Golf: Colonels rally to finish 4th

August 21, 2010

By Robert Niedzwiecki

WINCHESTER- As Corey Cochran looked at the 23rd annual Bryan Gunter Invitational scoreboard Friday at Rock Harbor Golf Course, it was evident he was enjoying the view much better than he did the day before at Winchester Country Club.

"Nineteen strokes is quite a difference from one day to another," the James Wood High School senior said with a laugh.

Cochran had the biggest improvement of anyone at the two-day tournament, leaping from a 97 to a career-best 6-over par 78. His Friday 78 tied for the top score among local golfers (and 10th best overall), and it led the Colonels to the best finish among local schools.

James Wood placed fourth with a 668 (331 Friday), trailing only Centreville (614 overall, 310 Friday), defending champion Loudoun Valley (616, 306), and Lake Braddock (632, 312).

Among those following the Colonels were Sherando (fifth, 671, 337), Handley (tied for 6th, 679, 349) and Millbrook (ninth, 703, 354). Individually, Handley's Aubrey Wilkerson kept up his strong play, following his career-best 73 with a 78 to place him fourth overall with a 151, tops among local golfers. Wilkerson finished behind three-time champion Noori Hyun of Centreville (134 overall, 69 Friday) and Loudoun Valley's Tanner Welsh (144, 72) and Scott Davidson (146, 76).

Cochran's 175 total wasn't anywhere near those guys, but he'll take it. He came into the tournament as James Wood's No. 2 golfer, but by the end of Thursday's round he was last on his own team by seven strokes.

"My irons weren't as good as they could be, and your short game has to be on whenever you play at the Country Club," said Cochran, who was playing the course for the first time this year. "It came back today."

That can happen when you're comfortable. In addition to Rock Harbor being the Colonels' home course, Cochran's family has a membership there.

Cochran stuck his approach shots close, birdieing two of the four par-5s (Nos. 5 and 15) as well as the 414-yard par-4 No. 6.

James Wood coach Al Smith told the team that Thursday's round at Winchester Country Club would serve as a good learning experience for Monday's Northwestern District mini at the same location.

"I think [Cochran] was trying to learn a little too much out there," a laughing Smith said Friday. "But that's a heck of a turnaround by him. We needed every bit of it."

It helped the Colonels pass Sherando and Handley in the tournament standings. Their other scoring golfers were Kyle Hevner (tied for 13th with a 162 overall, 81 Friday), Dylan McKee (163, 84) and Alex Spalding (177, 88)

"I really thought we'd be able [to finish fourth]," Smith said. "We weren't so far back [that] we couldn't overcome where we were the first day. I hope this gives us confidence for Monday. That's a key tournament."

Until then, Handley's Wilkerson will spend the weekend savoring his performance at the Gunter.

"This is more than what I expected coming in," said Wilkerson, who finished out of the top 10 with a 155 in last year's Gunter. "I knew there were going to be some pretty good players like Noori and Scotty [Davidson] here, and I just wanted to hopefully prove that I could at least compete with them.

"This is such a big improvement from last year. I'm ecstatic right now."

One of the reasons for that is because, on a course he's unfamilar with, Wilkerson once again showed his improved mental game. He shot an even-par 36 after fighting his way to a 42 on the front nine.

"On the front I just struggled," said Wilkerson, who birdied 14 and 15. "I couldn't hit a drive straight, I couldn't hit an iron, I couldn't make a putt.

"Once I got to the back, I just kind of mentally got it together and started to focus more. I think on the front end, I was just kind of rushing myself. I was a little pumped up going into the day, being up there [in the standings]. But it was definitely a great experience to play with all these guys, and the results show that."

Sherando was led on Friday by Cameron Wiseman (79), who tied for 19th individually. Cory Hammons had the Warriors' best performance of the tournament (160), tying for 10th.

Matt Fazenbaker led Millbrook on Friday (79) and in the tournament (162), tying for 13th overall.

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

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