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Leopards get their last Hirai

Smithsburg rallies to finishes second at the state golf tournament.

Smithsburg rallies to finishes second at the state golf tournament.

October 29, 2002|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

FREDERICK, Md. - Smithsburg senior Seiji Hirai failed to win his fourth "major" golf tournament of the season and the Leopards failed to win the Class 1A/2A Maryland state team title Monday at Clustered Spires.

But by no means did that dampen Smithsburg's day or season.

Hirai shot a three-over-par 75 to finish in a tie for seventh place, and Steve Young shook off a bad start by shooting 1-under in his last nine holes as the Leopards rallied to finish second with 328 points.

All four golfers for James M. Bennett shot between 78 and 82, and that consistency earned them the team title with 319 points.

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"Finishing second is by no means the end of the world," Smithsburg coach Dan Neff said. "We were down a good 11 or 12 shots at the turn, and we've always stepped it up and played tremendous golf at the big tournaments. We talked at the beginning of the day, no matter what was going on, to play each shot like it's their last."

For three of the Leopards, Monday's shots were indeed their last in high school competition. Hirai, Young and Clarke Grumbine - who shot 86 - will all graduate this spring. Junior Riley Leddon shot 88.

"With the seniors we had this year, it's been four years waiting for this moment," Neff said. "I think they're gonna take a whole lot more with them into life than just the putts made and the shots missed."

Hirai, the Washington County, Monocacy Valley Athletic League and West Region champion, played the front nine in three-over to all but take himself out of title contention, but finished strong, shooting even-par on the back nine and ending his prep career with a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 18.

"He handled the situation extremely well," Neff said. "He wanted to win the fourth 'major,' but he could never quite get in the groove. That last hole, he made a 15-foot birdie putt, and that's a nice way to end your (high school) career."

Young got off to an even worse start, playing his first nine holes in 8-over. But he also regrouped and made a charge.

"It was really bad the first few holes," Young said. "I thought about all the people who wished me luck and that this was my last tournament, and I just started shooting at flags.

"I feel great for Steve, he's been wanting to play (well at) a tournament like this all year, and he finally got it," Neff said.

Smithsburg also had the top girls finisher from the area, as sophomore Andrea Grier shot 90 to finish in a tie for 15th.

"She's finally developed a passion for the game, and it's all of a sudden come on," Neff said. "I think that's what happens when she found confidence in her game. She's gonna be something in a year or two."

North Hagerstown's Mike Wade and Catoctin's Geoff Hillis both finished in a tie for 43rd, shooting 81. The Cougars' Derrick Thompson tied for 59th with an 82.

Williamsport's Will Roney finished tied for 71st with an 84. Grumbine and the Hubs' Trevor Hullinger both tied for 87th, shooting 86, Walkersville's Matt Strawsburg was tied for 95th with an 87, and Leddon's 88 was good for a share of 99th.

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