Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

October 15, 2013

Best on the links

Graham captures Group 2A golf title

FRONT ROYAL, Va. — When it mattered most, Zach Toohey played his best golf. He has done it before.

“Zach plays big in the moment, he was all-state a couple of years ago,” Graham golf coach Matt Dixon said. “He was right there for the individual championship. When the pressure is on, he plays well.”

So did the rest of the Graham G-Men, who pulled away from Stonewall Jackson and captured the Group 2A state golf championship on Tuesday at the Shenandoah Valley Golf Club.

Toohey, who was an all-state performer as a sophomore in 2011 when the G-Men finished third, fired a second round 77 to go with a 1-over 72 on Monday for a 149, coming in second behind Virginia Tech signee Amanda Hollandsworth of Floyd County, who had a two-day total of 143.

Ben Ramsey, who won the Region 2A-West individual title two weeks ago in a playoff with Hollandsworth, joined Toohey as an all-state honoree, shooting a pair of 78s over two days for a 156 to finish in a tie for 5th place.

“It was just a team effort, our 1 and 2s have played really well, and they are both all-state golfers,” Dixon said. “Ben has been a consistent No. 1 all year. He battled it out, he did not play his best, but it was a team effort.

“He put the team on his back all season and even though things weren’t going good for him up here, he grinded it out and Zach came up big for us too.”

Graham started the day in a tie with Stonewall Jackson for first place, but the G-Men were seven shots better to finish with at two-day total of 655.

“It was tough and there was a lot of pressure out there,” Dixon said. “Our kids hung with it and did a great job. They were great, but both teams just battled. You can’t control what the other team does.

“We didn’t play great by any means, but we were able to do enough to win this thing, that shows the character of our kids.”

Graham, which had shot a 329 on Monday, had a 326 during the tournament’s final round to finish with a  655. Stonewall Jackson was second with a 662, followed by Floyd County (669) and Buffalo Gap (688).

Five of the six individual finishers — all of whom earned all-state honors — were from Southwest Virginia, including Hollandsworth, Toohey, Ramsey, Richlands’ Zach Luttrell (153) and Austin Blevins of Marion.

Luttrell finished with a two-day tally of 153 after rounds of 78 and 75 to place third. Dylan Sawyers of Richlands had rounds of 80 and 86 for a 166.

Holston also represented Southwest Virginia in winning fashion, claiming the Group 1A state championship on the same course.

“Southwest Virginia really swept up some awards up here,” Dixon said.

While Dixon expected solid performances from Ramsey and Toohey, state championships often ride on the others, and Graham’s team did just fine, with Jacob Britton shooting an 85 on Tuesday and Austin Boyce contributing an 89.

Britton had an 89 in Monday’s opening round, while Travis Simms added an 87. Graham’s sixth player and fourth senior, William McGuire, didn’t place in the top four either day. Dakota Jones was also along for the ride as an alternate.

“Our third and four scorers played their hearts out,” Dixon said. “That is where you win these tournaments. We knew we had the 1 and 2, but there was a lot of pressure up there, but this is just an excellent golf team.

“I am just proud of the whole team, different people stepped up.”

 Dixon, a former coach at Richlands, who is now the golf and baseball coach at Graham, was thrilled with the victory, and with the support the G-Men have received, including from its home course, Fincastle on the Mountain.

“I am just happy for the community,” Dixon said. “A lot of kids helped get our program where it is. Fincastle on the Mountain has been great to us and a lot of people in the community have helped these kids.

“It has been a total team effort and a total community effort.”

Graham, which won the Conference 39 tournament and finished second to Floyd County in the Region 2A-West tournament on Oct. 3, was focused from the start, according to Dixon.

“The kids were focused all week. I could tell it Sunday night and when we woke up at 5:30 a.m., they were already eating breakfast without us,” Dixon said. “They took care of business all week long.

“We have had some great kids that have come through the program. Morgan Brewster came up a couple of day ago, the kids have come back to support them. That is great for our golf program. I believe this is the first state golf championship at Graham High School.”

A repeat won’t be easy, not with Ramsey, Toohey, Britton and McGuire all seniors, but the G-Men lost talented golfers two years ago from a team that placed third in the state, and look what happened in 2013.

“I am going to miss them. They are great kids and they did a lot for our program,” Dixon said. “They are great kids, but we have a couple of guys coming back and we did that a couple of years ago.

“I hope we can do it again. I am just happy for the team, the community, (Graham principal) John O’Neal and the whole staff there at Graham.”

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