Wildcats see improvement in Curly Licklider Golf Tournament

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County High School golf coach Matt Wadas said he was asked recently about the rebuilding process that has marked the last several years for the Wildcats, and what direction he envisioned this year’s team going.

If Wednesday’s 16th Annual Curly Licklider Memorial Golf Tournament at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club is any indication, Warren County appears headed down the right path – the host Wildcats tied for eighth place in the 16-team field to kick off their 2016 season.

“The first day I said this is the team that I want to get over the hump,” said Wadas, whose team placed 25th of 26 in the same tournament a year ago. “We started three years ago winning one or two, and then last year we kind of finished in the middle of the pack in the Bull Run (District) – the Bull Run has good golf – and I said this year we have no seniors, we’ve got a young group but they play all the time. That’s our goal, just to keep improving, improving, improving.”

Warren County tied Eastern View in the middle of the field, which was topped by Woodgrove’s 469. William Monroe’s Dalton Gibson claimed low-medalist honors with a 2-over-par 73 in the 18-hole tournament (par 71), which took place on the club’s Blue and White nines.

In a deviation of standard tournament scoring, stroke totals from all six golfers from each team contributed to a school’s final score at this year’s Licklider Tournament.

Sherando (543) finished one stroke better than the Wildcats for a seventh-place finish, the best among four local schools that also included Strasburg (tied for 11th, 556) and Skyline (14th, 568).

Sherando senior Jonah Pearson led all local players with an 81, tied for 16th among the 96 golfers who competed.

“I felt like I played well,” Pearson said. “I struggled a little bit off the tee but I putted pretty well, was able to scramble. I kept a good attitude the whole time and stayed positive.

“Just getting back in the swing of things,” he added. “We’ve got a lot of young guys that are out and it’s great, so just working with them, working together, getting our team set for this year.”

The Warriors played without senior Brett Loy – the 2014 Group 4A state champ and an all-state performer last fall – who is competing in the Optimist International Junior Golf Championships in Florida this week.

Josh Bianco took Loy’s spot at the top of Sherando’s lineup on Wednesday and fired an 84, as did teammate Ryan Judy. Brandon Nice also contributed an 89 for the Warriors, who narrowly missed qualifying for the 4A state tournament as a team last season.

“I can tell there were definitely some nerves out there today,” Pearson said of the Warriors. “It’s just stuff that gets worked out. We’ve done this for four years now, so it always helps to be able to tell (the younger players) just relax, have some fun and the scores will drop.”

Strasburg sophomore Austin Stickles, coming off a Group 2A state tournament qualification last fall, shot an 82 to lead the Rams.

“I felt like I played decent, especially on the White Nine. I kind of gathered myself there,” Stickles said. “I started on the Blue and I went triple bogey on the first hole, so that kind of messed me up a little bit but I started to come back there. I only had three bogeys on White and I had that birdie that helped me go 2-over there.”

Stickles’ lone birdie of the round came on the par-4 White 5.

“I hit a good drive right down the right side of the fairway and then I used a 9-iron to put it about 3 feet,” he said.

Stickles was the lone Ram in the 80s on Wednesday, with Cory Clinedinst (91), James Burr (92), Drew Thomas and Brady Weatherholtz (97) scattered throughout the 90s. First-year head coach Joel Morgan said he sensed many of his inexperienced golfers felt uneasy being thrust into prominent roles for the first time, and just three days after fall sports practice began on Monday.

“That’s kind of how it felt about all of them, is that everybody else that we have out there (other than Stickles) I think barely played in a match last year,” Morgan said. “Some of it is gonna be a learning experience for all of them, and for me to figure out where they need to play.”

Warren County sophomore Joey Sorge led the Wildcats in the tournament, as he shot an 84 from the team’s second spot in the lineup.

“I started off pretty badly. I didn’t hit like I wanted to. I’ve only played like a couple times through the summer (because) I had baseball, so I’m happy.” said Sorge, one of three sophomores in the Wildcats’ starting six.

“I’ve not been hitting my drives in the fairways straight. I’ve been hitting it in the woods. I’m trying to work on that, trying to slow my swing down.”

Freshman Lance Nalls, Warren County’s sixth golfer, shot an 86, while sophomore Michael Silek and junior Jacob Loughlin fired 88s for the Wildcats.

Skyline, which also plays its home tournaments at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club, was led by a pair of 85s from sophomore Lauren Sims and junior Brandon Griffith, Trenton Little’s 88 and Brett Ritter’s 90.

“We’ve got a lot of returning players, it’s still my first year so I’m still coming across them,” said Hawks head coach Roy Kelly.

“I think we’ve got (golfers) … who are capable of shooting in the low 80s and into the 70s. And I definitely am thinking if we can put it all together in some of these tournaments, if we can get four scores put up there I think we’ll have an opportunity to do some good things.”

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