Golden Tiger golfers hoping early success leads to playoff victories

By Staff
Scot Beard
Young and successful are not two adjectives people see in the same sentence often, but they describe the 2010 Russellville golf team well.
The boys team consists of two seniors, one junior, one sophomore, three freshmen and a seventh grader. So far the Golden Tigers have competed in eight events and either finished as the winner or the runner-up in each of them.
With results like that the coaching staff expects great results not only a few years down the road, but also right now.
“That’s what we’re looking forward too,” said Russellville coach Jason Haithcock. “We had a discussion to tell them to look at Alex (Pounders) and Blake (Reed). It is their last shot to win a title.”
Pounders and Reed are the only seniors on the boys team. Other team members include Blake Bendall, Dalton McGee, Hagen Price, Justin Overton, Will Bragwell, Ty Trapp and John-Alex Foster. Lindsay Smith, who is also a senior, is the only girl playing for Russellville.
Haithcock said one of the things that impresses him most is the team spirit among the players. Golf is designed as an individual sport, but the high school game depends on a combination of each player’s score to yield a team result.
“It’s hard to build a team concept,” Haithcock said. “They have done a great job. They check each other’s scores and they want to win.”
Haithcock said the reason behind the success is the team is shooting more consistently this year.
The scores from 9-hole matches have ranged between 151 and 161 all season. He said the team will have to shoot around 320 at the sectional tournament, an 18-hole match, to reach the sub-state tournament and said the team has the ability to shoot between 300 and 310.
Leading the way for the Golden Tigers are a pair of freshmen – Hagen Price and Will Bragwell.
Haithcock said Price leads the team in scoring and had the team’s only score in the 30s at a 9-hole match at Muscle Shoals Tuesday. Price’s worst round of the year was at Red Bay in cold and soggy conditions.
Price, who is playing only his second season with the Golden Tigers, said one of the differences in his game this year is his nerves.
“I’m not as nervous,” Price said. “I used to be nervous on every hole, but I’m more comfortable now.”
He also said practicing his putting throughout last summer has also helped lower his scores.
Fellow freshman Bragwell tasted a little bit of success last season when he reached the sub-state round of the playoffs as an individual player.
He said the goal this year is for Russellville to qualify for sub-state as a team. Bragwell said the results so far this season makes that goal reachable.
“It makes me feel good that we could possibly get to sub-state,” Bragwell said. “As a team we missed by 10 strokes last year. This year I think we can get there.”
Trapp, a sophomore who is in his fourth season with the Golden Tigers, said the team hasn’t played to its potential yet, but the team should continue to build on the momentum.
“The start helps quite a bit. We haven’t played well, but we are starting to,” Trapp said. “It will help us play better.”
The play of the boys team is helping it reach its goal of trying to reach sub-state but it is also driving Smith to play great golf as well.
She has been the lone girls golfer for Russellville for several seasons now. She said the desire to not only compete with the boys team but to also beat its members has elevated her game.
“They are pretty good,” Smith said. “Some of them are hard to beat.”
Haithcock said Smith plays her best golf when she has tough competition. Smith agrees, saying the better girls golfers enhance her competitive spirits while poor players, who slow the pace of the match, tend to frustrate her and throw her off her game.
She has two goals this season – reaching the state tournament and finding a college team to play for after she graduates from Russellville.
Smith finished 11th at the sub-state round of the playoffs last season and has already gotten interest from several universities including Huntington, Martin Methodist, South Alabama, Troy and Cumberland.
“It is exciting and it is a privilege,” Smith said of the hunt for a collegiate team.
The future looks bright for Russellville and the team is optimistic it can reach the sub-state round of the playoffs if it stays focused.
Bragwell, who has been there, offered one piece of advice to his teammates as they pursue their goal.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” Bragwell said. “Do what you know you can do and focus on your game. Don’t worry about other players.”