Before Eli Marty, Sylas Elliott and Layne Rice team up next fall at Wallace State, the golfing trio has a little unfinished business to take care of at the prep level first — winning a state title.
The three seniors all took steps toward reaching that goal on Monday afternoon, qualifying for next week’s state tournament at Robert Trent Jones Capitol Hill in Prattville following sublime efforts at their respective sub-state tournaments.
Marty continued his fine play with a tight round of 74 at RTJ Silver Lakes to place third overall — Good Hope was sixth as a team — and secure his sixth consecutive trip to the big dance.
The three-time defending Cullman County champion will look to cap off his fantastic prep career with the biggest trophy of them all next Monday and Tuesday.
“It means a lot to get back to state,” said Marty, Class 3A’s 2013 runner-up. “My whole mindset today wasn’t really about winning but qualifying. I just needed to post a good score. I wanted another shot for state and now I’ve got it. I’ve played the course a lot. I’m not going to lie, it’s tough. I’m ready to get out there.”
Cole Pearson (87), Anthony Harlan (91) and Alex Cofer (95) rounded out the team scores for the Raiders.
Elliott fired a round of 73 at Cherokee Ridge Country Club to earn a state berth as an individual — he was second overall — for Cullman. The Bearcats finished sixth overall as a squad, but Elliott clinched his sixth straight state appearance — a feat in and of itself.
“I’m proud of Sylas,” Cullman coach Brandon Dingler said. “He has worked hard all year. I really think he has as good a shot as anyone of winning an individual low medalist title.”
Cold Springs’ Rice didn’t have his best day on the golf course Monday afternoon. In fact, the Eagle No. 1 would probably just as soon forget about his uncharacteristic score of 84 at TP Country Club, a course the Blue and Gold senior has flourished at for the duration of his prep career.
Even still, Rice is heading back to state following his third-place finish as an individual.
“I think he would’ve hated not making it today as a senior,” Cold Springs coach Adam McKinnon said. “It was one of the tougher days he’s had. But things worked out for him. Hopefully he can finish out on a really good note next week.”
Cold Springs’ Tristan Williams (97), Peyton Dickerson (98) and Trenton Williams (113) contributed to the Eagles’ score.
Holly Pond’s team barely missed out on back-to-back treks to the state tournament following a collective mark of 341, just six shots behind third-place Glencoe.
All was not lost, though, as seniors Colby Adams and Braden Walker each carded 82s to tie for the third and final individual qualifying spot at their sub-state tournament.
Walker ousted Adams on the first playoff hole with a par to clinch the state berth. However, according to coach Mark Cornelius, Walker may have to miss due to a previous engagement, which would give Adams a chance to take his place in Prattville.
Hunter Walker (84) and Dawson Foust (93) rounded out the rest of the Green and White’s scores.
“I’m proud of the boys,” Cornelius said. “We didn’t have a few things fall our way today, but the seniors were great this year.”
Over in Decatur, Fairview’s boys advanced as a team following a tie for second with Ardmore at Point Mallard Golf Course. The Aggies were led by Trey Hanvey’s 73 — he was third in the tourney. Austin Scott (84), Hunter Whitehead (87) and Seth Lancaster (91) also helped keep their season alive.
“These guys have put a lot of time in, and it’s paying off,” Fairview coach Kurt Knight said. “I’m proud of them.”
On the girls’ side, Cullman failed to qualify for state, while West Point’s Lindsey Rodgers (92) came up just short in her bid to head to Prattville. The 2013 county champ still has two more seasons left with the Warriors.
“It was a tough course,” coach Jimmy Harbison said. “She’s just a sophomore, too. She wanted to win low medalist at the county this year. This will be something to build on.”
% The Times’ Jake Winfrey contributed to this report.