By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
With a whopping 10 strokes between him and the next closest golfer entering the second round of this year’s Cullman County Golf Tournament, it wasn’t a matter of whether Eli Marty was going to win low-medalist honors — it was just how low the Good Hope junior could go.
Add an even-par 72 on Thursday at the Cullman Golf Course to Marty’s slick 65 on Wednesday at TP Country Club, and the answer was 7-under, good for a dominant 12-stroke victory over second-place golfer Colby Adams from Holly Pond.
“It’s really exciting,” he said while unsuccessfully fighting to hold back a smile. “I don’t really show my emotions that much, but on the inside, yeah I’m pumped right now. I just want to thank God for always blessing me.”
After clawing back on Day 2 to snag the top spot in 2012, the defending champ was content with riding his first-round score to the title this time around. Marty opened his last 18 holes with birdies on the ninth and 10th holes before leveling out on the front-nine to finish the tournament with a 137 (65-72).
“I had a pretty good lead, so I just knew I had to come over here and put up a decent score,” he said.
Marty turned in another masterful performance with his irons and wedges, precisely guiding approach after approach to spots on the green that left him with manageable birdie putts. His highlight of the day came on the par-four third hole, where he stuck his second shot within a foot of the flag to leave himself with an easy tap-in for birdie.
“He’s always been strong with his approach shots, but the last two days in particular, he was throwing darts at every hole,” Good Hope coach David Hulsey said. “He didn’t really have to make any long putts.”
Marty was obviously untouchable in Round 1, but he didn’t enter the clubhouse with the lowest 18-hole score in Round 2. That honor went to the Broncos’ Adams, who played out of his mind on the last 11 holes to wind up with a 2-under 70.
The junior had an absolutely jaw-dropping stretch at one point, carding three birdies in a row and six in eight holes. None were more impressive than when Adams put the perfect roll on an extremely lengthy right-to-left putt on No. 3.
“I’m not going to try to play it off cool like I always do that,” the multi-sport star said with a grin. “I’m pretty sure that’s the best score I’ve ever shot in my life on 18 holes. Once I got on that streak, I just kind of got hot, started making putts and tried to make good golf shots from there.”
As Adams’ coach, Mark Cornelius has seen the work his No. 1 puts into the game of golf, so he was obviously pleased to watch it pay off over the two-day county tourney.
“Colby had an outstanding day, a career day,” Cornelius said. “To go on the birdie run he went on, I’m tickled to death for him.”
Largely due to Adams finishing second at 149 (79-70) and teammate Braden Walker sneaking into third with a 157 (80-77), Holly Pond was able to transform a four-shot deficit at the start of the day into a 15-shot team victory by the end of it.
Lifting the county trophy with his fellow Broncos brought more joy to Adams than any individual accolades ever could.
“The thing is in golf, you’re not just worried about how you do. You don’t want to let your team down,” he said. “Personally, I don’t care where I rank up with anybody. In my mind, I just want to give our team the best chance to win.”
The Green and White missed out on opportunities for success at last year’s county and state tournaments with shaky second rounds. That was far from an issue on Thursday, however, with Hunter Walker and Dawson Foust rounding out the squad’s counted scores with 170 (86-84) and 186 (92-94), respectively.
“It means a lot. I talked to them yesterday about putting two days together, and they really came through,” a beaming Cornelius said. “They showed some mental toughness, and I’m really proud of what they were able to accomplish. They work hard on the golf course, and they work hard in the classroom. They’re super kids.”
Fifteen shots behind Holly Pond was Cold Springs (677), which narrowly edged reigning-champion Good Hope (682) for second place. Fairview (710), West Point (881) and Hanceville (937) held down fourth, fifth and sixth.
The low-medalist, as well as the five next-best golfers, earned spots on the All-County Team, meaning Marty, Adams and Walker were joined on the honorary squad by Cold Springs’ Layne Rice (81-77) and Fairview’s Trey Hanvey (75-83), T-fourth, 158; and Cold Springs’ Michael Gilliland (82-85), 167.
Marty wasn’t the only two-time low-medalist on the course by day’s end with Fairview’s Abbi Yeager defending her title in the varsity girls’ division and the Aggies’ James Arnold pulling off the feat for the junior varsity boys.
Yeager finished with a 168 (74-94), helping the Purple and Gold claim the team crown for a second-straight season. Fairview's other three golfers were Maci Yeager (71-108), 179; Sarah Harper (79-101), 180; and Sadie Boyd (89-95), 184. Maci Yeager joined her sister on the All-County Team, as did West Point's Lindsey Rogers (78-96), who touted a two-day total of 174.
Arnold turned in a 147 (63-84) to lead Fairview’s boys to a repeat. The team’s other counted scores came from Hunter Whitehead (84-102), 186; Alex Walters (79-112), 191; and Cannon Twilley (81-115), 196.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at email@example.com.