The Benton Tigers, led by top overall player David Cole, ran away from closest contenders St. Louis Catholic and North DeSoto to win the LHSAA Division II state championship, capping two days of dominant golf on the newly-renovated links of Huntington Park in Shreveport.
In the morning session, St. Mary’s held off a staunch challenge by runner-up Opelousas Catholic to win the Division IV title by a single stroke. Defending champion Cedar Creek came in a distant third, 16 shots off the pace.
“This is big for me, our school and especially the players,” said Cram after Benton (610) won by 30 strokes over St. Louis Catholic (640) and by 36 over North DeSoto (646). “Some of these kids have three state titles now. That’s building a legacy.”
Cole, one of those players who has been on all three of Benton’s title teams, edged North DeSoto’s Matt Ramsey by one stroke for the top individual medal in Division II. The junior, who finished with a two-day total of 142, chipped in from 50 yards for eagle on the 14th to give him what would prove to be an insurmountable three-shot lead. Despite a pair of bogeys down the stretch, he held off Ramsey with a par on the 18th to win it.
“That eagle was good and bad, actually,” said Cole, who’s 72 Tuesday tied with Ramsey and West Ouachita’s Triston Powell for the low round of the day. “I lost focus a little bit after that, due to nerves or whatever, and almost let Matt get back in it.”
Ramsey, though steady with four straight pars after the 14th, could not capitalize. While disappointed, the sophomore remained positive.
“I’ve never placed this high in a big tournament before,” said Ramsey. “It qualifies me for the Tournament of Champions, so now I’ll set my sights on doing the best I can in that.”
It was the first time in Cram’s tenure at Benton that his team boasted the top individual performer.
“We’ve been blessed with some great golfers, but David took his game to a different level this week,” said Cram. “He went out (Tuesday) and showed what kind of a champion he is.”
In other action in Division II on Tuesday, DeRidder’s Ryne Robinson scored a hole-in-one on the par-3 12th hole.
Earlier Tuesday, senior Luke Lucky, inspired by the words of his coach on the back nine, sunk a six-foot par putt on the 18th to give St. Mary’s the Division IV team title.
“Coach (Chris Lee) pulled me aside and said that the team needed their senior to step up and lead them,” said Lucky, who settled down after the pep talk and played steady down the stretch. “He said that I’d always remember how I respond to this challenge. He was right. What a feeling.”
The move was uncharacteristic for Lee, but one he felt compelled to make.
“I never, ever, give ‘rah-rah’ speeches, especially not on the course,” said Lee. “But we needed a spark. We hadn’t played our best on the first nine, and we needed a leader. Luke stepped up.”
Westminster Christian’s Jack Tolson III turned in the tournament’s lowest round for a Division IV participant to capture the individual title by one shot over Opelousas Catholic’s Jamison Thomassee. Tolson shot a 71 Tuesday for a 148 total.