The Cullman Times
MUSCLE SHOALS —
Eli Marty didn’t have many problems with his woods, irons or wedges during the second round of the state golf tournament. It was the Good Hope junior’s putter, however, that left him left him feeling down as he entered the clubhouse at Robert Trent Jones’ Schoolmaster Course.
After entering the day with a two-shot lead, Marty was sure his 6-over 78 on Tuesday had dropped him far down the leaderboard.
By the time the rest of the Class 3A field finished posting their scores, Marty’s two-day total of 3-over 147 still held up for runner-up honors, seven strokes behind Straughn’s Brooks Rabren (72-68) and two ahead of Lauderdale County’s Walker Gordon (76-73).
“He got down on himself a little bit, but after he had a few minutes to reflect on his round, a smile came back on his face,” Raider coach David Hulsey said of his No. 1. “All in all, he was well pleased with being state runner-up, but he also knows he has a lot of improvements to make.”
Marty will be provided with ample opportunities to work on his putting and overall game on the Southeastern Junior Golf Tour this summer, leading Hulsey to believe the two-time defending Cullman County low-medalist can come back more dangerous than ever in 2014.
“I expect him to have a stellar season his senior year,” the coach said. “I’ll be looking for more scores with a six beside them than a seven the rest of his career. I’m just blessed to be associated with as good a golfer and as good a kid as he is.”
Just four shots back of Marty in the hunt for the 3A crown was Holly Pond’s Colby Adams, who put together another solid round to finish in a three-way tie for fourth. Bronco coach Mark Cornelius said the junior drove the ball well, hit a lot of greens and gave himself a fair share of birdie putts to card a 4-over 76 and 7-over 151 for the 36-hole event.
“I’m very pleased with Colby’s year,” Cornelius said. “He’s always been solid, around low 80s or high 70s, but it seemed like after the second round of the county tournament, he took it to another level. That turned his season around, and he’s just been a dominant force ever since.”
Adams will lead a trio of three Broncos — Braden and Hunter Walker are the others — returning for their senior seasons in 2014. Cornelius said he’ll need those veterans, as well as young guns Landon Walker (rising sophomore) and Dawson Foust (rising freshman) to step up in order for the Green and White to contend with sub-state powers like White Plains and Glencoe at this time next year.
“We had a good year, and I was really proud of the guys,” the coach said. “Their competition next year is going to be great. We’re capable of competing with those teams. We just have to put in the work.”
Cullman’s Sylas Elliott carded a much-improved 2-over 74 on The Shoals’ Fighting Joe Course to jump up the leaderboard to a tie for 11th. His 13-over total was 24 shots back of St. Paul’s Robby Shelton, who went super low both days to cruise to the individual title.
The Bearcats dropped to fourth as a team after starting the day in third. Their other contributors were Colby Sandlin, 161 (79-82); Lee Mattox, 165 (83-82); Conner Stevens, 165 (77-88); and Garrett Crider, 199 (97-102).
“I was very proud of the guys,” coach Ches Harris said. “They played hard coming in — sectionals and sub-state — to get here. I know they’re a little disappointed in their round today, but it just gives us something to improve on for next year.”
Cold Springs No. 1 Layne Rice made the most of his second trip to state in as many seasons, firing a 1-over on the Schoolmaster Course to pull into a three-way tie for fifth in the 1A-2A competition. His two-day total of 5-over helped him improve 10 spots on his 2012 performance.
“I thought he played really solid both days,” coach Adam McKinnon said. “He had some opportunities to make birdies and just burned some of the edges.”
The Eagles’ other contributors were Michael Gilliland, 166 (84-82); Kevin Harris, 183 (95-88); Nick Speer, 183 (90-93) and Tristan Williams, 192 (101-91).
“I know they didn’t play as well as they’d like to, but I’m sure they were excited just about getting the opportunity to go,” McKinnon said.
The road back to state won’t be easy for Cold Springs next season. Though Rice will return, the Eagles will lose Gilliland, Speer and Harris to graduation.
% The Times’ sports editor Rob Ketcham contributed to this report.