By Jeff Nations
FRONT ROYAL -- The final group played the last hole of the Bull Run District tournament under the moonlight Wednesday at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club.
Nearly 7 ½ hours after the first group teed off, that final foursome signed off on their cards to wrap up a long day. Hours before that, though, the final results had been a foregone conclusion. Defending state champion William Monroe predictably claimed the team honors, and Strasburg's Tyler Doman dispelled most of the drama for the low medalist by firing a dazzling 1-under-par 70.
Doman finished seven strokes ahead of runner-up Yancey Harrison of William Monroe. It was the Rams senior's best round of the year. Early on, though, Doman had no idea he was on course for that type of score.
"I never really felt like I was going to have a big day," Doman said. "I just felt like it was going to be pretty good. I mean, I started out I think par, bogey, then I parred the next one and bogeyed the next one. I was just thinking it was going to be an average day and then I just kept parring holes."
Doman finished with two bogeys and three birdies over the 18-hole course. The rest was just even par all the way, nice and steady.
"I was just trying to be more focused today and slow down when I'm playing," Doman said. "I just wanted to make sure that I stayed more focused on every shot. That really helps -- putting especially, it helped a lot.
"I didn't really think it was going to be that great of a day, but it turned out to be."
It was a pretty great day across the board for Strasburg, which shot a combined 322 to finish 10 strokes behind the formidable Dragons. Clarke County took third with 342, edging Central by a single stroke. Warren County also had a solid day, finishing sixth in the eight-team tournament with a 416.
"Tyler played phenomenal, and our other guys played well and contributed," Strasburg coach Ricky Bowley said. "Overall, I think we can feel pretty good about the way we played."
It would have been even better last year, when a runner-up effort in the district tournament would have meant an automatic berth in regionals. Now with the new conference alignment, the Bull Run tournament didn't mean much in terms of the postseason. Bowley did think playing well now will help next week when the Rams face their first elimination challenge in the Conference 35 tournament.
"It's almost like a practice tournament for the real one," Bowley said. "So next week, when we go into conference, I think today will be beneficial for us. We know what we're in for next week, and it'll take away some of the jitters and some of the nerves. This type of experience, I think, prepares us for the following week."
Joining Doman with scoring finishes for Strasburg were Jacob Smith (81), Colten Smith (85) and Garrett Richards (86).
Central had some ups and downs on Wednesday. The Falcons' top player, Ben Kline, had an off day and finished with a 79. On the plus side, Central got a solid fourth score from Corey Sibert.
"That's definitely a bright spot for us today," Central coach Jeff Walters said. "We've been looking for that fourth score. Now if we can all put it together on the same day, I think we have a chance to maybe get a couple guys into regionals or maybe even shock somebody and get into regionals."
Kline said the greens were rolling "extremely well," making the tight course even more of a challenge. That was reflected in most of the scores, which were down across the board except for Doman's.
"It was a mediocre day," Kline said. "Not a very good score, but it's not really reflective on what happens next because I can still move on after shooting that score today. Just congratulations to Tyler -- I didn't think that score was out there. That's quite impressive on this course."
Adding scoring efforts for Central were Jacob Allwine (86), Joseph Plauger (87) and Sibert (91). Like Kline, Walters viewed the district tournament as practice for next week's Conference 28 tournament on this same course.
"Obviously as a team we were a little bit disappointed, top to bottom, really, in how we played today," Walters said. "But we do know this is really a warm-up match for us. Our important match is really against our conference opponents."
Warren County's scoring was provided by Brandon McWhorter (98), Chase Hatfield (103), Courtney L'Amoreaux (105) and Destin Waller (110). The Wildcats will also be back at Shenandoah Valley on Sept. 30 for the Conference 28 tournament.
Doman won't have that benefit. The Conference 35 tournament will be held next Wednesday at Heritage Oaks. If he keeps playing at this level, it won't matter.
"I'm very happy for him," Bowley said. "I kind of look at it as a breakout performance for him, and I just hope he can continue that."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>. Follow on Twitter @J_NationsNVD