By: Jim Steele
If one is good, two is better.
Last Monday, McKenzie High School made history as both boys' and girls' golf teams captured Region 7 championships at Milan Golf and Country Club.
As a result, both teams will, for the first time in school history, compete at the TSSAA state golf tournament, starting today (Tuesday) at Willowbrook Golf Club in Manchester.
Maggie Glass fired an 81 to earn girls' regional medalist honors and Anders Rider, whose 77 forced a one-hole playoff, which he won, was the boys' regional medalist.
McKenzie golf coach Larry Joe Smith, in his 22nd season as the teams' mentor, said this group's work ethic was a big factor in its success.
"I'm very proud of this team," said Smith. "This group has gone out and worked on its own and has outworked everybody and put in the time to make themselves better."
The TSSAA split up the schools into Large and Small classifications instead of the old A-AA format. With the two divisions evenly divided by enrollment, some of the larger schools that stood in McKenzie's way, e.g. Lexington, Dyersburg, Obion Central, etc., were in the larger division.
"That has helped us," Smith said. "We haven't had to go up against those bigger schools."
The girls team won the region championship in a closely-contested match, shooting 174, defeating Milan for the 4th time this season, this time by two strokes, while also defeating South Fulton by four shots. Glass was both the team and tournament medalist, shooting 81. Mallory Cole added a 93 to round out the scoring.
On the boys side, the Rebels avenged both a regular-season and district-tournament defeat to Martin-Westview and won the region tournament by a commanding 26 strokes. McKenzie's d318 team total was one stroke better than its district team total at Sharon last week. The Rebels were led by Rider's 77 and playoff triumph. Ben Austin and Johnathan Moore each shot 79, with Will Jones carded an 83 to round out the McKenzie scoring. Austin and Moore competed in a playoff to determine third and fourth place medalist, with Austin claiming third on the fourth playoff hole. Entering the state tournament, the girls record is 37-4, while the boys are 43-6.
Smith said his job as coach is to introduce his players to golf.
"My job is to get the kids to love the game and get out there and play," he said. "Then, if they need help, they can come to me. They've earned their way with hard work and I'm tickled and excited for them."
McKenzie last sent a girls team to state back in 1995. The Rebels sent a complete boys' team back in 2005. There are been several players through the years who have competed at state as individuals.
"This is a celebration of their accomplishments," Smith said. "They may not finish any better than eighth, but I just want them to enjoy the experience because they'll remember this for a lifetime. We really peaked at the right time this year."
Members of the girls team are Juniors Mallory Cole, Julie French, and Olivia Wright, Sophomore Whitley Smith, and Freshman Maggie Glass. Members of the boys team are Seniors Will Jones and Anders Rider, Juniors Ben Austin and Will McBride, and Freshmen Logan Green, Johnathan Moore, and Nathan Nanney.
(Tim McBride contributed greatly to this story.)