By Brad Fauber - email@example.com
WINCHESTER -- Skyline senior Rob Willard had been struggling with his short game during the early stages of the 2012 high school golf season.
So for the third and final Northwestern District mini tournament of the season on Monday at Winchester Country Club, Willard decided to make an equipment change.
"I actually switched to a putter that I got when I was eight -- so it's quite an old putter -- and I just started making everything," Willard said.
The switch may have been just what Willard needed Monday.
The senior shot the best round of his high school career, carding an 81 on the par-72 course and grabbing low-medalist honors for the afternoon.
Willard's performance included birdies on hole six and hole 11, and he said he consistently put himself in position for manageable putting opportunities, at which points he would put his newly-found lucky putter to work.
"Iron play -- it was me putting myself on the greens and giving myself nice birdie chances, and if I missed those, nice two-putts," Willard said of one of the keys to his performance on Monday. "I don't think I had anything longer than a 15-footer for birdie or anything like that."
Willard topped Sherando senior Chris Slater and James Wood's Roger Repasky by one stroke each to claim the top spot.
Slater's 82 was the leading score for the Warriors on Monday, and Sherando topped the team leaderboard at the end of the day with a four-golfer total of 342. James Wood finished second with 358 strokes, and Skyline (375) beat Handley by a stroke to claim third place.
Slater's outing, which included a birdie on hole 11, wasn't a stellar performance, but it was a nice rebound for the senior who carded his highest total in three years with an 89 on the same course last Friday during the Bryan Gunter tournament.
"I'd say my tee-game was kind of hurting me. I wasn't putting myself into good position for my second shot on," Slater said. "My close game and my bunker shots [went] actually pretty well, I was pretty pleased about that.
"At least I played better [today]. I'm not going backwards. I wouldn't say I'm pleased with my round, but it could've been a lot worse."
Senior Savannah Ford, a consistent top-four contributor for Sherando all season, turned in an 85 from the No. 4 spot, and freshman Mason Scott (87) and senior Anthony Pierro (88) each had strong outings to close out the scoring for Sherando.
The victory on Monday gives the Warriors a total of four points (two first-place finishes, one second-place finish) through the three district mini tournaments, one point ahead of James Wood as the district transitions into head-to-head play.
The team with the best head-to-head record at season's end will receive one point, with the remaining teams earning the number of points equal to their place in the standings. Sherando will clinch the regular season district title and a Region II berth if it can finish the year with the top head-to-head record.
James Wood, still well in the mix for the regular season championship, wasn't at full strength on Monday as No. 1 golfer Will Holmes had to withdraw from the tournament on the 11th hole after suffering tendonitis in his foot, according to Colonels coach Al Smith.
"[Today] was important, we got a leg up," said Sherando coach Rob Wright. "But this bit with Will, that's a shame right there. When you win, you always want to beat everybody's best, but then it is a team play. I was really impressed with the way [James Wood] pulled it back together."
Skyline had only one other golfer shoot in the 80s to go along with Willard's outstanding round, but the Hawks still managed to take third place for the second time in three mini tournaments.
Senior Joe Dawkins fired an 85 for Skyline on Monday, and junior Ben Andrews (101) and freshman Alec Calhoun (108) did just enough to allow Skyline to squeak by Handley's total of 376.