Strasburg defends Shenandoah County golf championship

BASYE – Playing without its top golfer, and on a day when scores were elevated throughout the lineup of the three rival teams, Strasburg High School’s golf team defended its Shenandoah County title.

The Rams fired a four-man total of 359 at Bryce Resort on Thursday afternoon to edge out Central (361) by two strokes for the county’s championship, marking the second straight season Strasburg has claimed the title and the fifth time the Rams have done so in the last seven years. Stonewall Jackson placed third with a total of 376 strokes.

“It feels good, especially with our number one player, Austin (Stickles), out,” said Rams sophomore Drew Thomas, who led Strasburg with an 85 on the par 71 course to tie for third place overall. “It’s kind of sad that he can’t play most of the year this year, but (the win) feels good.”

Strasburg trailed Central by 14 strokes after the first three groups of golfers reported their scores on Thursday evening, and it was Thomas who vaulted the Rams into first place by shooting 16 strokes better than other two golfers in his group.

The Rams didn’t secure the win, however, until the sixth and final group registered their scores. Senior Brady Weatherholtz carded a 94 to beat teammate Jack Burr for the final counting score by two strokes, which proved to be the deciding margin in the team scoring.

Seth Stickley shot an 88 from the Rams’ No. 1 spot and James Burr carded a 92 to complete the scoring for Strasburg.

“We needed Brady’s score at the end to be able to (win the title),” Rams head coach Joel Morgan said.

“He’s a senior. He’s not gotten to play in a whole lot of matches throughout his career, and to come out here in the county match, he comes in as your sixth with a score that you need to win. That’s nice to see, for us and for him.”

Central, playing on its home course, came up just short of claiming the county championship for the second time in three seasons, but Falcons junior Sam Shifflett tied Stonewall senior Yash Desai for the individual title as both shot an 83.

Neither Shifflett nor Desai was particularly pleased with his round, a common sentiment among those who competed on Thursday.

“It was definitely not the prettiest,” said Shifflett, who birdied holes 1 and 6, both par 5s.

“I got off to a really good start actually. I was one-under through three, and then after that it kind of went downhill and, I don’t know, I lost some shots, picked my head up on a couple and that always doesn’t help. I putted really good though, so that wasn’t a struggle. I hit a couple errant drives. I missed a lot of drives left, so I think that’s really what hurt me.”

Desai, conversely, said he struggled with his short game but shot his irons well. He had one birdie on the par-4 17.

“I grinded out the 83. I just couldn’t putt,” Desai said. “I had 36 putts with a chip-in. I just missed a lot of short putts. Should’ve been much lower. Should’ve at least been a 75.”

Desai added that the greens on Bryce Resort’s sprawling course were “insane” after having been rolled within the last week. Thomas agreed, calling them the “toughest greens I’ve ever played on.”

Desai’s teammate, Nick Dotson, also earned all-county honors – designated for the top six individuals – as he tied Thomas for third with an 85. Central’s Luke Estep (87) placed fifth overall, and Stickley was sixth.

Coy Jimenez (92) and Michael French (99) rounded out the scoring for Central, while Tucker Dorman (101) and Alan Arnesen (107) posted Stonewall’s last two counting scores.

Morgan said as a bonus to the county championship, Thursday’s match also counted as a Bull Run District contest against Central.

“We need to talk to our kids, I think we had some course management stuff that maybe could’ve helped us shave a few strokes off,” Morgan said.

“We’ll take a win. That puts us 2-0 in the district right now. We know that Clarke (County) is pretty good, so it could come down to having to beat (Central) later in the year to get to advance to the regionals. But it was nice winning the county match and shoot pretty tight.”

Morgan said it’s “iffy” whether or not Stickles, who recently underwent surgery to repair cartilage damage in his knee, will return to the links for the Rams this season.