By STEVE CORNELIUS, CJ Sports Editor
Twenty boys high school golf teams and nearly 100 golfers competed for top honors in Monday’s KHSAA Region 10 Boys Golf Championship at Eagle’s Nest Country Club.
But when the final scores were tallied, Somerset High School and Pulaski County High School dominated the award ceremonies.
The Somerset High School boys team won the team regional title, which was their first title since 2002.
Pulaski County High School junior Kellen Wilson shot a 3-under-par 68 to claim the program’s first-ever individual regional title.
The Pulaski boys team claimed the runner-up trophy, which was also a program first. Both, Somerset and Pulaski qualified for the KHSAA Boys State Golf Championship at Bowling Green Country Club, which will be played on Tuesday, Oct. 8 through Wednesday, Oct. 9.
The Briar Jumpers golf team had their top four scoring golfers shot under 80 to demolish the strong regional field. Somerset fired a team score of 300 strokes, well ahead of Pulaski’s 314 and Corbin’s 322.
The Jumpers were led by Ross Perry’s even-par round of 71. Zach Whitis fired a 73, Konnor Cowan shot a 79, Chandler Purcell carded a 77 and Cameron Claunch shot an 86.
“We really played great when it mattered,” an emotional Somerset coach Davin Roberts said. “We have struggled on this course in a couple home matches, but we played great today and that is all that matters.”
“We had a lot of our guys step up and really play good at the end today, and that is all you can ask for,” Roberts said. “This regional title means a lot to the school and the program. I can’t put in words how proud I am of these kids.”
Somerset had once been a yearly favorite to win the regional team title, but had struggled to challenge for a team title for over a decade.
“Two years ago, the parents wanted me to find a coach who could work well with the kids and maybe lead them to a regional title,” Somerset athletic director Bob Tucker stated. “Coach Roberts and Coach (Scott) Whitis have done an excellent job with this golf program and this regional trophy is the result of their hard work.”
Prior to Monday’s Region 10 Tournament, Clay County’s Tyler McDaniel was considered to be a heavy favorite to win individual honors. After all, McDaniel was the region defending champion, and had won the Kentucky State Amateur and the Junior PGA Championships this past summer.
But none of that really matter to Pulaski junior Kellen Wilson, who just played his own game in hopes of leading his team to a high finish.
“I was 2-under par after 11 holes and that was helpful, but I made my first mistake on 12 when I missed an easy up-and-down,” Wilson commented. “Then, I three-putted from 10 feet on 16. So, I felt like I had to go birdie-birdie on the last two holes to even have a chance.”
And Wilson did just that.
On the short par-4 finishing hole, Wilson found himself in a little trouble on his approach shot. After spraying his drive to the right, Wilson was under a tree with a sidehill lie. Wilson’s short, but awkward, approach shot fell short of the putting surface – forcing him to get up-and-down to save par.
Wilson holed his chip shot to complete his 3-under-par round, but he still thought his 68 was going to be second best.
“At the time, I felt like my 68 was second best and I wasn’t going to win,” Wilson admitted. “When you are playing in the field with the sixth best 16-year-old golfer in the world (McDaniel), I didn’t think I could beat him. But I did.”
Not only did Wilson’s 68 earn him some individual hardware, but his low score put his Maroons in a good position to earn a regional trophy.
Prior to Monday, the Pulaski boys golf team had never been near the top of the leaderboard in the regional tournament. As a matter of fact, the program had never sent a golfer to the state tournament until last season when then-sophomore Justin Mayfield qualified as an individual after shooting a 79 in the 2012 Regional Tournament at Woodson Bend. Mayfield will now make a return trip to the state tournament with the rest of his teammates.
Pulaski’s Mayfield shot an 84 on Monday. Grant Norris fired a 79, Chris Blount fired an 84 and Kaleb Thurman shot a 96.
“I am coaching here at Pulaski because the kids came to me and asked me to be their coach,” Pulaski coach Michael Winget said. “Our goal, from the start, was to qualify for the state tournament. We are thrilled to get to go to the state and we are thrilled that Somerset won the tournament. This is a great thing for the entire community.”
But midway through the back nine holes, Winget felt like his Maroons’ golf games might be slipping away and their hopes of qualifying for state might be slipping away as well.
“We had a commanding hold on second place going into the last three holes, but with a really young team we actually gave up 15 shots on the last three holes, and I thought then that maybe we weren’t going to make it,” Winget explained. “But then our lead horse (Wilson) birdies 17 and chips in for birdie on 18. When your lead golfer shoots a 68, you know you are in pretty good shape.”
And while Pulaski’s Wilson received the region medalist trophy, Somerset’s Perry placed fourth and Whitis placed fifth in the region individual rankings.
Southwestern High School had one of their better showings in thier program’s history with an eighth place finish with 334 strokes. The Warriors were led by Luke Gover’s round of 77. Vincent Boils shot an 82, Austin Roberts carded a 84, Trevor Stacey shot a 91 and Matt New scored a 99.