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Leopards' drive ends in title

October 27, 2005|by TIM KOELBLE

SMITHSBURG

koelble@herald-mail.com

Smithsburg High School golf coach Dan Neff goes by the nickname "Disco."

On Wednesday, he and the members of the school's golf team were dancing to the tune of a Maryland Class 2A/1A team state championship, the first golf title ever produced in Washington County.

On a sunny, cool and windy day at the University of Maryland golf course in College Park, Md., the Leopards' foursome of Brandon Sheaffer, Alicia Grier, Dennis Herbert and Alex Wine combined for a team score of 321, one shot better than Stephen Decatur.

"A state title is something I would have not thought of at the beginning of the year," said Neff, a coach in Washington County for 30 years. "It just goes to show anything can eventually happen when you've been around long enough."

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Sheaffer and Grier, both seniors, led the Smithsburg effort. Sheaffer posted a 5-over-par 76 and Grier shot a 7-over-par 78. Herbert and Wine, players who made great strides during the season, shot 83 and 84.

In late September, the Leopards finished third - behind Walkersville and Century - in the district tournament at Black Rock Golf Course. On Wednesday, Walkersville finished fourth and Century was sixth.

"This team developed in stages," Neff said. "Sheaffer has showed the leadership, Alicia is always so consistent, and Dennis and Alex finally began to have more passion for the game."

The first round of the scheduled 36-hole tournament Tuesday was rained out, forcing a one-day event.

After the rainout, some down time at a bowling alley and dinner, Neff had each of his players write down what they thought would be needed on their scorecard for the Leopards to contend for the title.

"When each of them wrote down their scores ... it came out to 320 that we needed to win," Neff said. "I just wanted each of them to go out and contribute."

Sheaffer and Grier were sophomores when Smithsburg last had a team with the potential to win a state title.

"We talked (Tuesday) that we could win it all along," Sheaffer said. "I knew we could do it."

"(Coach) said write our number down, and I thought I could shoot 83 or 84," said Wine, who was 12 strokes over par through 10 holes but played the last eight holes one stroke over par.

Herbert lost five shots to par on successive holes but produced what he said was "my best effort of the year."

As the final scores were posted, Neff turned toward Sheaffer and asked, "What does that '1st' mean next to our name?"

It means another championship banner for the school's gymnasium, in a sport in which the Leopards were missing one.

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