Athlete of the Week: Generals’ Dotson building momentum during golf’s postseason

Nick Dotson

NEW MARKET – In the grand scheme of the 2017 high school golf season, Nick Dotson’s victory in the Shenandoah District championship tournament last week meant little.

The Stonewall Jackson High School senior, like the rest of his teammates, already was guaranteed a spot in the Region 1B tournament, and Dotson still ultimately came up just short of grabbing Shenandoah District Player of the Year honors despite the victory.

But what the win did do, however, was give Dotson – who shot a 74 (+4) to lead the nine-team field in the district tournament at Heritage Oaks Golf Course in Harrisonburg on Sept. 25 – even more momentum heading into the postseason matches that really matter.

“Yeah I think that definitely helped boost my confidence,” Dotson, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Athlete of the Week for Sept. 25-Oct. 1, said on Tuesday. “One of my goals was to win that tournament and I was trying to validate myself for the running of district player of the year, which I came up just short and got second. So I was a little bit disappointed because … I saw it as a real possibility I could win district player of the year but of course I was going up against a bunch of other great golfers.

“But playing well there at Heritage just kind of solidified in my mind what I knew I was capable of.”

On Monday, Dotson showed again that he’s one of the best golfers in the area by winning the Region 1B tournament at Manor Golf Club in Farmville. It accomplished a goal he had set forth before the season, one that he cultivated in 2016 when he placed third in the old Conference 44 championships and fifth in the region and realized he could shoot just as well as the golfers who placed ahead of him that season.

The Virginia High School League did away with conferences in the newest realignment, and since the Shenandoah District tournament had no bearing on regional qualification for its members this year, Dodson said, he saw the new Region 1B tournament “as a prime opportunity to really perform when the spotlight was on.”

Dotson did that, and is once again headed to next week’s Class 1 state tournament, alongside teammates Yash Desai and Alan Arnesen, as a result.

“It means a lot because it’s not a tournament where if you play poorly you can shake it off,” Dotson said of winning the five-team regional tournament. “I knew that if were weren’t gonna go as a team I would still have to perform well if I wanted to go as an individual. Unfortunately our team didn’t make it this year, so I’m kind of glad that I, along with Yash and Alan, had good enough days to move on.”

Though Dotson left Farmville as the overall champion, he wasn’t completely satisfied with his seven-over-par 79.

Dotson, who made the trip to Manor Golf Club on Saturday in order to get a couple practice rounds in, said he made a mental map of the course in his head, labeling which holes he felt he could birdie and which posed a stiffer challenge and likely represented bogey holes.

He bogeyed the first hole of the tournament but birdied the par-5 No. 2 and the par-3 No. 4 – in which he nailed a chip shot from a bunker just off the green, he said – to build momentum. However, Dotson double-bogeyed two of the final 10 holes and bogeyed No. 16 and No. 18 – two holes he had determined were birdie opportunities prior to Monday’s round.

Dotson chalked up his struggles to the difficulty of the course, which he said offered tougher greens, tighter fairways and thicker rough than most of the courses Stonewall has played throughout the 2017 season.

“I think those (practice) rounds definitely helped me out as far as game plan and strategy, although that course was probably the most difficult I had played, and I think some of the other guys on the team agree with me,” Dotson said. “It was challenging for sure. Everything about it, if you made a mistake it would make you pay. It was crucial to play smart there. I think that’s part of the reason some of the scores all around were a little bit higher in comparison to some other places.”

Next week’s trip to the state tournament will be the second straight for Dotson, who emerged as one of the Generals’ top scorers last season when Stonewall advanced to the state championship round as a team.

Dotson was solid on the links for the Generals last season but has been so more consistently in 2017, a factor head coach Steve Burkholder attributes to Dotson’s work ethic.

“After every practice he stays who knows how long on the putting green – at least an hour, usually a couple hours. He did that in the offseason,” Burkholder said. “He’ll get lessons. He’ll watch YouTube videos. If something’s wrong with his swing he’ll pull up a YouTube video and figure out what’s wrong. Just hyper-focused on getting better at golf.”

Next week’s state tournament appearance will be Desai’s third – Burkholder considers Dotson and Desai to be the Generals’ 1A and 1B golfers, he said – the second-year head coach added that Arnesen played “probably his best round of the season” in Monday’s regional.

Fortunately for Dotson, the Class 1 state golf tournament scheduled for next Monday and Tuesday will take place at Heritage Oaks, where he’s already fired some of his best rounds of the season.

“Being back around here where I’m comfortable at is nice because I know how the course plays. I play there a bunch and I have the confidence now that I’ve shot a 72 and a 74 there,” Dotson said. “I’m confident I can do the same thing or maybe even better here in the state tournament.”