By Brad Fauber
BASYE -- Colten Smith has never been too fond of the golf course at Bryce Resort.
The Strasburg junior has only played the course a handful of times, with not much to show for it. After Thursday's Bull District mini-tournament, however, Smith may have fewer qualms about the links nestled amongst the rolling hills of Bryce Mountain.
Smith fired a 4-over-par 75 on Thursday -- a personal-best for Smith on any course in his high school career -- to place second individually behind William Monroe's Logan Yates (70) and help the Rams to a second-place finish.
"Last year I shot terrible [at Bryce Resort]. I've never really liked this course until now," Smith said.
Smith, serving as Strasburg's No. 2 golfer on Thursday, likely felt that familiar aversion to the course early on, as he bogeyed the first hole, double bogeyed No. 2 and bogeyed the third. But then things began clicking for Smith.
He saved himself with a very strong effort on the back nine, firing a 1-under-par 34. Smith birdied on the par-3 15th -- his only birdie of the day -- and didn't bogey a hole on the back nine.
"My driver actually did better than what I usually do. And my putting was really good today. I don't think I three-putted all day, a lot of one-putts," Smith said. "I liked the greens. The greens rolled pretty good."
Smith's performance and similarly strong outing by teammate Jacob Smith (77) helped Strasburg to a team total of 330 strokes, 17 shots behind winner William Monroe (313). George Mason (365) was third, followed by Clarke County (fourth, 375), Madison County (fifth, 382), Central (sixth, 386), Manassas Park (seventh, 416) and Warren County (eighth, 435).
Strasburg, which also carded scores from No. 3 golfer Garrett Richards (84) No. 4 Reese Taylor (94), shaved seven strokes off its team score from the first district mini on Monday. The Rams' 17-stroke defeat to William Monroe on Thursday was also a vast improvement from the 39-stroke margin in Strasburg's runner-up finish on Monday.
"We'd have to play really well, but I think we're capable of catching them," Rams coach Jordan Hardy said of William Monroe. "That's certainly what we're going for. Not necessarily going for beating them, we're just trying to get better ourselves, which we did."
Jacob Smith, who birdied the par-4 No. 4 and the par-4 No. 10, could've matched Colten Smith's 75 on Thursday, but the senior double-bogeyed the par-3 No. 18 after his approach shot sailed long of the green.
Richards likewise could've had a stronger final score than his 84 for Strasburg if it hadn't been for a shaky short game. Richards three-putted on 11 different holes.
"At first it was his ball striking. Now it's gotten to where it's just his short game, so we've just got to tidy up those areas," Hardy said of Richards, a senior. "If we can get his score down a little bit lower and get that fourth one a little bit lower we'll be alright."
Central was led by sophomore Joseph Plauger, who fired a 10-over-par 81 on Thursday. Junior Corey Sibert shot a 98 for the Falcons from the No. 2 spot, and senior Davis Weddle (102) and freshman Coy Jimenez (105) rounded out the scoring for Central on the Falcons' home course.
"A good, solid round for Joseph again with an 81. He is capable of shooting a lot better than that. His expectations are higher than that and mine are higher than that for him," Falcons coach Jeff Walters said. "With the other guys, we knew where we stood at the beginning of the year -- it was going to be tough. We just want to try to move up a spot. Hopefully by the end of the year, maybe we can give somebody a run for third or fourth place. That's really our goal for this year."
Courtney L'Amoreaux and Brandon McWhorter led Warren County on Thursday as both fired a 104. Chase Hatfield (109) and Dalton Jenkins (118) rounded out the scoring for the Wildcats.
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org