On the beach

Kyle VanValkenburg of Scott County hits out of a bunker Saturday during the Scott County Cardinals Invitational at Cherry Blossom Golf Club.

Two significant details stood out Saturday in the inaugural Scott County Cardinals Invitational boys’ golf tournament, played at Cherry Blossom.

As if they needed a reminder, Scott County and Great Crossing saw two days after their splendidly played showdown on the same layout that golf gives, takes away, and humbles.

On a happier note, in the face of diminished participation numbers around the state, they teamed up with 18 schools to show that the game is alive and well.

A full field of 120 players tackled the thirsty greens and tricky pin placements on the final day of the regular season, with only one — Colton Wilson of Boyle County — breaking par. Wilson was medalist with a 1-under 71.

SC’s Alex Bennett and Ethan Flanders were in the red after the same nine holes they played in Thursday’s three-stroke team win over GC.

“Alex got off to a tough start, but then he got on the birdie train,” Scott County coach Bryan Flanders said.

Bennett, an eighth-grader, backed up his 35 on the front nine with a 40 on the more challenging back, good for 75 and at tie for sixth place. Flanders, a junior and the only returning starter from last year’s Scott County team, also claimed a top-10 spot with a 77.

“They beat some of the top players in the state,” the elder Flanders said.

Estill County edged Boyle County in a playoff after both schools finished with a total of 316.

It was a tight competition behind them, led by Henry County (325) in third. Lafayette and Greenup County tied for fourth with 328, followed by Shelby County (331), one stroke ahead of the hosts.

Wyatt Holbrook’s 87 and Blake Ford’s 93 completed the scoring for the Cardinals.

The day took a bizarre and frustrating turn for SC’s Kyle VanValkenburg, who led the Cards with a career-best nine of 37 in the head-to-head match with GC on Thursday.

VanValkenburg’s putter broke on the eighth green while he was simply leaning on it to mark his ball and survey his putt.

Making what was already a rough round more difficult, VanValkenburg wasn’t allowed to replace the club, by rules, because he started the match with the maximum 14 clubs in his bag.

Putting with a 3-wood for the duration, VanValkenburg gutted out a 99.

Great Crossing, which set its school record nine-hole score of 165 in the Thursday match, finished deeper in the field, 11th with 355.

“It was a tough day for everybody, but that’s golf,” GC coach Steven Conley said. “It’s about learning and gaining experience for us.”

Grant Cambron, the only senior on the Warhawks’ roster, topped his team with 86. Scores were close from top to bottom with Landon Bergman (88), Ashton Cochran (90), Jake Caudill (91) and Ian VanSteenbergh (93) completing the roster.

Conley also entered a ‘B’ team to give his next wave of players a taste of tournament golf. Robbie Gift led that group with 102, followed by Gunner Kline (106), Connor Smith (108), Dawson Gifford (115) and Brock Taylor (116) also on course.

“We hear all about the numbers being down everywhere, but around here I think we’re sort of bucking the trend with 20 players on the two teams and a lot of good junior players also coming up,” Bryan Flanders said.

Next weekend is the Bluegrass Conference tournament, followed by the Region 9 championship on Oct. 1.

Kal Oakes can be reached via email at sports@news-graphic.com.

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