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BOWLING GREEN — A bad day in the Boys’ Leachman Buick GMC Cadillac/KHSAA State Golf Championships is still better than a good day at any high school tournament.
LaRue Country freshman Cameron Dawson and the Meade County Green Wave learned that the hard way Tuesday at Bowling Green Country Club.
Dawson’s day started with an uncharacteristic triple bogey and he didn’t settle down until the back nine. Dawson ended up with a 12-over-par 84 to miss the cut by five strokes.
“I haven’t had much experience playing at 7 in the morning,” Dawson said. “The course was wet and playing really long. The wind started to pick up on the seventh or eighth hole. That made it even more difficult.”
Meade County experienced the same rocky start. The Green Wave had two bogeys, one double and one triple on their first hole. Only senior Dustin McMahan started off with a par and they had only 18 pars in their first 45 holes.
“It was a bad start and a bad finish,” Meade County junior Spencer Hackert said. “There were just too many bad holes.”
The Green Wave finished with a team score of 360 and wasn’t close to making the cut, which was 329 for teams. The top 12 teams and the top 20 individuals not on those teams survive the cut.
Despite the tough ending, there was a silver lining for Meade County, which won its first 5th Region championship as well as advancing to the state tournament for the first time as a team.
“We can’t be too mad or disappointed,” Meade County senior Ethan Wright said. “We won a region championship and made history at our school as a team. We had a great year. It’s kind of bittersweet.”
Dawson felt the same. He had a solid year, finishing second at the region tournament and had two other top 10s – the Hart County Caveland Classic and Marion County Invitational. Although his goal was to make it to the second day, this was something Dawson can build on.
“This was a really good experience,” Dawson said. “Hopefully, I can use this in the years to come if I make it again. That first tee is really nerve-racking. If I come back next year or the years after that, I’ll be ready for it.”
It wasn’t his tee shot on the first hole that hurt Dawson. After a good drive to begin the day, Dawson’s back foot slipped on his second shot during his swing and his ball landed in the water. It began a rough stretch as he had only three pars on the front nine.
“It actually did (get in my head),” Dawson said. “I hit a really good shot off the tee which I didn’t expect. My back foot slipped and right after that, I started thinking about it.”
Dawson, though, rebounded on the back nine. He started playing with the consistency which got him to the state tournament. He carded a 2-over 38 as he had made seven pars.
“I was placing the ball well,” Dawson said. “My approach shots were better. I struggled off the tee (on the front nine). It’s really tough if you don’t hit greens. The rough is really difficult to get out of.”
The Green Wave had been playing their best golf at the end of the season. They won the Lincoln Trail Invitational on Sept. 28 and then did the same at the region two days later.
But the 6,795-yard course humbled the Green Wave. Hackert shot an 84, only the second time this season he had a round in the 80s. Senior Adam Fogle and McMahan both carded a 91 followed by freshman Garrett Ammons’ 94 and Wright’s 96.
“The course was difficult today,” Fogle said. “I wasn’t hitting the ball well. I had a couple of bad holes and bad holes will definitely kill you here. But this was still the best year ever.”
Fogle wasn’t alone. That was a shared sentiment among the Meade County players.
“My swing was just off,” McMahan said. “The weather wasn’t good and there were a lot of factors why we didn’t play well. But for me, my swing was bad. I didn’t even feel like I was golfing. In the end, it was good to get here and it was a lot of fun. I’ll get over it.”
Meade County coach Curt Lowndes said he believes the first-time jitters played a role in his team’s rough day.
“I think nerves had a lot to do with it,” Lowndes said. “We got off to a rough start and we weren’t able to crawl back into it. This is not indicative of how they played all year.
“This was a really bad day,” he added. “Right now, they’re really upset. But in the next couple of weeks or months, they are going to realize what a great accomplishment it is to make it here. And they’re still region champs. They can’t let one day define their season.”
The Green Wave should return Hackert and Ammons next season, which gives them two solid pieces to build around. This experience has inspired Ammons after getting a taste of success.
“This really motivates me,” Ammons said. “Spencer and I are going to work in the offseason and play in tournaments together. We’re going to help everybody else on the team. We want to get back here.”
According to the KHSAA web site, this is the first time an area player hasn’t advanced to the second day of the state tournament since at least 1996. The KHSAA has results posted from 1996-present.
Defending champion West Jessamine shot a 293 to lead Louisville St. Xavier by three strokes. West Jessamine senior Fred Allen Meyer, who won last year’s tournament, led by a shot over St. Xavier senior Brendon Doyle after firing a 4-over 68. Clay County junior Tyler McDaniel shot a 70, while Hancock Country senior Tristan Bozarth had a 71.
Chuck Jones can be reached at 270-505-1759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.