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BOWLING GREEN – It was only a step.
Make that a giant step. One that had a disappointing end, but it was a major stride for Anderson County boys' golf.
While the Bearcats made a quick exit from the Leachman Buick-GMC-Cadillac Boys' State Golf Tournament, they vowed that 2013 would be a foundation year for return trips. “I will go on the record now,” Anderson coach Jim Beward said. “I don't think it will be another 20 years before we are back.”
It had actually been 19 seasons since a boys' golf team from Anderson County qualified for the state tournament, but really, who is counting when it gets to be that long.
Anderson had made it to the state by winning a playoff hole against host Taylor County in the regional tournament, then had hopes of at least making the first day cut and coming back for 18 more holes on the second day of the tourney.
But a day that started with three of the five players' tee shots landing in weeds near a clump of trees and ended with the Bearcats shooting an uncharacteristic 341 for a 53-over score. The first day cut came at 329, well under what the Bearcats had shot in regional play and below their average for the season.
Golf team scores are compiled by dropping the low score of the five golfers, then adding the remaining four together.
West Jessamine, which had outlasted Anderson in the regional tournament, took its second consecutive state title with a two-day total of 590. Louisville St. Xavier finished second with a 597.
“This was the first time the team has been here in 20 years, so naturally, they are going to be a little nervous with the environment. That was definitely the case.”
Lee Robinson, however saw things a bit differently. “To be honest, it wasn't as big as I thought it would be. (Playing in the summer tours) prepared me for this.”
Something did as Robinson scored a six-over 78 to qualify for the second round. Robinson displayed what Beward had been touting through the year on No. 9. Due to the seeding and tee times, Anderson had started on No. 10, paired with Hazard and Grayson County, making No. 9 the final hole of the day.
Robinson's approach shot landed in a bunker, but the senior pulled a magic wand otherwise known as a sand wedge from his bag, then laid his third shot about eight feet from the hole.
“That was typical of what Lee Robinson has been doing,” Beward said. “He came up with the shot when he needed to and got to play another day. Lee got to play on the last day of the golf season in Kentucky. There is a lot to be said for that.”
Robinson came back for the second round with a one-over 73, recording three birdies on the day.
“I played a great round on Wednesday,” Robinson said. “I started off rough with a bogey for the fairway bunker on 10 and then went to the next hole, a par-3, and stuck my approach to three feet and made a birdie.”
It was a strong start to what turned into a stellar round.
“He made only one mental error and one physical error in the round,” Beward said. “In both cases, he saved par on the hole with great recoveries. His save after a duffed second shot on the par-5 fifth hole was a classic. A 90-yard second shot left him with 140 yards for a third shot. He hit that shot to within 15 feet and two-putted from a treacherous place on the green.”
Robinson started on No. 10 and fired a two-over 38 over his first nine holes. He caught fire on the front nine to finish with a two-day total of 151 and finish 13th in the state. It is believed to be the highest finish ever for an Anderson golfer at the state tournament.
“When I got to the front I made a lot of what seemed to be impossible up and downs and ended up playing a bogey-free front nine, with eight pars and one birdie for a one-under 35 to finish my high school career,” Robinson said. “It was one of the most steady rounds I've ever played, it felt great to go out with a bang like that and to be the only player from Anderson County to ever finish at the state like that.”
Beward said Robinson’s good second day came with even more pressure than the first. “He did this on the biggest stage in Kentucky high school golf and in front of recruiters and coaches from high quality golf schools who were looking at one of his playing partners, John Augenstein of Owensboro Catholic. Representatives from UK, Georgia, Florida State and Western Kentucky walked the entire course with Lee’s threesome and Lee knew those coaches were there. He was mentally strong enough to continue playing the game and making the shots that he wanted to hit.
“The excitement of his teammates as they walked the course aided in keeping Lee in the moment.”
Tuesday, however, things were not so bright for the Bearcats with the other four golfers having subpar rounds.
“When you come from the region to the state, the atmosphere is just so much different,” said Tyler Harrod. “It is really hard to explain. We are here and it is pressing. When you get on the course, you have to hit the fairways and greens because it is a really tough course.”
Beward saw the jitters early. “Four of the five kids had never seen this before,” he said. “You get to the country club and there are kids from all around the state and it is just a different atmosphere with the pressure. You really can't understand it until you experience it.”
Harrod, who had qualified for the state as an individual last year, would not use nerves as an excuse for one of the three errant shots by the Bearcats to start the round. “It wasn't nerves. I was here last year,” he said. “It was just a bad shot.”
Nick Wilson carded an 85 with three double bogeys, while Zachary Toles, who had led the Bearcats in the regional with a 79, finished with a 19-over 91. Toles had three double bogeys and had a 9 on the par-5 fifth hole. Jordan Morgan was well off his game with a 97, which included four double-bogeys and three triple-bogeys.
All were well off their average game.
“Next year, we have the capability of coming back,” Beward said, despite losing three of the five players who teed off in Bowling Green. “I think the next time we get here, we will have some battle-hardened leaders and they are going to make the difference for this team.
“The next step is to get here again and have the team play on Day 2.
“We are going to point towards a return trip. This doesn't get old.”
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