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Local golfers experience mixed success in Curly Licklider tournament

Skyline's Lauren Sims tees off during the Curly Licklider Memorial Golf Tournament held Wednesday at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – A handful of local schools hit the golf course for the first tournament of the 2018 season on Wednesday afternoon in the 18th Annual Curly Licklider Memorial Golf Tournament at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club. As is typical of any season opener, levels of contentment varied in regard to the results following the conclusion of the 22-team event.

Skyline senior Lauren Sims was one of the golfers who left her school’s home course feeling like she took a strong first step in her final high school season. The reigning Class 3 Northwestern District tournament champ fired a 6-over-par 78, tying her with Sherando’s Brandon Nice for the lowest score among the local golfers who competed.

Sims’ round, which spanned the Blue and Red nines, included one birdie on the par-5 Red 9, a hole on which she said she missed an eagle putt.

“The first tournament’s always one of my favorites,” said Sims, who also had two bogeys, a double-bogey and a triple-bogey – on the par-5 Red 4 – during her round.

“I played OK today. I shot 78 and I had two bad holes, but I just tried to keep it in the middle of the fairway because earlier this morning it was kind of wet from the rain last night and the rough was thick. So just trying to keep it in the middle of the fairway and give myself some birdie opportunities.”

Strasburg's Austin Stickles chips a shot onto the green during the Curly Licklider Memorial Golf Tournament at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club on Wednesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Sims and Nice, alongside three others who carded a 78, tied for 18th among 128 total golfers who competed on Wednesday.

The tournament itself was nontraditional in that different groups of golfers played different combinations of the Red, White and Blue nines, and all six individual scores counted toward each school’s overall team score.

Heritage (Leesburg) – led by Aidan Baron’s tournament-low 66 – won the team title with a total of 451 strokes, followed by Loudoun Valley (471) and Woodgrove (487). Strasburg finished eighth with 522 strokes, Central (592) was 17th and Warren County (605) was 18th.

Skyline and Sherando didn’t post qualifying team scores because neither competed with a full six-golfer lineup.

Nice, one of two returning Warriors who qualified for the Region 4C tournament last season (Caleb Dotson is the other), recorded two birdies on Wednesday, one on the par-4 Blue 6 and the other on the par-5 Red 4.

Sherando's Brandon Nice tees off during the Curly Licklider Memorial Golf Tournament at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club on Wednesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I had some good and bad moments but just happy just keeping it in play and recovering from all the bad shots,” Nice said. He added that “most of my putting and my drives and approach shots” were strong during his round.

“It was a kind of a surprise today because usually that stuff is all over the place.”

Central senior Sam Shifflett was another golfer who had some qualms about his outing but was content with his 2018 debut on an overall scale. He shot a 79 across the Blue and Red nines.

“Halfway through I was thrilled, shot one-over on the front … (and was) even through eight. Then I got to the second nine, got to Red and struggled a little bit, bogeyed like the first four. That wasn’t how you wanna start any nine but I mean, first tournament, breaking 80, I’m happy, very happy,” Shifflett said.

“On Red I was hitting my irons well,” he added. “My iron shots were good but putting struggled. I probably had four three-putts on the Red side. It was frustrating. I wanted to throw something but I didn’t.”

Warren County's David Kelly chips a shot onto the green during the Curly Licklider Memorial Golf Tournament at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club on Wednesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Though Strasburg posted the lowest team score of any of the five schools in the Daily’s coverage area, head coach Joel Morgan said he felt the Rams left Shenandoah Valley Golf Course a bit disappointed in their collective effort.

Seniors Austin Stickles and Seth Stickley each fired an 80 from the top two spots in the Rams’ lineup. Drew Thomas shot an 83, Jack Burr a 91, James Burr a 92 and Chris Shelton a 96. All six of those golfers started regularly for Strasburg in 2017.

“Looking at the scores, I would say that our kids are probably not super excited about those numbers,” Morgan said. “But it is the first day out and we’ve had a lot of rain and stuff like that. The course was probably affected a little bit as well. I think our kids will come around and we’ll put up some better numbers as the year goes along. That’s at least my hope, that we’ll put up better numbers as the year goes along. I do think we had some stretches out there today where our kids really played well and hopefully we can build on that.”

Central first-year head coach Barry Arey held similar feelings toward the Falcons’ first outing of the season, though his squad is far less experienced than Strasburg’s after losing half of its starting lineup to graduation.

After Shifflett, Ben Ritenour (92) was the only other Falcon to post a score less than 100. Brandon Davis (100), Allen Pence (105), Daryan Stanley (107) and Michael French (109) were all in triple figures.

“(Davis is) capable of getting it down there (in the) 80s. The French boy, Michael, he’s got potential. I guess what I’m saying is those scores are far worse than I would’ve kind of thought,” Arey said. “But we are rebuilding. We lost three of our top six last year. … I think you’ll see that we’re gonna make some improvement.”

Warren County, the host school, got an 84 from No. 1 golfer David Kelly, followed by Michael Silek’s 89, Joey Sorge’s 94 and Lance Nalls’ 99. Eli Knotts (122) and Megan Rittgers (117) competed in the fifth and sixth spots for the Wildcats.

“I was happy,” Warren County coach Matt Wadas said. “My five and six scores were pretty high but it was their first match ever. It was good getting them out on the course and getting them some experience because we’re gonna need them later on. My top four are all returners and every one of them except David scored better than this time last year. Now, David shot one of his personal bests today, I think.”

Skyline, competing under new head coach Monty Goff, the PGA Assistant Golf Professional at SVGC, had only four golfers in its lineup on Wednesday. Gage Clem (130), Daniel Campbell (121) and Nathan Thomas (117) filled out the second, third and fourth spots for Skyline, which has yet to hold an official practice, Goff said.

Sherando got an 85 from Dotson at No. 4, and Ian Ames (89), Parker Gregg (93) and Scott Curtis (128) rounded out the Warriors’ scoring.

Joe Knight, Sherando’s swim coach, is serving as the Warriors’ interim golf coach this season while Rob Wright takes what Knight called a “medical leave of absence.” Knight said Sherando has only seven golfers this season and only five were available on Wednesday.