By Jim Laise - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- All Warren County High School golf coach Matt Wadas wanted to see from his Wildcats on Thursday was improvement.
"I think if we can show some improvement, it will be a successful day," said the host team's coach at the Evergreen District championship at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club.
As day turned to night, that was exactly what he got.
Warren County finished fourth out of five teams in an 18-hole tournament, which was won by Liberty on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff that just nipped nightfall to finish.
Liberty (327) and Kettle Run (327) will represent the district at next Thursday's regional championship here. Fauquier finished third (357), Warren County (385) fourth, and Brentsville, (446) was fifth.
The fourth-place finish was an improvement, and so was the final score. On Wednesday in another event on the same course, Warren County shot a 409. Twenty-four hours later, the Wildcats sliced the previous day's round by 24 strokes.
Another sign of improvement was senior Allie Mingo, whose 90 placed her among the six medallists (beside qualifiers Liberty and Kettle Run), who will prolong their seasons at least one more week.
Mingo, who just began the sport two years ago, went 46-44. Her total was one of three sub-100 rounds for the Wadas-coached team. The others belonged to Britt Cupp (48-45--93) and Chase Hatfield, who improved six strokes over a first-nine 51 to come home with a 96. James Anderson (54-52--106) and Shivam Mehta (116) rounded out the Wildcats' scores.
Liberty's Parker Smith (39-36-75) won the individual tournament over Kettle Run's Thomas Arruda (39-38--77).
Mingo said this was the tournament she had been shooting for all season.
"This was my personal best, so, yes, I am very excited," she said. "I thought my drives and my pitching game were highly improved. Today my game was strong because I was in the right mindset. I was fully committed to every stroke."
A personal second-best score came from Warren's Cupp, who said a lot of his success started in the head and translated to his round.
"I think the biggest thing I've learned from golf is patience," Cupp said. "Patience, and trying to perform in the moment."
Cupp said he started off putting poorly, but he ran in a 50-footer on the seventh hole "to save par" and increase his confidence.
The Warren County golfer said his mind was on his total score rather than the next putt, a blunder he said he fixed as the day wore on.
Otherwise, "I stepped it up, particularly with my mid-irons."
After Kettle Run, the Evergreen District regular-season champ, and Liberty played to a tie in regulation, they were even after the first playoff hole, but top medalist Smith made par on the second overtime hole and teammate Ross Cornwell birdied.
Colin Simmons parred and Rusty Markley bogeyed to wrap up the match for the victors.
Smith said the key to winning his individual championship medal was "getting off the tee consistently." He earned five pars and a birdie on the back nine. The birdie was one of three for the Liberty golfer.
"We've been playing better and the kids certainly have worked hard. We just keep trying to improve as a team. That's been our goal this year," Warren County coach Wadas said.