By Brian Eller - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Walking along Blue Ridge Shadows' 18th fairway Thursday, the fate of the Bull Run District tournament championship rested in the hands of three golfers. Each one represented their team's top position -- Strasburg's Derek Davis, Manassas Park's Joey Gaouette and Madison County's Collin Tucker -- and each one's score would play a part in determining the district winner.
High above in the clubhouse, rumors began to spread, as teammates, parents and spectators gossiped on who would need what score and how this or that person was doing on the course. Nearly every score had been tallied and posted on the board, except the three that would impact the tournament.
As the trio finished their rounds and headed up the path to enter their scores, those waiting to see the results huddled around the scoreboard.
"I knew it was going to be close," Davis said. "I had a feeling I was going to have to shoot low 80s, upper 70s to win it."
Tucker came in with a 96, leaving only Davis and Gaouette. Davis' 80 was next, putting Strasburg in good position to capture its first district tournament championship in more than five years. Finally, Gaouette's score was entered. His 86 was good, but not good enough to advance the Cougars to regionals. Instead, that honor went to Strasburg, whose 358 took first place, propelling the Rams into the regional tournament, along with regular-season champion Madison County.
"It's a great feeling," Strasburg coach Ricky Bowley said. "We're very excited and to be honest, we kind of feel like we've worked very hard for it. We were close in the regular season, so we felt like if we had another chance to earn our way in we could. We've practiced well, worked hard and feel really satisfied that we're able to win, so I think our kids are very deserving."
Just a few months before, Bowley had high hopes for his young squad, but thoughts of a district championship were a stretch. Now, those thoughts are a reality as the Rams will move on to the Region B tournament Oct. 5 at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club.
Davis, the team's No. 1 golfer all season, had success on the front nine, despite a wrist injury that had bothered him for about a month. His day took a rough turn late in his round, however, as a couple of poor shots forced the senior to re-focus and concentrate on capturing the district crown.
"My front was really good, but then the back I started struggling," Davis said. "I'm just really proud of the team because it isn't one person who does it.
"It's all of them together."
While Davis led the way for the Rams with his 80, the tournament's top overall score, it was an unlikely face that emerged for the purple and white, in the form of the team's No. 6 golfer, Brady Kibler. Just days earlier, Kibler had to fight his way into the team's starting six. He shot an 89, highlighted by a 42 on the back nine.
Earlier this week, Kibler had won a three-man playoff to determine who would represent Strasburg in the No. 6 spot. The format for the tournament was three separate nine-hole rounds, pitting Kibler against teammates Jared Warner and Jamie Rutherford. Oddly enough, the final nine-hole round took place on the back nine at Blue Ridge Shadows, the very same holes Kibler dominated Thursday.
"It's kind of ironic," Kibler said. "It was nerve-racking in that playoff just coming down to the last few holes, but it's just that back nine. I've come out and done well two times in a row, and there's just something I like about it."
With Strasburg and Madison County advancing to regionals as a team, the next top six individual scores also qualified for a spot. Ben Tourkin and Will Powell qualified for George Mason, Gaouette and Wade Owens advanced for the Cougars and Clarke County sent two to regionals, as Mark Unger and Zach Carlisle advanced. Gaouette, Unger and Carlisle were also named to the all-district team, along with Luke Crouthamel from Madison and Kibler and Davis, who was named the Bull Run District's Player of the Year.
"I knew we had a good chance this year because we had so many returning players," Davis said, "but it was so cool knowing that we actually won it."