Although it only has one nine-hole golf course in the extreme southeast corner, Polk County continued a five-year run of advancing at least two players to the TSSAA State Golf Championships Thursday.
Hosting the Region 3 A-AA Tournament at the Chatata Valley Golf Club, which is in Bradley County, Coach Jason Adams watched as senior Emily Massengill and junior Ryan Droke fired their best scores of the year to earn shots at state titles.
“I’m so proud of both of them,” the Wildcat coach declared. “They showed up when the pressure was on. They picked a great time for to have their best rounds of the season.”
The pair advanced as individuals, while Boyd-Buchanan won both the boys and girls region titles and will be making the trip to Manchester Oct. 1-2 to compete in the team competition.
“This was a tough region tournament,” expressed Coach Adams. “Last year, an 82 would have got you in the state for the boys and a 101 for the girls. This year it took a 79 for the boys and a 91 for the girls.”
Droke made the turn Thursday with a 3-over 39 in his pocket and then fired a 1-over 37 on the back nine to tie for the low-medalist honors with a 76, before having to settle for second in a playoff with Boyd-Buchanan’s Jake Campbell.
“I hit my driver down the middle, but then shanked my approach and finished with a bogey (on the first playoff hole),” related Droke. “He [Campbell] parred.”
“His only birdie came on 18, but he chipped in to save par on 13, plus he only three-putted once,” related Coach Adams. “He had three bogeys and just one double-bogey. He chipped and putted really well.”
“He started the season out with a couple of rough, inconsistent weeks but then settled down and has really been strong down the stretch,” the Wildcat coach praised.
“My putter was working today. I felt good. This is the best round I’ve ever shot,” remarked Droke, who went to the middle school state tournament his seventh and eighth-grade years but will be making his first trip as a high schooler. “I was the No. 5 man on the team last year and played No. 2 this season.”
Droke’s 76 was a six-shot improvement over his 82 in the district event, while teammate Michael Rongey, who shot an 81 Monday came back with a 40-43 — 83 — Thursday.
For Massengill, it will be her second straight state tournament, as she won a three-way playoff for a berth in last year’s event.
“Emily enjoys the pressure,” proclaimed Coach Adams. “She qualified on the first hole of a three-way playoff for two spots last year, and, just last week, I watched her calmly win a playoff in a match against McMinn Central.”
“I’m excited to get to go again this year, my senior year,” Massengill commented. “I’m probably not going to get to play in college, so to be able to extend my final season a little further is great. I’m excited that it’s not over yet.”
“This was without a doubt my best round of the year,” she said of her 45 on the front nine and 46 after the turn for a 91. “I was chipping and putting much better than I did Monday [in the District 5 A-AA Tournament on the same course], plus I was hitting my driver straight.”
After her 97 on Monday didn’t count toward the Lady Wildcats team total as they finished third in Monday’s district event, Massengill outshot teammates Heather Eilis and Lauren Passmore by seven and 10 strokes respectively Thursday.
After both teams shot a 169 in regulation, Boyd-Buchanan edged Sequoyah for the girls team state tournament spot in a playoff, but the top two Lady Chiefs also earned individual bids.
Lady Buc Madison Balthrop earned low-medalist honors with an 80, while her teammate Lauren Foster shot an 89 for fourth-low medalist.
Sequoyah secured its spot in the extra hole with an 82 from Olivia Raper and an 87 from Carly Swabe to earn the second and third low medals.
Also advancing to the state as an individual is Hixson’s Ali Barker, who matched Massengill with a 91.
In the boys’ team action, Boyd-Buchanan fired a 322 for a nine-stroke victory over Sequoyah.
Campbell paced the Bucs with his 76, while Trent Mansfield (80), Ashton Evans (81) and Tanner Zumbrun (85) rounded out the winning tally.
Making the trip to Manchester along with Droke as individuals will be Marion County’s Lucas Coffelt (78), Sequoyah’s Kody Hampton (78) and Hixson’s Tate Truong (79).