By Jeff Nations
FRONT ROYAL -- There have been better days on the course for Stonewall Jackson High School's golf team this season, no question about that.
The Generals' No. 1, Andrew Good, got off to a rough start on the opening nine holes at the Class 2A state golf tournament at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club, and he wasn't the only one. Teammates Ben Rosenberger and Eric Arnesen also struggled to uncharacteristically tough days. Stonewall's Jonathan Koontz described his day as "nothing spectacular," teammate Kory Somers admitted he left three or four strokes on the green on missed putts, and Colton Harlow finished his day with an adventurous bogey as the Generals battled a course rapidly drying out after five straight days of rain.
Not great, not hardly -- but good enough for a share of first place with a combined 326 heading into today's final round.
"I told them today basically what we needed to try and do was be in the thick of it and have a chance for a second day," Stonewall Jackson coach Roger Wilkins said. "We have a chance, so we accomplished that. That's all we can ask for."
Koontz, who fired an 85 on the par-71 White-Blue Shenandoah Valley course, thinks his team is bound to play better with an added round of experience. None of Stonewall's golfers has played Shenandoah Valley much, and some -- including Harlow -- had never been on the course before Sunday's soggy practice round.
"It's definitely encouraging," Koontz said. "Colton had a good round, but other than that our top four really didn't do anything amazing. I had a rough day, Andrew had a rough day, Ben was really rough, but it's looking good for tomorrow. I feel good about it. I think we have a good shot."
Harlow did much to help the Generals forge a tie for the lead with Graham after the first 18 holes, firing a 77 on the unfamiliar course despite closing with a hard-earned bogey to close out at even par on the back nine.
Starting off the back nine at 3-under par more than made up for that last hole, as Harlow fired an eagle on the par-5 Blue No. 1, followed by making par on the next hole and then chipping in for a birdie on the Blue No. 3.
"I had pretty much pars, then I through a couple bogies in there and ended up even par on the back," Harlow said. "It wasn't too bad, but I could've done a lot better. On the last hole, I kind of got messed up. I hit my drive straight right, then I had to punch out from the trees. When I punched out, the grass just grabbed it and it didn't go anywhere, and I still didn't have a clear shot to the green. So I had to punch out twice on one hole, but I ended up bogeying so it wasn't too bad of a bogey."
Good also had his troubles, especially on the White front nine. He had a double bogey, a triple bogey and a quadruple bogey to finish the first nine holes with a 44, but rallied to fire a 38 on the back nine to finish with an 82.
"I really needed to calm myself down," Good said. "I took a little break between nines, then went out on the back nine and held it together."
Good is glad to have another crack at the course today, and appreciated his teammates making up for his off day.
"I'm really happy to see where we stand after coming in and not playing the way I want to play," Good said. "It's really good to have team members like that who can pick you up when you have a bad day."
"We always seem to play good after we play not how we really want to. I feel like I should play better and hopefully will play better."
Somers, playing as the Generals' No. 5, picked up much of the slack by shooting a 82, the best score outside the top two groups by three strokes.
"I've told him all year and I even told his father that I think golf could probably be his best sport," Wilkins said. "He just has good demeanor for it. He doesn't get upset, he just strolls along. He just has that great personality. He just needs to play more, I think, and he's that close to being a 70s shooter."
Somers thought he could have done even better if not for a couple off-target putts.
"I think they break a lot more than they look, so it's kind of hard to judge exactly where to aim," Somers said.
"... I didn't putt very well today, but overall [my] ball striking went really well. So I feel confident going into tomorrow."
Koontz is also expecting to play better today, although his 85 was enough for the Generals on Day 1.
"It was rough," Koontz said. "I struggled on the greens, I struggled getting to the greens. Not really any good holes, I just tried to pace myself with the people I was playing with. I beat'em all."
Floyd County's Amanda Hollandsworth lead all Class 2A golfers with a 1-under 70 on Monday. Following Stonewall and Graham in the 2A team scoring was Floyd County (336) and Buffalo Gap (344).
In the Class 1A state tournament played in conjunction with the Class 2A tournament, Holston fired a 325 to lead Parry McCluer (336), William Campbell (346) and Galax (354).
"It'll probably be faster on the greens," Wilkins said. "That's something then we've got to get used to and adjust to as well. The pitching, the ball's going to roll out further unless you get the backspin on the ball, and the putts will probably go a little faster. It's going to be a different course tomorrow."
Harlow thinks his team will be up for whatever challenge the Shenandoah Valley course presents today as the Generals try to lock down the 10th state golf championship -- and first since 1997 -- in school history.
"I definitely have confidence in the team," Harlow said. "I think we'll pull through."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>. Follow on Twitter @J_NationsNVD