Loy takes conference title as Warriors advance to regionals

HARRISONBURG – If Sherando junior Brett Loy had any qualms about his run to the Group 4A state golf title a year ago, it was that his teammates largely missed out on the postseason experience. Things will be different this year.

Loy fired a four-over-par 74 to claim the top honors at Thursday’s Conference 21A tournament at Heritage Oaks Golf Club, while the Warriors received key contributions from the bottom half of their six-man lineup en route to a second-place team finish. As the conference runner-up, Sherando advances to the Region 4A West tournament held at the same course on Oct. 6.

In addition to Loy’s championship performance, junior Jonah Pearson – the Warriors’ fourth-seeded golfer Thursday – fired an 81, senior Mason Scott shot an 82 and No. 6 golfer Luke Connor carded an 83 to give Sherando a total score of 320, nine strokes behind team champion Woodgrove (311) in the six-team field.

“I think in my four years I’ve been here we haven’t, as a team, been to the regional level, so this is definitely a big step for us,” said Scott. “We’re excited. We didn’t play as well as we could have. We didn’t play to our potential but we made it through somehow. We got the opportunity so we’re gonna make the most of it when we can at regionals.”

Both Loy and Scott said windy conditions contributed to some of the Warriors’ struggles on Thursday, and Sherando coach Rob Wright said those struggles were compounded by the tournament layout. Conference 21A shared the course with Conference 29 and began its tournament on the back nine, which Wright said features tighter fairways than the front nine.

“I think starting on the back, it’s a tougher nine and I think that kind of set the tone because if you look all of the scores were really up from what we were doing. But everybody had to do it,” Wright said.

Loy, who said he was glad to get the back nine out of the way early, had five bogeys and a double bogey on the par-5 18th hole during his round, which he helped offset with a birdie and an eagle. Loy topped Woodgrove teammates Alex Price (77) and Alex Wilson (77) by three strokes each to earn his first conference championship.

“I’ve never done it before so it feels good,” Loy said. “I mean, I didn’t play my best but it was just a tough day, just a grinding day.”

Loy, who said recent aerification of the greens left the surfaces “a little bumpy” Thursday, noted that he struggled with his putting but added that he did shoot well off the tee and eagled the seventh hole, a 479-yard par 5.

Sherando topped Northwestern District rival James Wood by eight strokes in the final team standings, and the two squads were locked in a close race for the runner-up spot for most of the afternoon.

The Warriors held a one-stroke lead over James Wood after the first three golfers from each team turned in their scores, but Pearson gave Sherando a nice cushion when he turned in an 81 from the No. 4 spot in the lineup.

“I knew that we had some rough scores in the mix out there and so I came in off my first nine not so hot, so I knew I had to turn it on coming in,” Pearson said. “But I was able to just stay focused and finish strong.”

Pearson, whose 81 would’ve qualified him for the regional tournament regardless of Sherando’s team finish, said his short game was strong Thursday and he was balanced over the final nine holes.

“I putted pretty well. Off the tee I was strong and I putted pretty strong, so that’s pretty much what turned it around for me on the second nine,” he said.

Scott, on the other hand, said he was content with his showing over the first nine holes before things got a bit trickier over the final half. Sitting at four-over-par with about seven holes remaining, Scott said he got a bit “unlucky” and triple-bogeyed a pair of holes down the stretch, leading to an 82, 12 strokes over par.

Despite his late struggles, Scott said he was using his wedges to great success, which got him out of some difficult situations.

“I had to rely on that a lot. I know on the front nine I only hit two greens … so I was relying heavily on my wedges to get up and down, which I successfully did a couple of times,” Scott said. “That definitely saved a good amount of strokes for me. It wasn’t as strong as it could be but definitely, definitely helped.”

With Sherando’s second-place finish all but locked up, Connor closed out the Warriors’ round by carding an 83 to drop Sherando’s final score down two more strokes.

“I’m glad Luke did it,” Wright said. “He’s a senior and he’s really been working hard the last couple years and he said this morning, he said ‘I really feel a good round coming today.’ I said, ‘Well, we could use it.’

“They got off to kind of a rough start and I think they, as a group, they held it together really well,” Wright added. “… It’s a close group and I think they just didn’t want today to be the last day for them.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com