August 8, 2012

WINCHESTER — As Will Holmes described his round Tuesday at Rock Harbor Golf Course, he casually said that on the front nine, “the only thing that went wrong was my 7 iron broke. The head came off of the shaft.”

That might be just one thing, but the knowledge of not having every club at your disposal could frustrate any golfer and torpedo a round. Instead, Holmes rebounded from that seventh-hole mishap and shot better than he ever has at James Wood’s home course.

Holmes’ 2-over par 74 on the Rock Course bested the rest of the field by six strokes and lifted James Wood to a resounding 17-stroke victory at the first Northwestern District mini tournament.

James Wood — which won its first district mini tournament since 2008 (there were no district minis in 2009) — shot a four-player score of 330. Roger Repasky (third overall, 84), Russell Repasky (fourth, 85) and Taylor Blake (seventh, 87) also led the Colonels. Sherando — which failed to earn a least a share of first in a district mini for the first time since 2008 — was second (347), Skyline was third (377), Handley was fourth (383) and Millbrook was fifth (391).

Holmes — who had never won a high school tournament before and never shot better than 77 in competition play at Rock Harbor — recorded a double bogey when his 7 iron fell apart on the seventh hole. But Holmes’ game only got stronger from there.

“I pretty much put it behind me,” Holmes said. “If I kept that in my head, I would have probably messed up the next few holes.”

After finding himself trailing Sherando’s Chris Slater by a stroke (38 to 39) after nine holes, Holmes’ got himself going with his first birdie of the round — a 10-foot putt — on the 360-yard par-4 11th, then took the lead for good when he birdied the 503-yard par-5 15th with a chip from 15 yards out. Holmes finished the back nine in a 1-under 35 to beat the runner-up Slater, who shot a 42 on the back and finished with an 80.

After posting the district’s best score at the Curly Licklider, Tuesday was a nice follow-up for Holmes.

“It feels good to win, definitely,” Holmes said.

Likewise, the team also showed that it will be a force to be reckoned with after performing the best among district schools in the Licklider.

“There’s definitely a home-course advantage out here, because it’s such a weird, tricky course,” Holmes said.

Though James Wood coach Al Smith felt like a few of his golfers could have gone lower, he couldn’t have expected more out of Holmes after setting a target score of 74 for him.

“The first day of tryouts, we had a 328, so we’re right where we were last week,” Smith said. “I congratulated them, but overall, I’d like to see us work our way on down [to lower scores] from where we started today, especially since districts are out here. I know Sherando struggled a little bit today, but they’ll be strong next week [at the mini] at Shenandoah Valley.

“I thought Will had a great round. We give them a target score to let them know what they need to be good, and he hit his, so that’s good.”

Slater appeared to be on his way to a score similar to Holmes. But just like at the Licklider, he had a couple rough holes that overshadowed some of the solid play he put in. The 18th was the roughest, a quadruple-bogey 8.

“I was satisfied with the front nine, and I was satisfied with what I was doing on the back,” he said. “Going to 16, I three-putted. I parred 17. Then at 18, I tried to play it safe and hit a 4 iron into the middle of the fairway, and I was pretty happy with it.

‘But then I hit a 5 iron that I didn’t catch right at all, and it just went way right and out-of-bounds. That kind of fried my mind a little bit, and I didn’t finish strong at all. Hopefully this doesn’t become a pattern. I need to learn how to finish strong.”

Sherando coach Rob Wright isn’t worried about Slater, or his teammates.

“We’re going to get better,” he said. “[Most of the players] haven’t had a lot of competition experience, and that’s what they’re getting now.”

Judges coach Tommy Arthur thought his team showed progress on a course the Judges typically struggle with.

“We had goals today, and we were within it or we exceeded our goals, so we had a very good day for us,” said Arthur, whose team was led by Jessie Nolan’s 94. “We had a lot of personal-bests today.”

Collin Shifflett had the best round by far of any Pioneer, posting a career-best 86 that tied him for fifth overall with Sherando’s Hunter Gronlund. And that 86 included a two-shot penalty for hitting the wrong ball on the last hole.

“This is the only third high school tournament he’s played,” said Millbrook coach Russ Korn of the junior. “He was the last man on our squad last year, so this was a good round for him. He was really happy with the way he played.”

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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