Enjoying playing golf usually directly correlates to how well you scored.
Chiles sophomore Bennett Baker had a tremendous amount of fun Wednesday at Killearn Country Club.
Baker hit 15 of 18 greens – only missing on the three par-3s – to shoot a 7-under par 65, earning medalist honors at the City Championship. His 18-hole total led Chiles to another city title and a school-record score of 284.
“I was hitting the ball really well and I actually could have made a few more putts,” said Baker, who tied his career low. “I was pretty close all day. I birdied the second, then birdied 5-6-7 and just felt good all day.”
Baker slipped to 3-under after a bogey on No. 11, but came back to birdie 16 and eagle 17.
The original clubhouse low went to Leon’s Carter Thompson, who played in the first group alongside Florida High’s Henry Westmoreland, last year’s runner-up in a playoff to Chiles junior Eli Hendricks. Thompson shot 69 and Westmoreland 70 in a back-and-forth duel.
“In the past, I’d hit a lot of driver out here and it didn’t bow well as far as how I’d score,” said Thompson about his conservative strategy of hitting irons and five-metal off the tee.
“I took a different approach and just tried to hit it in the fairway. I hit a lot of greens and gave myself a lot of chances atbirdie.”
The Lions’ All-Big Bend first teamer separated himself from the reigning Player of the Year by two shots with back-to-back birdies on Nos. 13 and 14, the latter a nice chip-in from just off the green on the 186-yard par-3.
“I’d been getting impatient because I was hitting the ball well and I wasn’t scoring that great,” Thompson said. “My coach just told me to stay patient and let it happen and that’s what I did. It got them to fall.”
Westmoreland, a week after shooting a career-best 64, played with a heavy heart following the death of a close family member Tuesday night. He managed his emotions around the soft course, even when numerous birdie opportunities weren’t falling.
Finally on the par-5 17th, he pulled off an amazing approach shot following a wayward drive that put him in a precarious position behind several pines.
“I had a 217-yard shot and I had an overhanging tree I had to go under, and also trees in front of that I had to go over,” Westmoreland said. “I hit a 6-iron . .. so good. I striped it over.”
He took off running uphill to see where the ball landed, ending up inches off the green on the high side, which he two-putted for birdie. Thompson parred,pulling Westmoreland within a shot to tie heading to the 18th and adding just a bit more drama.
“You’ve got to make golf fun,” Westmoreland said. “Unfortunately, I’ve put myself in those positions many times. I’ve learned how to deal with those shots and have a very vivid imagination of how I can play my shots.”
Fletcher Morgan (72), Pledger Striplin (73) and Matt Young (74) comprised thefoursome guiding the Timberwolves to yet another dominating victory. Young won the city championship his freshman year, giving Chiles three city champions on its team.
It’s become cliche at this point, but any Chiles player can go low on any day.
Next up is the Big Bend Championships Oct. 2 at Hilaman, where Westmoreland beat Baker in a playoff last year.
“We’ve all gotten a lot better,” Baker said. “I think this is the best team we’ve ever had. It’s real nice for everyone to be playing well.”