COOKEVILLE — The Cleveland High girls are returning to the TSSAA Large Class State Golf Championships, but they are the only ones from Bradley County as there were several "close, but no cigars" at the Region 3 Tournament in Cookeville, Tuesday.
The Lady Raiders, who finished seventh in the rain-shortened state event last fall, will head back to Manchester next week to battle seven other region champions on the tough Willowbrook layout.
Sophomore sensation Hannah Nall fired Tuesday's second-lowest round in the female division at the region with a 1-over-par 71 on the Golden Eagle par 70 course. That matches her 1-over 73 in last year's region championship at the Cleveland Country Club, a par 72 layout.
Only the second time this season she hasn't earned low-medalist honors, Nall was bested by DeKalb County's Anna Chew, who blistered the course for a 5-under 65, including seven birdies, plus an eagle.
Lady Raider senior Ellie Mills capped off the winning team score with an 88 Tuesday, while classmate Emma Crouch shot 100 in support.
Cleveland's 157 tally was just two strokes ahead of host Cookeville, which carded a 159. Soddy-Daisy was third at 165, while Bradley Central came in fourth with a 167. Sequoyah and White County rounded out the team play with a 181 and 195, respectively.
Bearette senior Cuppie Kyle came in sixth in the individual race with an 82, just four strokes out of qualifying for the state.
Bradley also got an 85 from junior Lauren Baker and an 88 from classmate Hannah Winters.
"We were tied with Cookeville at the turn and ahead of Cleveland, but things fell apart on the back nine for us," related Bradley head coach Don Burke.
"Cuppie had a good day. She led us in the district and the region after having a few struggles with a mid-season injury. That's senior leadership."
Along with Chew, the other individual qualifiers were Sequoyah's Mary Moses and Zoey Budzilek, from Livingston Academy, with a 77 and 78, respectively.
On the boys' side of the region, Walker Valley made the strongest local showing, finishing third, just six shots off the pace.
The Mustangs fired a 328, which is their best 18-hole score of the season, but White County and Cookeville battled it out for the region crown in a 321-322 victory for the Warriors.
Walker Valley senior Dalton Sutton just missed out on his fourth straight trip to the TSSAA State Championships, shooting a 3-over 73 to tie for the fourth-best score.
The three individual qualifiers were Dodj Watson, from McMinn County, with a 2-under 68; Stone Memorial's Blake Brewer with an even par 70; and East Hamilton's Matthew Ott, who fired a 71.
Walker Valley's strong effort Tuesday included 82s from freshman Ian Kinsey and junior Koleman Leslie, plus a 91 from 11th-grader Sammy Bain.
"We had a good season. I thought we played well as a team today, finishing third. Hope we can build on that for next year. I was really proud of that," proclaimed Mustang coach Will Campbell.
"Dalton (Sutton) had a great season individually and just came a couple shots short today of going back to state. He had a great three years at Walker Valley (Sutton played his freshman year at Silverdale Baptist Academy). I'm excited to see where he ends up playing next year."
The Bradley boys struggled Tuesday, shooting 17 strokes higher than last week's District 5-AAA championship run, with a 342 for a fifth-place finish.
Junior JT McKenzie just missed the state field with a 4-over 74 and junior Brett Waters carded an 83, but the other Bear scores were north of 90. Preston Lawson posted a 91, while Eli Tate and Jonas Rayfield both shot 94s.
"We had a good year and the boys did a great job of winning the district for the first time since I've been here, but today wasn't our day," remarked Coach Burke. "I'm proud of them though. The good news is all of them will be back, with the exception of Cuppie (Kyle, the lone Bradley senior player)."
The Cleveland boys also ran into some trouble Tuesday, having a player disqualified, leaving the Raiders with just three players instead of the required four.
Finishing up his Cleveland career, senior Wade Samples fired his best round of the season with a 4-over 74, matching McKenzie for the sixth-lowest score of the boys' event.
Juniors Dillon Linkous and Eli Adams shot 85 and 86, respectively.