STRASBURG — Seth Stickley’s senior season with Strasburg’s golf team was full of career accomplishments.
He won a share of the Bull Run District tournament individual title for the first time, a feat Stickley had placed at the top of his list of personal goals heading into the 2018 season.
He overcame a longstanding hurdle in the regional tournament, advancing to the state competition for the first time after firing a 75 to lead the Rams to their first state qualification as a team in program history.
At the Class 2 state tournament, Stickley shot another 75 to place fourth individually and earn all-state honors, capping a final high school season that exceeded his expectations.
“This is more than what I thought was gonna happen,” Stickley replied last week when asked if his 2018 season was the best way he could’ve ended his high school golf career, “so yeah, absolutely.”
Stickley’s stellar senior season was a lesson in dedication. To reach his goals in 2018 and end his high school career with no regrets, he needed to devote more of his time to the links in the offseason, something he started to do in the months ahead of his junior season in 2017 by logging more hours on the course over the summer.
If he needed any reminder about the importance of putting in the extra work, he got it during the 2018 campaign when he took a weekend off from playing around the middle of the season. That triggered a brief slump, during which he “couldn’t hit anything,” he recalled.
“I never took a day off after that,” said Stickley, The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2018 Golfer of the Year.
“Those were lessons that he learned,” Rams head coach Joel Morgan said of Stickley’s increased work ethic, “and I can really appreciate a kid learning those lessons, and after he learned the lesson he didn’t let it happen to him again.”
Stickley, who had held the No. 2 spot in Strasburg’s lineup after taking hold of the position during his sophomore season, emerged as the Rams’ most consistent playoff performer this past fall.
His effort at the Bull Run District tournament at Bryce Resort on Oct. 1 set the stage for what was to come over the next week. Stickley’s 78 that day tied him with teammate and fellow senior Austin Stickles for the lowest round, lending proof that Stickley’s added workload in the offseason was worth the extra time.
“I wanted to make the best of my senior year and my goal from the start was to be our district player of the year,” Stickley said, “and I achieved it from going out and playing a lot.”
Riding the momentum from that accomplishment, Stickley returned to action the next day in the Region 2B tournament at Heritage Oaks, the site of nothing but frustration for the senior up to that point in his career.
A four-time regional qualifier, Stickley had never posted an official score better than a 91 in any of his previous three trips to that round of postseason play. As a junior in 2017, his season ended when an 8-stroke penalty for having too many clubs in his bag ballooned his 88 to a 96.
Determined to earn a spot in the state tournament field for the first time as a senior, Stickley carded a 75 while leading the Rams to a runner-up finish.
“I knew that it was my last year to do it and I obviously wasn’t happy with the last couple years, so I made sure that I wasn’t gonna mess up. I focused,” Stickley said.
“I did not wanna finish my season this year as frustrated as I was last year.”
He instead ended the season with an impressive display in the Class 2 state championships at Lonesome Pine Country Club in Big Stone Gap, shooting a 75 in his first state tournament and on a course he’d never played before.
Any trouble Stickley had had with managing the increased pressure of postseason play in the past was eliminated during the performance.
“Sometimes in the past … and I don’t know that that was the case, but you can make that assumption that the pressure went up and it got to Seth a little bit,” Morgan said. “Now what I knew, he was coming off regionals, where he played well, but still, it was a new experience for him, for our whole team, and we go to this course that’s just so different than any place that I’ve ever been. And I think he took real pride in the fact that he went to this course that I think everybody thought it was fun to play, but he went there not just (to get) an opportunity to play but really scored really well on a course that was very, very challenging.”
That state tournament on Oct. 9 likely marks the end of Stickley’s career in competitive golf, but he has no plans to give up the sport.
“I’ll definitely play, just on my free time,” Stickley said. “Because I do, I’m in love with the game.”