Trying to read the speed and break of a green is a demanding task, even before adding driving rain to the formula.
And in conditions few golfers have experienced, the Region 5-AAA tournament at Country Hills Golf Club on Monday opened with rain showers that were persistent throughout the day.
The consistent rain forced a pin placement change on one hole, witnessed standing water on other greens, and even the development of a small stream of water that filled the cup on another green.
Despite the conditions, Samantha Gotcher did something no other golfer — boy or girl — did during the 18 hole state tournament qualifier.
She shot an even par 70.
Gotcher’s 70, combined with Whitney Robertson’s 80, allowed Clarksville High to hold off its biggest competitor and repeat as Region 5-AAA champions.
Clarksville High shot a 150, nine strokes better than the team it had battled all season, Rossview.
“We knew the weather was going to be a huge issue and we had even gone online and watched videos of how to play in the rain,” Clarksville High coach Vickie Moncrief said. “We really felt like as far as playing in the rain that we were as prepared as we could possibly be.”
Gotcher won her third individual regional title in four years, and for Clarksville High, it won its third regional title in the same span. Now the Lady Wildcats are positioned to defend their Class AAA state championship, when the two-day tournament begins next Tuesday.
“We knew the greens were going to be slower, we knew we would possibly have to hit one more club,” Moncrief said. “I am just proud of the girls for being out there; they were soaked to the bone and never complained one time.”
Rossview, which had been the lone team to put pressure on Clarksville High, finished runner-up to the Lady Wildcats for a second straight week. Last Monday, Clarksville High held off Rossview by four strokes for the District 10-AAA tournament title.
But Rossview won’t be empty handed when the state tournament begins at WillowBrook Golf Course in Manchester.
Hanley Long and Alexa Rippy earned two of the four individual qualifier spots, and are returning to state where Rippy finished sixth last year.
“It was a messy day,” Long said. “The course was really tough and the numbers were going to be high, and I’m so glad that I made it to state for a second year in a row.
“I tried to play like I hadn’t been to state before and I had an open mindset and tried to put up a good number and qualify again. Going back to back really means a lot to me for all of the hard work I put into it this season.”
The rain was the obvious issue heading into the regional tournament. The Region 4-AAA tournament was held last Friday in anticipation of the incoming rain, but with teams coming from Dickson, Paris and Mt. Juliet, there was little discussion about not moving ahead with the Region 5-AAA tournament.
“You had to club up a lot, you really had to pay attention to the wind, especially the direction of the rain,” Gotcher said. “And it’s Country Hills, it’s up and down. I don’t think I used the same club on any par 3 as I did during my practice rounds.”
Gotcher stayed away from the deeper standing water when she could, and used three birdies on three par 3 holes to keep her score at par. Two of her birdies came on the final four holes.
“There was standing water all over the greens, especially on No. 4 where the hole was completely filled with water,” Gotcher said. “I thought the conditions were really tough. I hung in there, I didn’t give up and there was no reason to.”
Robertson only had one birdie, and held her composure enough to shrug off an eight on a par 4.
“In the rain you tend to try to hurry up the shot so you don’t get so wet, and we all decided to take our time and stay focused,” Robertson said. “Not think about the rain and only think about your next shot. You had to have that mindset.
“You had to kill the ball to get it to the hole and the greens actually changed speeds toward the end,” Robertson added. “On 1, I had to putt over casual water and I had to hope it just got across the water. It was a mess, but everyone was playing in the same conditions, so it was fair, it was just messy.”
Wildcats finish in fifth place
Clarksville High shot a team score of 343 and finished fifth in the Region 5-AAA tournament. Hendersonville won the tournament with a 309, followed by Dickson County (310) and Mt. Juliet (311).
Coming off a win in the Mayor’s Golf Classic on Sunday, Hunter Richardson was hoping to ride enough momentum to qualify for the state tournament.
But Richardson struggled in the wet conditions and shot an 86. Payton Williams had the Wildcats’ best score, finishing with a 77, while Clay Watson and Hunter Chesney each shot a 90.