Falcons capture county tourney

Joseph Plauger

FRONT ROYAL — In team-play golf, every shot matters.

This was no more so than Thursday, when Central claimed the annual Shenandoah County golf tournament trophy and top medalist honors at Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club.

The Falcons’ No. 1 golfer, Joseph Plauger, carted an 18-hole low medalist score of 76 to own that honor and his teammates followed suit as Central edged county rival Strasburg 336-338 for the team trophy. Stonewall Jackson took third in the match with a four-man total of 377 strokes.

“I tell my guys every day at practice that each shot counts. It doesn’t matter if you’re the No. 1 man or you’re down the list, it’s important to score well,” said Central coach Jeff Walters, who earned the county coach of the year honors.

Plauger overcame what for him was a sluggish front side only to tab three birdies on the back nine to bring home the individual metal.

“I saw Coach on about the 17th hole and he told me, ‘We’re two-down (to the Rams) so you’ve got to play well,” said Plauger, who finished runnerup in this tournament a year ago.

“So, I said, ‘What about this – I’ll birdie the last two holes and then we’ll see where we are.’ I birdied the last two holes. It was pretty cool.”

Not only did Plauger earn medalist honors, but, as it turned out, freshman Jack Burr earned a 90. That score proved to set the tourney’s final outcome.

“I didn’t know I had done that until my teammates came over and started congratulating me,” said Burr.

The freshman’s twin brother James seemed to put his team ahead by one as he came in with a score of 91. But James’ tally was pushed off the best-four-scoring card as Jack clipped him by a stroke. Jack’s effort gave Central the two-shot team victory.

Plauger played No. 1 for the Falcons. James Burr was playing as the Falcon’s fifth man and Jack was the sixth. Their scores figured into the final tally as the regular No. 4 man for Central scored a 95.

Coy Jimenez and Corey Sibert (both at 85) tied for third place individually with Reese Taylor of Strasburg.

The Rams’ Gage Tefft finished runnerup to Plauger with an 80. Fellow Strasburger Austin Stickles had an 84 to finish third in the tourney.

“He’s a solid golfer. He keeps his head, which, on a course like this, is important – because it’s tough. He keeps the ball in the fairway and fights,” said Strasburg coach Jordan Hardy.

Hardy watched Tefft, Stickles, Taylor and Colten Smith (89) shoot below 90 only to finish two strokes off the pace. Strasburg was the only foursome to do that; however, the day belonged to Central.

Coach Walters singled out Sibert.

“I thought he gave a tremendous performance. He struggled at times because this is a difficult course, but he rebounded and definitely deserves a piece of this trophy,” Walters said.

So, also, did Plauger, who qualified for the Group 3A state tournament in 2014.

Like its name implies, Blue Ridge Shadows, a 6,787-yard layout from the medium tees, plays up and down.

Plauger shot a five-over 41 on the front nine, but championed the backside with birds on 10, 17 and 18. The reason for his success? His putter.

Though he had missed what he thought were several makeable putts, he went to work at the turn.

He canned four putts of 15-feet or more. He knocked down a 20 footer on 17 and on 18 he drilled in a five footer. Both shots brought home birdies.

“On the longer putts, I just tried to use a smooth stroke,” Plauger said, “and they went in.”

“He had a rough front, missing several putts. But he’s resilient. He never loses his cool. I told him he had to step on the throttle on the back nine, and that’s exactly what he did,” said Walters.

Meanwhile, Stonewall Jackson continues to rebuild. Coach Roger Wilkins lost three individuals who qualified for the regionals a year ago. This year’s team features one senior, one junior, five sophomores and one freshman.