It’s a sweep.
Alcoa High School junior Grant Daugherty made up a three-stroke deficit after a day to roar through to a convincing victory at the Class A/AA State Golf Championships last Wednesday at WillowBrook Golf Club in Manchester.
Shooting an even-par 72 for both days, Daugherty finished the only player in the tournament at par, besting runner up Lee Whitehead of Christian Academy of Knoxville by a four-stroke margin. First-round leader Kory Webb of CAK fell well off the pace to finish six strokes back.
With his state crown, the first for Alcoa since Ryo Fukami in 1995 and third overall for the Tornadoes, Daugherty ran the table in area prep golf this season, taking out wins at the Blount County Prep, district and region tournaments alike.
“It’s a huge relief,” Daugherty said. “I’m glad it’s over.”
Virgil Prater claimed the Tornadoes first state golf title during the 1957 season, Alcoa the only Blount County school with a state golf crown to its credit.
There’s little Daugherty hasn’t achieved during the 2010 campaign. The state championship comes during a season when the big-hitting Tornado was named the Toyota Tennessee Golf Association Junior Tour Player of the Year.
Daugherty came by his medalist honors at state in much the same fashion he’d put the county, district and region titles in this golf bag. He’d been there, done that when it came to the state tournament, finishing seventh in 2009. Like the county, district and region tourneys, it was simply a matter of playing golf, Daugherty said.
“I knew I was playing well,” he said. “I’d had a good day (in the opening round). I felt like I had a pretty good game plan on how I was going to play the holes. I didn’t want to change anything.”
The same approach had sent the county championship to Alcoa a little over a month before.
He’d gotten off to a slow start in the quest of that long-coveted county championship, steadily making up ground the first two days before blowing up the tournament with a 3-under at Egwani Farms on the third and final day to edge William Blount’s Peyton Sliger by a close margin.
With the county title in his rear view, Daugherty destroyed the field at the District 4A/AA tournament at Willow Creek Golf Club in Knoxville. Powering through to card out with a 4-under 68 on the day, he ran away from CAK’s Anderson Payne to win by seven strokes.
Webb and Whitehead, who paced the Warriors to their second consecutive state team championship last week, made a game of it for the region title at Landmark Golf Club at Avalon in Lenoir City. With a cold rain making playing conditions less than ideal, Daugherty wielded a steady putter that helped get him off the course with a 73, two better than Webb and five better than Whitehead.
Daugherty is familiar with both through play on the junior circuit. It did a lot to reduce the pressure of the state tournament to simply playing his best golf, he said. When he got within a few shots of Webb’s opening-round lead, Daugherty said he knew he had a chance. He’d finished seventh only the year before and knew the big moves up the leaderboard would come on the second day.
At the hotel that night, Alcoa golf coach Rob Daugherty, Grant’s father, said he kept things simple with his son.
“We just talked about what he did the first round that he could improve,” Rob Daugherty said. “Grant played it very well both days. He hit the fairways and greens both days. The pins (the second day) were really, really tough.”
Whitehead had leapfrogged his teammate by the time the lead group began walking the back nine holes on the second day. Daugherty and Whitehead were dead square by the eighth fairway, with Daugherty doing his best to remain oblivious as to the score.
“I tried my best not to find out,” he said. “I had a kid on the 15th hole tell me I had a pretty good lead.”
No lead was too safe for Rob Daugherty, but Grant never looked back after taking the lead.
“He took the lead on the ninth hole,” Rob Daugherty said. “He didn’t pull anything back. He just kept on playing.”
When Grant rolled home his final putt on 18, few were more relieved than the Daugherty and wife, Julie.
“It’s a really big deal for his mother and I both to see all the hard work pay off,” Rob Daugherty said. “To win is a special thing. It’s hard to even make it to state in golf.”
Don’t look now, coach, but Grant is already thinking about a repeat.
“I just feel confident I can do it again if I go out and play,” he said.
Hard to argue with the results that kind of thinking produced this postseason.