Falcons’ Plauger, Rams’ Stickles qualify for state golf tournament

Joseph Plauger Rich Cooley/Daily

Central and Strasburg will each have one representative at the Group 2A state golf tournament.

Central senior Joseph Plauger fired a five-over-par 77 at the Region 2A East tournament at Kiskiack Golf Club in Williamsburg on Tuesday, while Rams freshman Austin Stickles carded an 80 as both golfers qualified for the state tournament scheduled for next Monday and Tuesday at Golden Eagle Golf Club in Irvington.

Falcons coach Jeff Walters said in a phone interview Tuesday night that Plauger began his round by shooting four-over-par on the front nine, but the senior finished the final nine holes one-over and ended the day tied for third place individually with Greensville County’s Cassie Robinson, two strokes behind individual champion Thomas Otteni (75) of Robert E. Lee.

“I think there was a little bit of nerves there at the beginning,” Walters said. “When I saw him at the turn he said I’m four-over and I said you’re fine, just keep playing. He started talking a little bit about what we thought the cutoff score was gonna be and then we just quickly got away from that and said just listen, let’s just play every shot by shot, don’t worry about it, it’ll all take care of itself. He just played shot by shot. He played the rest out one over.”

Walters said Plauger showed “a lot of maturity” on the final hole of the day, the par-5 18 that features a risk-reward shot opportunity over a water hazard. Plauger opted to take the safe route and went around the hazard, Walters said, and ended up with par on the hole.

Austin Stickles

“I knew where the scores were at that point and I said well you can go for an eagle to be the region champion or you can, you know, play it safe and he said I’m playing for a five so I can go to the state tournament,” Walters said.

This season marks the second straight year Plauger has qualified for a state tournament, as he reached the Group 3A meet last year and tied for 15th place. Plauger has earned all-Bull Run District, all-Conference 35 and all-region honors so far this season.

“I know he’s got some goals in mind and he will keep shooting for them and we’ll see what we can do,” Walters said.

Stickles, who improved upon the 90 he shot at the Conference 35 tournament last week on Strasburg’s home course at Blue Ridge Shadows, will be making his first state tournament appearance. Stickles was one of four Rams to qualify for and compete in the regional tournament. Rams senior Colten Smith (84) – last year’s regional champion – senior Reese Taylor (87) and freshman Seth Stickley (103) missed the cut Tuesday.

Strasburg coach Jordan Hardy was unable to be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Central, the Conference 35 champion, sent its entire team to Williamsburg. Sophomore Luke Estep (85), sophomore Coy Jimenez (88) and senior Corey Sibert (90) contributed to the Falcons’ fourth-place finish Tuesday.

Robert E. Lee (314) topped East Rockingham (326) for the regional title as both teams advance to the state round.

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