Loy wins conference mini, Warriors finish second

Sherando's Brett Loy lines a putt during the Conference 21 West meet Thursday afternoon at Blue Ridge Shadows. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – The Conference 21 West mini tournament at Blue Ridge Shadows on Thursday afternoon offered Sherando’s golf team a final chance to see where it stands before the true conference tournament kicks off postseason play next week. If Thursday’s results are any indication, the Warriors can expect to be right in the hunt for a team title.

Sherando senior Brett Loy, closing in on his final playoff run in high school golf, topped the field with an even-par 72, while the Warriors (323) finished second as a team, just four strokes behind team champion Woodgrove (319) and comfortably ahead of third-place Harrisonburg (364).

All six teams comprising Conference 21 West will return to Blue Ridge Shadows next Thursday for the real deal, and the Warriors are hoping to learn from one of their final tune-ups of the regular season.

“We’ve just gotta come out here as a group and figure out what our mistakes were and just try to play smarter, figure out what we need to do as a team to figure out how to be a complete scoring team,” Loy said.

Loy, the 2014 Virginia High School League Group 4A state champion and last year’s conference champ, showed he’s again the player to beat this year, although he said his performance on Thursday left plenty of room for improvement over the next week.

Sherando's Brett Loy putts during the Conference 21 West meet Thursday afternoon at Blue Ridge Shadows. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I hit the ball good today, I just really didn’t putt well,” said Loy, whose lowest round at Blue Ridge Shadows is a 67. “I’m just really gonna work on that this week and just hope that I can only improve from there.”

Loy’s round included one bogey and a birdie on the par-5 fourth hole. He settled for par on the other 16 holes. He beat runner-up Tyler Mounts (75), of James Wood, by three strokes and third-place finisher Kyle Potter (Woodgrove) by four.

“It’s nice to know that I can still win not playing my best, so that’s a good confidence booster,” Loy said.

Sherando senior Josh Bianco was the only other Warrior to break 80, as he bounced back from the 85 he fired at the Skyline Invitational at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club on Tuesday to card a 78 at Blue Ridge Shadows.

“That’s about my average, so I’m pretty happy with that,” Bianco said. “Overall everything went pretty well today. Had a few bad holes.”

Bianco’s round included six bogeys and although he didn’t record a birdie, he saved par on 12 holes. He admitted that he “left some strokes out there,” adding that he’s confident he can improve on that total next week after becoming more familiar with the course.

“You get to know like the little shortcuts and where to lay the ball up to, where to put the ball on the green for every pin. Just makes it easier on you in the long run,” Bianco said.

Warriors senior Jonah Pearson, playing out of Sherando’s No. 2 spot, struggled to an 86, while sophomore Brandon Nice carded an 87 to complete the four-man scoring for Sherando.

Head coach Rob Wright said it will be important for the Warriors to “get on the same page” for next week’s conference tournament. Sherando returns to Blue Ridge Shadows next Monday for a Northwestern District mini-tournament, and Loy said the Warriors will practice at the course every day next week ahead of next Thursday’s conference meet.

“Jonah and Josh flip-flopped from what they shot Tuesday, and that’ll work out. It’ll be fine and Monday will tell,” Wright said. “But really Brandon, a little sophomore, coming on with an 87 today (was good). This is a totally different course from what we’ve been used to – a lot of hills. I think we’ve been fortunate enough that they’ve let us come out and practice some and I think it’ll pay off come Thursday.”

The Warriors, who lost last year’s conference tournament to Woodgrove by nine strokes, were tied with the Wolverines after the top three golfers from each team had reported their scores on Thursday. Woodgrove broke that tie when No. 5 golfer Bobby Stribling reported an 83.

“We’ve stayed close,” Wright said of Woodgrove. “We beat them the first day of the (Curly Licklider Memorial Golf Tournament on Aug. 3). We know we can do it.

“It’s just a matter of picking up a few strokes here and a few strokes there and trying to get a really good, solid fourth score. We certainly have the ability to do it, and I know the guys feel bad. I know Jonah felt terrible about what he shot today and I always tell them it’s golf, you’re not always gonna have your best round or anything. But he’ll overcome that. I’m not worried about that.”

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