By Brian Eller - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- At first, Eric Pfeifer just wanted to make the team.
With a deep pool of talent returning for Sherando, the freshman knew the odds would be tough, but all he wanted was his chance.
To his surprise, Pfeifer made the squad, joining the Warriors' youthful team, led by sophomore Chris Slater and junior Cameron Wiseman. Over time, Pfeifer's game improved and the freshman worked his way into the team's top six, where his score, if among the team's top four, would count toward a match.
On Tuesday, Pfeifer's efforts did just that. Playing as Sherando's No. 6 golfer, Pfeifer shot a 75, the second-best score of the day for the Warriors, to help lead them to a first-place finish at the 2010 Skyline Invitational.
"I just thought I played really well," Pfeifer said. "I really had to think about every shot. It was really more in my head rather than down with the club and everything. You know you're playing well, and after each good shot you want it to continue."
Tricky weather conditions forced the golfers to adjust on the course, as a constant wind often-times changed directions, teasing the golfers as to which way their shots would travel. For a freshman, that element could've proved disastrous. Pfeifer, however, knew if the wind wasn't going to cooperate, he'd simply have to play it safe.
"[The wind] was kind of tough, but once you compensate for it, it gets better," Pfeifer said. "It only took a couple of holes to adjust to it."
Pfeifer's 75 helped Sherando finish with a 305, six strokes ahead of second-place finisher Centreville (311), led by University of Michigan-bound senior Noori Hyun's 76. Matt Fazenbaker's 75 put Millbrook (329) in the third spot for the tournament, while James Wood (334), Fauquier (345), Handley (349), Skyline (351), Clarke County (356) and Warren County (407) rounded out the day's participants.
For Sherando, all four qualifying scores came in under 80, as Kolby Madigan shot a 74, Wiseman recorded a 77 and Cory Hammons' 79 meshed with Pfeifer's 75 to form the top result.
"It seems like somebody different steps up for a score each round," Sherando coach Robert Wright said. "We've been watching [Eric] and the thing about him is he's not long, but he doesn't get into trouble. He keeps it down the middle of the fairway and he putts well. So he might have to chip one, get it close and make his putt, but he's holding us together and playing really well for us."
The top individual score, meanwhile, went to Skyline's Zack Henry, whose 72 was two strokes better than Madigan's 74.
Henry, who has finished among the leaders in every tournament this season, said the wind definitely played a factor, and that he wasn't too confident his score would take home the top prize.
"I was able to stay in with my short game, made some putts and hit some good chips," Henry said. "It was tough to hit greens today, though. That wind was just tough to judge. One time it'd be in your face, and on the next hole it'd be swirling."
With the postseason nearing, Henry said he's in the midst of determining where he'll continue golfing after high school. According to the senior, he was impressed with a recent visit to the United States Naval Academy, but has interest in other schools in and out of the state. And while it was the Hawks' senior stealing the top individual honors, it was Pfeifer, the Warriors' freshman, leading his team to victory.
"It's been great," Pfeifer said of the season. "At first I just wanted to make the team, and I'm just glad that they can use my score and that I'm playing well. Since we're going to play the same courses for districts, hopefully I know what do to so I'll try to play just as well."