Golf: Licklider Invitational

Posted: August 6, 2015
By ROBERT NIEDZWIECKI
The Winchester Star

FRONT ROYAL — With nine birdies and a four-under par score of 103 that was five strokes better than his 2014 score at the Curly Licklider Invitational, defending Group 4A state champion Sherando Brett Loy couldn’t have asked for a much better start to his junior season.

Individual performance wasn’t foremost on his mind Wednesday at the Shenandoah Valley Golf Club though.

“I’m just happy with what our team did today, and looking forward from here,” Loy said.

The future definitely looks promising for the Warriors.

Sherando — which has featured the same core group of golfers for the last three years — recorded a four-player score of 457 in the 27-hole, 26-team tournament to take second, an improvement of 10 strokes and one place from last year.

Led by senior Brandon Weaver — who defended his Licklider title with a six-under 101 to beat the runner-up Loy by two shots — Loudoun Valley won the team title with an impressive 437. James Wood took 14th with a 509, Millbrook placed 17th (518), Clarke County placed 18th (520) and Handley tied for 21st (561).

With its performance on Wednesday, Sherando showed why it’s going to be hard for anyone to top the Warriors in Conference 21A this season.

Five of the six teams in the conference were present Wednesday. The conference includes Handley, James Wood, Millbrook and Woodgrove, with the Wolverines posting the next best score with a 481 that tied for fifth. Harrisonburg was the only conference school that wasn’t, and Sherando beat the Blue Streaks by 77 strokes in the 18-hole Spotswood Invitational to open last season.

“We’ve really improved,” Loy said. “[My teammates] worked really hard in the offseason, and their scores have been showing it here lately.”

Senior Mason Scott definitely left his mark at SVGC Wednesday, as his 9-over 116 was the second best among the five local schools and was 10 strokes better than the score he shot at last year’s Licklider.

“My short game has been the reason why I’ve been playing so well lately,” Scott said. “I’m off the tee pretty strong, but that short game really helps me save par and get up and down, and really helps me score well. My putting has been phenomenal the last few weeks.”

On Wednesday, Scott said he drove the ball well, including a couple of 300-yard drives that set him up for two of three birdies, on the 514-yard Blue No. 1 and the 475-yard Blue No. 9. Scott finished both of those holes with putts from outside 10 feet.

Though Shenandoah Valley is the Warriors’ home course, Sherando coach Rob Wright said his team has really found a comfort zone at SVGC after he encouraged his golfers during a team meeting in March to take advantage of the club’s junior membership offer. Wright said it allows junior golfers to play unlimited golf as long as they walk anytime after 11 a.m. during the week and 2 p.m. after weekends, and receive unlimited range balls.

Rounding out Sherando’s team score was junior Josh Bianco (118) — who came on late to earn a spot in Sherando’s top six last year and had the third best score among local golfers Wednesday — and senior Josh Hogue (120).

“Our guys have gotten a lot of round of golf in, and I know Mason, Brett and Josh have played a lot of competition golf this summer, and that competition helped with their confidence,” Wright said. “For the first time out, and not knowing what the other competition is going to do, I think overall this was a really good round. Ten strokes better than last year ... anytime we can improve on what we did the year before, that’s great.”

After placing fourth last year, Loy was in strong position to win his first Licklider. He birdied three straight holes on the White Nine in the middle of his round (5, 6, 7) and was 6-under with two holes to play, but he double-bogeyed the par-3 Blue No. 8.

“I moved out here to be a member in April, and I’m a lot more comfortable with the greens than I was before,” Loy said. “I made a couple long putts [Wednesday] for birdie. I had a couple dumb mistakes, but I had a lot of birdies to make up for it.”

Weaver was in a different group than Loy Wednesday, but odds are the duo will push each other to great heights on a few occasions this year. Loudoun Valley is in Group 4A this year with Sherando and will compete in Conference 21B as part of the 4A West Region.

Weaver said the two players ran into each other after they each finished 18 holes, and Loy mentioned to Weaver — who was 2-under and only had the Red Nine to play — that he was at 4-under.

“That gave me some motivation, as well as one of my teammates being 2-under,” Weaver said. “I just felt I had to show up [on the Red Nine]. My putter just got hot.”

James Wood’s counting scores on Wednesday came from Hunter Hall (119), Ben Marsh (125), Doug Watkins (132) and Tyler Mounts (133). Despite a few new faces in the top six, the Colonels’ team score was just four strokes off of last year.

“What impressed me today was that the kids got off to a slow start on their first four, five, six holes, and my top five kids in particular really battled back and posted [solid scores],” James Wood coach David Oates said. “That makes me happy, but we’ve got a lot to work on.”

Millbrook was paced by Ryan McCarty (121) and Andy Kim (122).

Clarke County — which didn’t lose any golfers from last year — improved last year’s Licklider score by 36 strokes and recorded its best score at the event in Scott Tredway’s five years as head coach. Brendan Ciaburri shot a 125 and freshman Raul Viza-Fernandez recorded a 129 to pace the team.

“In essence, they’re the same team as last year,” Tredway said. “They worked hard in the offseason, and it showed today. Almost everyone feels like they could have shot better. But being 36 shots better than last year, I’ll take that. Anything you can improve upon, that’s great.”

Colleen Connolly led Handley with a 121.

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Follow on Twitter @WinStarSports1

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