By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- As the first groups of golfers began trickling to the scorer's table at the first Northwestern District mini tournament at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club on Tuesday afternoon, some fellow coaches asked Sherando coach Rob Wright how he taught his left-handed golfers proper technique.
The Warriors' top two golfers, freshman Brett Loy and sophomore Mason Scott -- both lefties -- had just turned in the two lowest scores of the day, and rival coaches wanted in on the secret. But when asked to share, Wright joked that he just holds up a mirror and critiques his golfer's swings as he would a right-hander.
Whatever Wright has been doing, it has certainly paid off for a young Sherando squad this season, and the Warriors kept up their early-season momentum with a win in Tuesday's five-team district mini.
Sherando finished with a final team score of 323, seven strokes ahead of second place James Wood (330). Millbrook (338) finished third, and Skyline and Handley tied for fourth with a total of 367.
Loy once again led the Warriors, finishing the day two over par with a tournament-low 74. Scott was right on his heels, firing a 75 to create some early distance between the Warriors and James Wood.
"It's kind of surprising to me," Scott said of Sherando's success so far this season. "I mean, I knew we were going to have a really young team, and I thought this year was just going to be a transition year, trying to get people experience with tournaments and everything, but I'm very surprised with how well we've been playing so far this year."
Sherando, which has generally been one of the toughest teams in the Northwestern District, entered this season without a senior on its 12-player roster, and its six-golfer lineup on Tuesday consisted of two freshmen, three sophomores and one junior.
The lack of upperclassmen has not left the Warriors leaderless, however, as Loy has eagerly embraced the role of team motivator.
The soft-spoken freshman hasn't just led with his play on the course -- when Loy finished his round on Tuesday, he made his way back out on the course to cheer on his teammates who were still finishing up their rounds.
"Brett has stepped up and the other kids are just following him right along," Wright said. "He's pulling them in. The first one he talked to was our kid that played No. 3 and shot a 98. He pulled him aside -- he's really a leader."
Tuesday's performance was just the latest in a string of solid outings for Loy, who has quickly earned plenty of respect from opponents in his short time at the varsity level.
Loy fired a 38 on the par-36 Blue nine before shooting an even-par 36 on the Red nine to round out his day. Loy finished the round with four birdies and six bogeys.
"I couldn't hit a driver to save my life, but I hit my irons and putted very well," Loy said. "I putted very well and chipped pretty close. My short game is very strong."
Scott also finished even on the back nine after firing three-over-par on the front. Scott said the greens were wet during the morning hours after a rain shower crept through the area, causing some of his putts to come up short. The sophomore said his putting improved as the day went on and the greens dried out.
"Usually Brett would get us a good head start with his good score, but I put a good one out there today and I feel like that allowed for some higher scores from the rest of our team," Scott said. "But I feel like overall we did really well today."
Freshman Jonah Pearson carded an 84 for Sherando, and junior Collin Ordonez rounded out the Warriors' scoring with a 90.
Skyline took a big step forward on Tuesday after a disappointing showing in its first Conference 28 mini tournament of the season on Monday at Loudoun Golf and Country Club, in which the Hawks shot 404 as a team.
Skyline coach Colin Miller set a team goal of 380 strokes for Tuesday's district mini, and the Hawks were able to beat that mark by 13 strokes.
Junior Anthony Crescienzi led the Hawks with an 81, the first time a Skyline golfer has scored in the 80s so far this season. Senior Ben Andrews fired a 92, and Robbie Belanger and Alec Calhoun each carded a 97 for Skyline.
"To be honest, we're building for the future this year," Miller said. "This year we're a young team. Even though our top two are seniors, beyond that we have new golfers.
"Anthony Crescienzi is still coming on. He's got a great attitude ... he was our most improved golfer last year, and he came through with a big round for us today. I couldn't be more proud of him. He needed that, and the team needed that."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org