the back nine. And with little to no breeze for most of the day, players found themselves without the benefit of wind to help move their shots through the air. That may have been a problem for some, but the calm conditions actually played to Johnson's strengths on the course.
"I hit my irons high and the wind always messes me up, but it was nice and calm today," Johnson said. "My tee shots were almost perfect. I hit every green with my irons, so that really helped because the greens were pretty tough."
Johnson was the only golfer to finish under 80, as teammates Russell Hill, Tyler Barb and David Dodson finished with an 81, 83 and 91, respectively.
That was good enough to finish comfortably ahead of Strasburg, however, which continued its impressive season by defeating fellow Bull Run District opponent George Mason and setting up a first-place showdown next week with Madison County.
Derek Davis led the way for the Rams, shooting an 80, while Collin Cook, Tyler Doman and Jared Werner turned in scores of 93, 95 and 96, respectively.
For Davis, what started as a minor setback on the back nine turned into a few disappointing holes, forcing him to regroup and climb back into what began as a successful day. Thanks to a recent putter switch, Davis was able to salvage his back nine, using solid putting to finish the day with an 80. Earlier in the season Davis used a Rossa Daytona putter, but recently switched to a Scotty Cameron, a change he says makes his putts "easier to line up."
"I loved my putting," Davis said. "That one double bogey just made me mad, though, and I got a bogey and was thinking, 'Man, I can't get a break.' I had a good shot after that, though, and my front nine was really good, so I just need to work on my mental game a little bit."
If Davis can fix his "mental mistakes," Strasburg has a shot at claiming the Bull Run District title next week. The Rams will travel down to face Madison County, where a win over the Mountaineers would give the crown to Strasburg along with an automatic berth in regionals.
"We put ourselves in a pretty good position," coach Ricky Bowley said. "So if we can go to Madison and win at their place we can win the district outright, so that's going to be a tough assignment, but we've given ourselves a chance."