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Three days after the fact, the reality of the Anderson County boys' golf team qualifying for the state tournament still had not totally taken hold of the Bearcats.
“It is a lifelong dream. It hasn't really sunk in yet,” senior Nick Wilson said Thursday, as the Bearcats gathered at Wild Turkey Trace for a practice.
“We are real excited to go down there this year as a team,” added senior Tyler Harrod, who played at the state as an individual qualifier last year. “Our main goal from last year was for everybody to go this year.”
It was not easy for the Bearcats. The reside in the same region as last year's state champion, West Jessamine, which has been at the top of the rankings most of this year. The Colts did as expected, winning the region by 18 strokes. But with both the championship and runner-up teams advancing to the state, which will be held at Bowling Green Country Club, Anderson found itself in a tie with Taylor County for the second place spot at the regional held Monday.
Playing on Taylor's home course at the Campbellsville Country Club, the Bearcats had to overcome an errant tee shot by the normally reliable Lee Robinson. They had also seen one Taylor County player drop in a chip from about 40 yards.
What the three Bearcats playing in the second flight of the playoff hole did not know was that Taylor had also seen a shot go out of bounds.
And with the rules dropping the highest score on the playoff hole, Robinson's uncharacteristic 7 was scratched.
Still Anderson was struggling until Wilson nailed an approach shot, then sank a long putt (about 30 feet) for a birdie that rejuvenated the Bearcats.
“I didn't think we had a chance,” Wilson admitted.
That might have made things even sweeter.
“I am not going to lie. I was nervous,” Harrod said. “I had already experienced that once, by myself, last year. I already knew what to expect but I was still nervous.”
Anderson coach Jim Beward, who looked could not look at different points during the playoff hole, said that the program's first state tournament appearance since 1994 – it also appeared in 1992 – has begun to sink in. “The more I think about it, the more amazed I am,” he said. “These guys have actually made it happen. It is just incredible. It is a great feeling.”
Anderson will tee off on Tuesday, Oct. 8, at 8:27 a.m. (Eastern time) and is grouped with Grayson County and Hazard.
The team will head to Bowling Green on Monday and is scheduled for a practice round that afternoon.
“The atmosphere is a lot different down there,” Harrod said. “You are focused because there is a lot more pressure on you.”
Wilson, who was Mr. Cool in the playoff, is expecting a case of the jitters. “I am going to be pretty nervous,” he smiled.
The tournament is a 2-day affair, with golfers playing 18 holes on Tuesday, then those who make the cut, return for 18 more holes on Wednesday.
No matter what happens, it will be only the third time Anderson County has participated as a team at the state golf tournament.
“Initially, I didn't realize it,” Robinson said. “I think when we are rolling down to Bowling Green on Monday, it will really sink in.”
Harrod, Riley advise Bearcats
Harrod is the only Bearcat golfer to have played at the state tournament, while Kaitlyn Riley, who will be playing in her fourth state tourney, starting Friday, is an old veteran. Both have told the rest of the Bearcats about the nuances of the Bowling Green Country Club and what playing at the state is like.
“Tyler told me the course is tight and if you are in the rough, it is an automatic bogey,” Wilson said.
“I have heard from Tyler and Kaitlyn that it is just a totally different experience,” Robinson said.
Beward said it was different, even for him as a coach last year.
“I was in awe of everything that went on,” he said. “From the opening night dinner to the practice rounds to the actual playing itself. It is just a completely different level.”
Bearcats fielding well wishes
Several of the Anderson players noted they had gotten plenty of congratulatory wishes since qualifying for the state.
“The kids at school have been congratulating them,” Beward said. “(Anderson boys' basketball coach) Glen Drury came in my room and congratulated me.
“Will Carlton (a former Bearcat basketball star who was also on the 1992 state golf team) was the first phone call I received. That was pretty cool that he took the time to call.”
Can Anderson play Wednesday?
Few give Anderson any shot at winning the state championship. West Jessamine is expected to battle St. Xavier for the title.
But Beward believes the Bearcats can have a long stay.
“We have crossed paths with about half the teams in the state tournament,” Beward said. “We have beaten most of those teams at some point or another.
“I think we will have some good scores. I still haven't seen this team's best round of golf. Wouldn't it be really cool to see it come on Tuesday under those conditions?”