A stately rally: Alcoa boys take second at state championships
By Marcus Fitzsimmons | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
MANCHESTER — They’re going to have to make some more room in the trophy cases at Alcoa High School.
Alcoa charged after Macon County Wednesday in the second and final round of the TSSAA Class A/AA Championship but couldn’t make up the entire deficit despite a pair of Top 11 finishes on the links of Willow
Brook Golf Club.
The Tornadoes were 18 shots better in the second round with a team round of 12-over that was the best team round of the tournament but not enough to wipe out all of an 11-stroke lead Macon County built on Tuesday. Alcoa shaved three strokes off the edge at the turn and took three more off on the back nine but took runner up five strokes back. Happy Valley lost ground on Alcoa seeing a two-shot deficit behind second place balloon to 11 against the Tornadoes’ blistering pace.
“This is the first Alcoa team that finished with a trophy as a team in state tournament golf, there’s no shame in that,” Alcoa golf coach Rob Daugherty said after giving each of his players a hug in turn at 18. “We had a good week. We didn’t play especially well Tuesday but we came back with a charge in the second round and I’m proud of them for that. We’ve had a great season, to go 27-4, and finish second at state.”
The Tornadoes got a stellar second day from Hunter Tidwell, who tied for the lowest round of the tourney with a 1-under after battling the back nine to scratch out an 81 in the first round.
“We came in knowing we had the players to win, we just didn’t have a good first day and it put us in a huge hole,” Tidwell told The Daily Times. “I kept pushing for birdies today, really I missed three easily makable putts that might have made a difference.”
Daugherty wasn’t putting any burden on any of his players but was taking their resolve to push back and make a run as signs of the continued improvement as Alcoa improved on its third place finish from 2011 with second despite losses to the college ranks.
“We got ourselves in a big hole Tuesday and Macon County was good enough to hold on. It’s not like they gave us anything. They played solid and we really played good golf to make up as much as we did,” Daugherty said. “71,74,75, 83 we hung in there and put some distance between ourselves and Happy Valley. I’m really proud of the kids, I really am.
“Hunter Tidwell was 10 shots better at 1-under. Matthew Giles had two double but still shot a 74.”
But it was the steady play of freshman Caden McLaughlin that first kept Alcoa in the hunt for the title and was a solid score for the second round as the freshman shot his way into an all-state finish as the No. 10 finisher at 7-over.
“I’m not surprised. I’m proud of him,” Daugherty said. “His maturity is just awesome. He showed a lot of that. For a freshman to come out and just hang around like that in the last group in this tournament and play as well as he did is really impressive.”
The Tornadoes nearly netted two all-state distinctions with Tidwell’s 8-over putting him at No. 11.
“The further we went in the postseason, the better he got,” Tidwell said of McLaughlin. “He was just a little bit better each tournament. I hate to see that we didn’t do enough to help him, he really carried us the first round. We just couldn’t get out of the hole, we left ourselves too many strokes behind.”
“We tried our best today and that’s all we could do, we couldn’t change the first day,” the freshman added before the team accepted the trophy that will join a case crowded with football and basketball as the school’s first state golf trophy. “I could have dialed in a little better both days but I’m pretty happy with the way I played.”
It may not be the end but merely a beginning for the Tornado golf team which doesn’t lose a player for next season after winning district by eight shots and the regional by five on their way to state.
“We have a young team that’ll all be back but some of these other teams are young too, Macon is young, Grace has some good players coming on in our region,” Daugherty said.
DIVOTS: Sydney Chung, of Madison Academic, rallied to win the individual title with a second round 71 to leap frog up the leaderboard as first round co-leaders — Carter’s Termy Fultz and Chattanooga Christian’s Scott Stevens — struggled after even par opening rounds. ... Signal Mountain won its third consecutive girls team title with Macon County runner up. ... CAK’s Sophia Schubert won her second individual title.