High school golf: Cross, Highlanders stun field, land spot in State Tournament
HURRICANE, W.Va. -- It might be unfair to assume that Huntington came out of nowhere to earn one of two available State Tournament team spots from the Class AAA Region 4 golf championships.
On the other hand, the path in which the Highlanders took to join regional champion Cabell Midland at next week's 36-hole state championships could be considered stunning.
Huntington junior Fisher Cross, playing as his team's No. 4 on Monday, shot a 77 on the Sleepy Hollow Golf Club course to help the Highlanders shoot a team score of 239 and edge Winfield by three strokes for the qualifying spot in the State Tournament on Oct. 2-3 at Oglebay Park's Robert Trent Jones Course in Wheeling.
Winfield's Chris Williams shared overall medalist honors with Hurricane's Alex Hambel, each shooting a 4-over 76 as the individuals to earn berths. The top two teams and top two individuals not on those teams help make up the State Tournament field.
"This is my home course," Cross said. "I just tried to go out there and grind it out and not mess too many things up. I didn't take a double all day. I came in with six bogeys and a birdie on No. 8. It was a good day."
For the Highlanders, No. 1 Thomas Frazier (81) and No. 2 Chase Toppings (81) were seven strokes behind Winfield's top two players - Williams (76) and Josh Bumgarner (79). Winfield's No. 3, Alexi Levock, shot an 87 and Huntington's third player, Todd Childers, shot a 100.
Cross' total made the difference for the Highlanders, who won the Class AAA title in 1999.
"From day one, we said, 'We're going to states,' " Cross said. "We went up to Wheeling in August, right before school started, and had a school tournament there."
It is especially gratifying to Cross, who missed out on the State Tournament by two strokes last year when the regional was held at Parkersburg Country Club.
"I three-putted the last two holes, and this feels, really good," Cross said. "Really good."
Cabell Midland earned the regional championship behind two 79s and an 80, winning by one stroke over the Highlanders. Winfield was third, just three strokes behind Huntington.
Kinker, who was in a group with Williams, Logan's Samuel Corns and Point Pleasant's Erik Allbright - is the younger brother of Cabell Midland (2005) and Marshall University (2009) graduate Nathan Kinker. Nathan Kinker finished T4 at the 2004 State Tournament.
"We knew we had a strong team," Seth Kinker said. "We have a good top three. We have some experience from last year.
"My brother has a lot of experience and he taught me a lot, like how to handle myself on the golf course."
Hambel is the first Hurricane player to qualify for the State Tournament since the Redskins completed their run of three consecutive team titles in 2009.
He had a double-bogey No. 1 and birdies on No. 8, No. 10 and No. 14.
"I started out 5-over through four so I had to keep grinding," said Hambel, who had a par on his first hole, No. 18. "I had to string some birdies together.
"A lot of people say the back is tougher, but I think the front is tougher. The greens were rough today. There were a couple tough holes today."
Many of the players had trouble with No. 11, where the hole was on an upward slope near the front of the green, requiring players to stay below the hole.
Even uphill putts were rolling back and into the fairway.
To combat the problem, players were putting and rushing to their ball to mark it before it began its backward descent.
"My ball got to the hole and fell back just a tad, so I hurried up and marked it," he said.
Hambel was at the State Tournament in 2009 as a freshman, but wasn't in the top four and didn't play.
"I got to experience that, it was fun," Hambel said. "I played a practice round with them."
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CHARLESTON CATHOLIC will return to defend its Class A title, winning the Class A Region 4 championship at Big Bend Golf Course on Monday.
Charleston Catholic's Christian Casingal, the Class A State Tournament medalist as a freshman last season, shot a 77, as did with teammate Aaron Persily.
Buffalo finished second, with the Bison's No. 1 player, Cory Hoshor, shooting a 74 to earn medal honors. The junior will play in the State Tournament for the third consecutive season.
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SCOTT WON the Class AA Region 4 title, getting four players to shoot below 80 to edge Poca by one stroke.
Alex Boggs, brother of former State Tournament qualifier Aaron Boggs, shot a 75. Poca's Travis Covert was his team's low scorer with a 75, while Alex Hamrick, whose brother George won back-to-back Class AA individual titles for the Dots, shot a 79.
Herbert Hoover's Travis Gibson shot a 74 to win medal honors and earn an at-large spot.
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GEORGE WASHINGTON won the Region 3 championship, taking the title at the Lewisburg Elks Country Club.
Two of the latest additions to Class AAA played a role in the regionals, with Shady Spring finishing second as a team and Oak Hill junior Craig Buchanan claiming honors as overall medalist.
Austin Florence shot a 70 as the low scorer for GW, while Will Evans and Kris Webster each shot 71, as the Patriots won by 17 strokes over Shady Spring.
Buchanan shot a 6-under 64 to run away with medal honors.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.