BC Invitational: Linkous wins playoff

By PATRICK MacCOON Sports Writer
Posted 8/1/17

A calm, cool and composed Drew Linkous trusted in his shot and his club, which made for a dramatic finish on his home links to begin the 2017 prep season.

While it took a total of 20 holes for …

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BC Invitational: Linkous wins playoff

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A calm, cool and composed Drew Linkous trusted in his shot and his club, which made for a dramatic finish on his home links to begin the 2017 prep season.

While it took a total of 20 holes for the Cleveland High School senior to win the Bradley Central Invitational individual championship, Linkous was actually excited his victory came down to sudden death Monday at Cleveland Country Club.

After shooting a 71 (1-under par) through 18 holes in the same group with McMinn County’s Nicholas Thompson and Walker Valley’s Parker Gray, Linkous took the two-hole playoff.

“We didn’t want to just go out and play 18 holes,” Linkous said after the first official tournament to the high school golf season. “We like to make it more competitive, and it drives us more. The key to how I played today was just keeping the same mindset from start to finish.”

The Blue Raider standout flashed a good bit of clutch ability not only on the par 5s throughout the day, which he was 4-under on, but on the first and second hole of the playoffs as well.

With no other golfers around and all eyes on the right-handed free swingers, all that could be heard was the buzz of groundskeepers in the background and the boom off the club of each.

While Thompson outdrove all three on the first hole (Par 5, 477 yards) and nearly chipped in for eagle, the Cherokee standout’s birdie putt was answered.

Linkous was able to land a fairway drive as well and after his second shot went slightly up the hill on the far right side of the green, he chipped fairly close to sink a 7-footer for birdie.

Then as the distance leader on his next and final tee shot, Linkous was able to take advantage on the second hole (Par 4, 346 yards).

“It’s all about trust,” said the CHS golfer, who looks up to Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth. “It felt really good coming off the club today. I could trust my wedges and my driver was something I trusted every time in my hands, too.”

With the field narrowed to two after tough luck struck Gray in the form of a tree stump on the first hole, Thompson’s second shot fell around 15 yards shy of the green.

Linkous hit his second shot on the sweet spot from around 70-80 yards out and read the right-to-left slope perfectly as his ball trickled down to about 10 feet from the pin.

“It felt really good to see that shot roll down close to the pin,” Linkous said. “When I saw Nicholas come up a little short, I knew I needed to get it on the green to put pressure on him to make par. I read it well and really liked the shot when I made contact with it.”

The decisive shot led to a par, while Thompson fell just short with a bogey for the end of the playoff.

Linkous finished the day proud of his and his competitor’s efforts, but still eyeing future scorecard improvements.

“This was just the second or third time I have been able to shoot a 71 here,” said the BC Invitational champion, who will travel to watch the PGA championship (Aug. 10-13) in Charlotte, N.C. “It was an incredible round today with great competition. By the time the district tournament gets here I would like to shoot under 70. Just have to keep building.”

Walker Valley’s Gray not only had a successful day, but he also helped the seasoned Mustangs men’s golf team take home first place overall in a field of six teams with flying colors. Five golfers combined for 311 strokes, 17 ahead of second-place Cleveland.

Also shooting in the 70s for WVHS were fellow seniors Nick McCracken (75) and Cade Puryear (79). Sophomore Silverdale Baptist transfer Dalton Sutton shot an 86 in his first go as a Mustang, while sophomore David Dansby added a 91.

After two straight trips to the state tournament, WVHS looks to be one of the top golf programs in the state again this season.

Bradley Central followed in third with 339 strokes between Gage Brakebill (80), John McKenzie, Alex Kyle, Tyler Ferguson and Lucas Maynard.

Lady Raiders shine

Rheagan Hall is accustomed to winning, but it wasn’t her championship round that excited her after shooting a 78 at the CCC.

Successfully defending her Bradley Central Invitational title from last season, Hall was thrilled for Cleveland to take the girls’ team’s first place trophy as well.

“To start my senior year off with a win and for it to be the first time the CHS girls have won anything in golf since I have been here is really exciting,” said Hall, who is considering UTC and MTSU for her collegiate career. “We really are excited about what is to come, and we all have a good time together.”

Sophomore Ellie Mills shot a 98, which combined with Hall for the title as they finished six strokes ahead of Walker Valley.

Hall’s shot of the day came as she finished her ninth hole, which was a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th.

“I didn’t play all that well today, even though a 78 is not bad,” Hall said. “I told my coach that my goal is to shoot even par this season. I have some work to do. I just have to focus on my up and down game, hit fairways and improve my statistics.”

The Lady Mustangs were led by Whitney Kincaid’s 86, while Bradley was led by a 94 from Cuppie Kyle. The Bearettes finished third with a 199 stroke total.

Walker Valley, Cleveland and Bradley Central will all compete in a high school tournament this Thursday at the Cleveland County Club.

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