Last week, the 5A girls state golf tournament was won by Hot Springs Lakeside playing on its home course. The White Hall boys golf team hopes a home-course advantage will lead them to a state title, too.
White Hall and 11 other teams, plus 12 individual qualifiers — including Watson Chapel’s Regin Reginio — will compete in the 5A boys state golf tournament today at Pine Bluff Country Club.
“I think it’s a huge advantage,” White Hall sophomore Nicholas Acosta said. “We already know about 90 percent of the course.
“We also know the pin placement, which helps.”
His teammate David Norwood thinks the pressure of the state tourney will negate any home-course advantage.
“It’s state,” the junior said. “It’s not just a regular tourney.”
White Hall coach Rieke Stewart can see both sides of the argument.
“It’s a pretty good advantage to play here everyday,” Stewart said. “On the flip side, I talked to the Lakeside coach whose girls won state at their home course and he thought maybe there was a little added pressure.
“So, it could be kind of a disadvantage, because you’re expected to do so well.”
As with most things in the game of golf, whether the Bulldogs are able to take advantage of playing at home will likely come from their mindset. And if that’s the case, junior Jake McNulty could have a very successful day.
“I think it brings a lot of advantage,” he said. “Playing out here seven days a week, we know where to put it and where not to put it.
“We know where we can go for it and where we can’t.”
Because the team is so familiar with the course, the Bulldogs’ Tuesday practice round was likely more relaxed and detail-oriented than that of its opponents.
Each White Hall golfer seemed to be focusing on one or two shortcomings in his game.
“They pretty much know the flaws or weaknesses in their game,” Stewart said. “So they know what to come out here and work on.”
Acosta and Norwood both said they were trying to focus on their putting, while McNulty tried to work on chipping onto the green.
Today will mark the second time in his high school career that McNulty has played for a state championship at Pine Bluff Country Club and the third time anywhere.
According to McNulty, he shot an 84 in last year’s state tournament at Harrison as White Hall finished fifth. His freshman year, he shot an 89 on his home course.
McNulty is hoping that he and a couple of White Hall’s top golfers can shoot a low score to give some of their teammates a little leeway.
“It’d be nice if we could get a couple scores in the 70s,” McNulty said.
Norwood said he thinks it will take the top three guys shooting in the 70s or low 80s and the fourth score no higher than 85.
With White Hall’s team score being made up by the team’s top four scores out of five golfers, Stewart thinks that fourth score will be the key.
“If we can get (senior Jase) Wilson or Acosta to shoot a low 80s,” he said. “We can finish up there pretty high.”
According to Stewart, the Bulldogs haven’t been able to all shoot well in the same tournament this year.
“We’ll have one or two guys play really well and then we’ll have one or two that don’t play very well,” he said. “If we can do it all on the same day, we’ll shoot a good score.”
One of those players hoping for a low score is Jeffrey Manning, who is hoping to keep his score right around 80. As a senior, today’s round will be the final chance he will have to win a state title. Manning, though, has been trying to enjoy the practices leading up to the tournament.
“We’ve been trying to keep it fun,” Manning said. “We’ve been serious when we needed to be, but we’ve been able to have some fun.
“That’s really all golf is about is just going out and having fun.”
Aside from the goal of winning a team title, all 72 golfers scheduled to tee off today will be trying to earn individual recognition. The top golfer will earn medalist honors, while those who finish in the top 15 percent of posted scores will be named all-state.
The top three finishers on the day will earn invites to the overall state tournament held Oct. 16 and 17 at Pleasant Valley Country Club. Only the top three golfers from each class participate in the tournament. White Hall junior Camryn Ruggeri qualified for the girls’ overall tournament after finishing second in the 5A girls state tournament.
Stewart expects his team to do well today and it doesn’t have anything to do with where they are playing.
“I’ve just got a gut feeling,” he said. “I had one last week before our girls played and they finished second.
“I think we’ll do pretty well.”
Unlike most sports, once the Bulldogs begin today’s round, there isn’t a whole lot their coach can do.
“It’s not like football where I can call a play,” Stewart said. “There’s really nothing I can do.
“It’s all on them.”