Of all the sports being played at Johnson County High School, the golf program may have had one of the most successful seasons this year. After pulling out wins over more than 30 opponents, including back-to-back victories over the Cyclones, only Sullivan South managed to outdo the Longhorns. With that in mind it was no surprise when the team pulled out yet another huge win at the District Tournament in Elizabethton, ultimately earning a second place ranking in the conference overall.
I was impressed, said Coach Steve Arnold. We have been very consistent all year. Elizabethton had not beaten us all year and they played their best match when it counted. We came through in the playoff thanks to Blade Hampton making the deciding putt on the first playoff hole to take second place by one stroke. I was just so happy for Blade because he is a senior and did not have his regular round of golf during the tournament.
Hamptons match saving playoff aside, the whole team did very well. Nathan Timbs took the top spot with a 76, while Morgan Eggers, Nathaniel Graybeal and Brandon Vannoy were all in the mid 80s. Hampton rounded out the top with an overall of 90. Having just played two matches on Elizabethtons home course, the districts seemed like a natural continuation of that success.
These kids love the game of golf, Arnold said. It showed each time we had a match. They finished the year with 34 wins and 13 losses. The one thing that impressed me at districts was that their scores were at or below their seasonal average, which means that during the season they were turning in accurate scores, and you can always look at district scores and see that a lot of players were way above what they were turning in during matches, and now with a monitor all strokes are counted. With the class these boys have, it shows.
Even though the team performed phenomenally at districts, the next week at regionals did not go nearly as well. Although the conditions were very similar even down to playing on the same course, the sport proved just how fickle it can sometimes be. According to Arnold, I can sum it up in one word, Golf. Some days everything works, and some days very little works. It was not our usual showing, but everyone who played, played bad. We only send one girl and one boy from our district to the state. But, they were at least there competing. That is the type of team I have, after it was over some got a bucket of balls and headed to the range and when we returned home, they headed to the course to play. I would also like to extend a huge thank you to Duane Peterson who stepped in and drove our bus for us since I was unable to. We owe him a lot for getting us to the matches so we could play.
Timbs came in with an 81 this time around, a few strokes higher than his district run. Most of the rest of the team were stuck in the mid to high 90s. As Arnold indicated many of the other teams at the match did poorly as well, making exception with Sullivan South, which came in with a team total of 290. This was well ahead of everyone else on the ticket, with Cumberland taking second place at 320, and Greenville at 3rd with 323. Johnson County finished up at 367 behind Elizabethton at 345.
Despite this lackluster final match, the Longhorns still had a season they could be very proud of. Even more importantly, with the program losing only two of their starters next year the future could be even brighter. Hopefully, we will pick up next year just where we left off this year, Arnold said. We have four starters returning next year, and four more that saw a lot of playing time, and looking for two to take the place of seniors Blade Hampton and Nathaniel Graybeal. If they work as hard for next season we will be looking at a top three finish again. Nathan, along with Brandon Vannoy, Morgan Eggers, and Isaiah Penley will be as strong as any four in the district.