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Leopards make state-ment

October 27, 2005|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The Smithsburg golf team finished in third place at the Maryland 2A/1A district tournament on Sept. 27.

It was good enough to qualify for the state tournament ... And on Wednesday, the Leopards made the most of that opportunity by the thinnest of margins.

Smithsburg's four-man team carded 321 stokes to nudge out Stephen Decatur and bring the first-ever state golf championship back to Washington County.

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The tournament became a one-day event after rains soaked The University of Maryland Golf Course on Tuesday to force the cancellation of the first round, reducing it an 18-hole event.

Wednesday's conditions were not perfect with soggy fairways and crisp winds, but much improved with partial sunshine and temperatures nearly 15 degrees better than Tuesday. The round was played under "lift, clean and place" rules.

"Last Friday, we walked around the (Smithsburg) gym and I asked the players 'what banner is missing on the walls?'" said Smithsburg coach Dan Neff.

The hopeful answer must have sunk into the minds of the Smithsburg competitors.

Senior Brandon Sheaffer and junior Alicia Grier, state tournament veterans, led the Leopards' charge. Sheaffer had a 5-over par 76 and Grier fought a balky putter to finish with a 7-over par 78 (38-40). Dennis Herbert carded a 83 (42-41) and Alex Wine posted a 84 (41-43), all scores below the mid-80s line needed to be a contender.

"I knew we could do it," said Sheaffer, adorned with his medal while holding the state championship trophy. "I'm happy for the team and I'm happy my score meant something."

Sheaffer worked around some erratic tee shots for only one double bogey and avoided three-putts on the wet, uncut greens.

"These greens weren't fast at all ... I had three putts from above the hole that didn't get to the hole," he said.

Neff thought his golfers improved greatly since the district tournament.

"Our goal at the beginning of the year was to grow as a player and as a person," said Neff. "After the district, each one started to really become special in their passion for the game. This is a great group of kids."

Grier had 38 putts but hit well of the tee to compensate.

"I thought were slower than expected," she said. "I hit the ball well all day ... I just didn't putt."

Walkersville, the 2000 champion with plenty of hope after a solid regular season and district tournament, finished fourth with a disappointing 348. Senior Josh Williford finished his third trip to the state with a disappointing 86 (44-42). Chad Benford shot 83 (42-41), Nick Keefer had 85 (43-42) and Josh Winn had a 94 (44-50).

Grier's score was good for fifth in the girls standings, which was won with a 75 by Kelly Lynch of Severna Park. Middletown's Kristen Waeber tied for 13th with an 44-41-85.

Sheaffer's round was good for a 15th-place tie individually in a field that included the Class 4A/3A players, who played on Monday. Williamsport's Logan Hintze shot 81 (44-37), Boonsboro's Brian Poole had 87 (42-45), Middletown's Tyler Ausherman had a 88 (47-41) and Catoctin's Adam Delauter had a 88 (45-43).

"I can't figure out what happened (today)," said Walkersville coach George Baltic, whose Lions were one of the favorites. "What a disappointment ... Three years in a row, but we'll try it again next year."

Williford, who shot a 69 in the district qualifier at Black Rock in September, could only shake his head following his final scholastic performance.

"I kept working on my swing and bogied the first hole but I was still confident," said Williford. "I had a par on two and a double bogey on three but I was still confident. Then everything went away. I was consistent - bad."

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