Jimenez, Central take top honors in tourney
FRONT ROYAL – As Central High School’s golf team wrapped up regular-season play last week, the players on the Falcons’ roster had a unified message for head coach Jeff Walters – “We’re fine.” The team proved as much Monday afternoon.
After what Walters called a “seesaw” season up until Monday’s Conference 35 tournament on the Bowling Green Country Club’s South course, everything fell into place for the Falcons in their first playoff tournament. Central junior Coy Jimenez fired a 5-over-par 75 to take home the individual conference title, while the Falcons as a group topped the five-team field for the second season in a row to book a trip to the Region 2A East tournament at Heritage Oaks in Harrisonburg on Monday.
Central had lost to three of its four conference opponents at various points during the regular season.
“We didn’t really expect this at all, to be honest with you,” said Central sophomore Sam Shifflett, one of four Falcons to earn All-Conference 35 accolades. “We kind of surprised ourselves. But at the same time we all knew we had this in us. It was a little bit of both.”
Central’s collective total of 326 was eight strokes better than runner-up Clarke County (both teams qualified for the regional tournament) and 22 more than fourth-place Strasburg, which had beaten the Falcons in the Shenandoah County tournament and in a head-to-head meeting earlier this season. The Rams (348), who finished one stroke back of George Mason, qualified two golfers – Austin Stickles and Seth Stickley – for the regional competition.
In addition to Jimenez’s championship performance – Monday marked his first individual tournament title in high school golf – Shifflett’s 81 was a new career low for an 18-hole round, as was sophomore Brandon Davis’ 84. Junior Luke Estep (86) was two strokes off his lowest round, Walters said.
“Pleasantly surprised,” Walters said of his team’s performance. “The one thing is we have four guys who can score, that’s it. So they have to all play good at the same time. And that’s tough in high school golf, if you can get four kids peaking at the same time and it just happened to be our day today. That’s the only surprise. I knew each of them were capable of doing what they did but it’s hard to be confident that four teenagers are gonna be on the same page the same day, clicking, so I’m happy for them.”
Jimenez, who has regularly traded the title of Central’s top scorer with Shifflett this season, set the pace for the Falcons on Monday with a round that included three birdies and his best nine-hole performance on the course’s front half.
“Just like our season’s been going, that’s how my game’s been going. It’s slowly been getting better the last couple weeks,” Jimenez said. “Today just everything clicked, all points of my game were on and I was just hitting balls really well.”
The junior, who birdied holes 7, 9 and 11 (all par 4s), was 1-under par on the front nine, then shrugged off a triple-bogey and a double-bogey on holes 14 and 15, respectively, to top Clarke County’s Cameron Scheib (77) by two strokes.
“Luke (Estep) told the other guys the same philosophy we’ve had all year – if you have a bad shot, forget about it. If you have a bad hole, forget about it,” Walters said. “I mean all the guys, they had bad holes out there and that just says a lot about them that we stuck with our philosophy.”
Shifflett’s 81, tied for third overall, included a birdie on the par-4 12th.
Davis’ 84 tied the Central sophomore for sixth-place individually, giving the Falcons three first-team All-Conference 35 performers on Monday.
“Brandon Davis last week in practice, he had his best practice ever. He was on fire,” Walters said. “I mean just confidence booster and just feeling – I remember saying to him last week, ‘You’re peaking,’ and he said, ‘I’m ready.’ He’s just not that kind of kid, so it’s good to see the confidence come out in him.”
For Strasburg, Monday marked a disappointing showing after the Rams had beaten all but Clarke County in head-to-head matchups during the regular season. Stickles, Strasburg’s No. 1 golfer and a state qualifier as a freshman last season, tied for sixth individually, while Stickley snuck into the regional tournament by finishing in a three-way tie for the sixth and final individual regional qualifying spot designated for those players outside of Central and Clarke County.
Rams senior Cory Clinedinst carded an 87 to narrowly miss a shot at a regional advancement.
Rams head coach Joel Morgan lauded Central’s timely group effort in the tournament, adding that “our kids would probably say that they didn’t quite put the numbers up that they’d like.”
“I think it was one of those days,” he said. “Obviously that’s not a typical day for Austin (Stickles) out there and I think probably a course like this, I mean you’d like to think you could come out and put up a pretty good score, but it’s also one where if you find yourself off the fairways it can be tough. There’s a lot of out-of-bounds. I haven’t had a chance to really talk to some of the guys about where they got in some trouble.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org