October 9th, 2014

Tigers eye state title; Rocks hope to be spoiler

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Conor Revell

Staff Writer

Tigers eye state title; Rocks hope to be spoiler
Trinity is hoping to win its first state crown since 2003 / photo by Conor Revell

St. Xavier’s storied golf program has won 18 state titles since 1951, but none have come since 2009, when PGA Tour pro Justin Thomas was on the team.

The Tigers are hoping to end the drought this weekend after winning last week’s Sixth Region Tournament with a record-low score of 276. They are favored to win the Leachman Buick-GMC-Cadillac/KHSAA Boys State Tournament, which will wrap up Saturday at Bowling Green Country Club.

St. X has been the state runner-up to West Jessamine the past two years.

“We are going to have to finish,” said St. X head coach Dan Utley, whose team beat runner-up Trinity by 18 strokes in the regional. “It’s right in front of us and it has been our goal all year long. We’re not going to change anything. We are going to play the game we love, and we know that we’re good at it. Hopefully, the good lord will give us what we need.”

Trinity had the second-lowest score (294) of the 24 teams eligible for the state tournament.  The Shamrocks are playing in their first state tournament since 2007 and haven’t won a state crown since 2003.

Two years ago, Trinity’s golf program was struggling and finished seventh in the regional. Mike Brumfield took over as head coach last year and led the Rocks to a third-place finish at the regional tournament, just missing a spot in the state tournament.

Now they will join St. X at State.

“It took about two hours for them to buy into my system,” Brumfield said. “I let them do what they want to do as long as it’s the right thing. I change their mind on how they think. We don’t get mad. James (Inman), Zach (Mattingly), Grant (Hummel) and Jake (Mattingly) didn’t have the mentality. I let every shot go. I had to change their mentality on the golf course and that is to not get mad. They’ll be the first to tell you that’s why they have gotten better.”

St. X’s Mike Sass is one of the top players in the state but has some competition on his own team. In the regional, Sass shot a 3-under-par 69 to place third — not just in the tournament, but among the Tigers as well.

“It makes you better,” Sass said about having so many good teammates. “It makes you focus more and it helps your game overall.”

Allen Hamilton won the regional with a 66 and Matt Liston placed second with a 68.

“Obviously, if we play like we did in the regional tournament, we will win,” Hamilton said. “We all have to play well. If we do that, we’ll get the job done. We just have to play our game.”

Teammates Billy Basham and Drew Kielh each had a 73.

“Any of them can have a big tournament,” Utley said. “That’s the best thing about these guys. They push each other and they’re great friends. Anyone can have a great day.”

It will be the first state tournament for Hamilton, Liston and Kielh, all of whom are juniors.

“You know, there are a couple of really good teams in Trinity and Ryle,” Liston said. “If we play solid like we did in regionals, I think we should get the job done. But we will still have to play really well if we want to win.”

Sass is playing in his third state tournament and placed seventh as a freshman and 13th as a sophomore. Basham placed 27th last year.

“Billy and Mike will help them out,” Utley said. “They’ll ask them questions and we will lean on them for strategy decision. But we get a lot of rounds at Bowling Green Country Club throughout the season. All of the guys have had plenty of rounds. It’s not an easy golf course. The biggest thing is handling the mental side of it, not the physical side.”

Though it will be Trinity’s first appearance in the state tournament in seven years, James Inman played in the state tourney as a junior last season but didn’t make the cut.

“I think there was more pressure at regionals,” said Brumfield, who played in the state tournament for Elizabethtown from 1986-88. “There was more pressure because North Oldham and us wanted to both go to State, but there was only one spot. All three of us should be in State. All my kids love the golf course down there. I think they’ll play well there and they’ll be more relaxed. But they just wanted to get there for the first time in four years. I got to play in it when I was high school and I loved it. I think they’ll do well.”

Inman fired a 71 at regionals. Zach Mattingly shot a 72 and his twin Jake had a 74. Ryan Murr carded a 77 and Grant Hummel a 79.

“It means everything to be going with my team this year,” Inman said. “For four of us, it’s our last year. I’m really excited to go. I think we have a shot.”

Though St. X appears to be the team to beat, the Rocks believe they can pull off the upset, just as the 2003 Trinity team did.

That year, St. X won the regional and finished seven strokes ahead of Trinity, but the Rocks went on to win the state title with a 579 as St. X finished second with a 584.

“We just have to play our best,” Zach Mattingly said. “Just play our best, that’s all there is to it.”

St. X and Trinity will be paired together along with Graves County when the state tournament starts Friday. The first group from those schools will tee off at 1:15 p.m. EDT.


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