By Jeff Nations
FRONT ROYAL -- Sherando golf coach Rob Wright just wanted to practice a healthy bit of recycling shortly before the Warriors' season opened this week.
With a youthful squad ranging toward the smallish side, Wright took the unusual step of ordering some size small golf shirts for the first time in several years. He still had shirts from the last couple years' teams available, though, so he decided to pass them around to give the Warriors a bit of game-day variety.
There was a hitch, though -- all of those hand-me-downs were medium or large shirts. When freshman Brett Loy got his, the thing practically engulfed him.
"Brett stood up and said, 'Coach, do you really think I need a medium?,' Wright said. "It was just hanging on him."
Loy may look every bit the incoming freshman for Sherando, but his golf game says otherwise. He proved that again during Thursday's 12th Annual Curly Licklider Memorial tournament at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club. Loy's 109 over the novel 27-hole tournament was good for third place overall and helped lead Sherando to a sixth-place finish in the 17-team field.
This, just a day after Loy's varsity debut on Wednesday at the Spotswood Invitational. Loy fired a team-best 74 in the tournament to take fifth overall.
"We've got a great leader in Brett," Wright said. "You can see the kids kind of rally around him. I keep telling them, 'We're going to ride him and we need the support,' and I think the guys are starting to respond to that.."
Wright knew what he was getting in Loy, who grew up playing the game at Rock Harbor Golf Course in Winchester. Wright spied Loy as an emerging talent early on, and made sure to keep an eye on him whenever Sherando visited that course.
"I'd go over and watch him on the range, and talk to him a little bit, just getting to know him over the years," Wright said. "It's a big transition anyhow from middle school to high school, then to jump right in with a lot of people expect a lot of things of you. He's met that challenge."
On Wednesday, Loy faced the unique challenge the Licklider Memorial offers -- 27 holes spread over three different courses. Loy battled Shenandoah Valley's Blue (par 36) and White (par 35) layouts, and gave up two strokes to Red (par 36) to finish 2-over on the day.
"I was really happy," Loy said. "I had a lot of birdies, but a lot of bogies, too. So there's a little more room for improvement."
Tuscarora, the defending champion, easily defended its team title with a combined 439, 30 strokes better than runner-up Spotswood. It helped that Tuscarora had three of the day's six medalists in runner-up Cameron Norris (108), fifth-place finisher Thomas Truluck (110) and sixth Chad Stocks (110).
Dominion's Eric Dulik took low-medalist honors with an even-par 107. Fourth-place finisher Daniel Wine of Spotswood rounded out the medalists with a 109.
Wright had few complaints for the Warriors after another solid day. The team, which featured three freshmen, two sophomores and a junior on Thursday, certainly has plenty of room to grow -- literally and figuratively.
Joining Loy with scoring finishes for the Warriors were Josh Hogue (119), Collin Ordonez (126) and Jonah Pearson (129).
"Dominion's in our conference, Tuscarora's in our conference and they were about 40 strokes better than we were today," Wright said. "Somebody said, 'There's no way,' and I looked at them and said, 'Yeah, today's Aug. 8. We don't play them until Sept. 24.' We've got about seven weeks to work on it. Now we know what we've got to do, which was a good learning experience for us."
Strasburg coach Ricky Bowley also had plenty to like about the Rams' solid day. Strasburg fired a combined 492 to take eighth overall in a field mostly stacked with larger schools. Tyler Doman led the Rams with a 117. Even better, his teammates weren't far behind as Strasburg got scoring efforts from Jacob Smith (121), Colten Smith (126), and 128s from both Garrett Richards and Reese Taylor.
"I think it was a good day for us," Bowley said. "We feel OK about how we played today."
Doman was on his way to an even better day, but stumbled a bit with his chipping and putting toward the end of his round.
"I was 2-over through 20 holes, then blew up on the last seven holes," Doman said. "I played 8-over for the last seven, so I should have shot a lot better than I did. But I still hit the ball well, so I'll take it."
Skyline fired a combined 585 to finish 16th. Scoring for the Hawks were Robbie Belanger (137), Ben Andrews (140), Alec Calhoun (152) and Anthony Crescienzi (156).
Tournament host Warren County, which had to replace five of last year's top six, finished at the bottom of the team standings with a combined 632 from top finishers Chase Hatfield (153), Brandon McWhorter (153), Courtney L'Amoreaux (157) and Dalton Jenkins (169).
Still, Wildcats coach Matt Wadas was encouraged by his rebuilt squad's effort.
"The whole entire group of sophomores, I was very impressed today," Wadas said. "Only one had played in competition before, and these were actually better scores than my seniors last year.
"So even though the scores were a little bit high, I was extremely happy. This group, hopefully, is going to be together for the next three years. It's a great starting point."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>