Watch it go

Great Crossing freshman Alex Bennett watches his drive off the first tee at Cherry Blossom as players from GC and Scott County look on Tuesday afternoon. Bennett’s 3-under 33 staked the Warhawks to an impressive 156-166 victory in the Battle of the Birds.

In these times of abundant caution, Great Crossing entered the boys' golf Battle of the Birds with a bad wing Wednesday.

The player who has emerged as the Warhawks' top player through nearly two months of tournament play, Landon Bergman, was home and under the weather.

When you're missing that 1A, it's helpful to have a 1B, and not many players fit that description better than freshman Alex Bennett. Bennett's 3-under 33, built on a foundation of three crafty shots en route to birdies at the third, seventh and ninth holes, staked GC to a 10-shot victory in the third-annual showdown at Cherry Blossom Golf Club.

His junior playing partner, Jake Caudill, finished with exclamation-point birdies on eight and nine for a 41.

“We came out hot,” Bennett said. “My putter caught fire, and I hit some good shots, and then (Caudill) caught fire at the end and made two strong birdies.”

A strong 38 from Revan Marcum and Ashton Cochran's 41 gave Great Crossing's hastily rearranged ladder a team total of 156.

Two eighth-graders set the pace for SC (166): Brady Parker with 38, and Wyatt Merkins with 40.

The Cards' top player and lone senior, Blake Ford, carded a 42 along with Waylon Smith.

“It's always fun playing with your friends, being out there with Jake and Alex, but I don't think I could have played any worse,” Ford said. “Off the tee, snap hooking it, hitting it out of bounds, but I went out there and scrambled and played my best.”

Bennett's round was no surprise to anyone familiar with his game on home turf, least of all GC coach Steven Conley.

“You put him on this golf course, he knows it like the back of his hand,” Conley said. “He comes out here and shoots 33, 34 pretty consistently. I believe he did the same thing last year in this match.”

That descent into the red began when Bennett nearly holed out for eagle at No. 3.

“As soon as I hit it, I thought it was going to be short, but I got a good kick,” Bennett said. “It ran up, and I thought it was going in.”

Bennett sank his chip from the fringe, roughly 25 feet from the pin, on the seventh green.

On the par-5 ninth, Bennett's approach shot landed off to the right not far from the cart path. He played it to an elevated patch on the front of the green, received a modest roll and cashed in from there.


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“It was a good day,” Conley said. “Obviously we were without Landon. Not to have him to contribute was a blow, but the other guys stepped up and played well, and we were able to come out on top.”

Most players in the lead group struggled to find fairways early. Matching threes for par on the fourth hole seemed to settle the nerves that are natural whenever the rivals meet in any capacity.

”I usually don't get nervous, but I was on the first tee kind of shaking,” Ford said. “I don't know why I was shaking when I have nothing to prove to these guys. We play together all the time.”

Liam Spurlock shot 42 for Great Crossing and Wyatt Holbrook 43 for Scott County to round out the cards.

It was senior night for both schools. Of the 19 total players on the two squads, that select group included only Ford, Caudill and GC teammate Dawson Gifford.

“We've got more younger kids coming,” Bennett said. “The teams are only going to get better.”

Ford thanked his current and former coaches, Jeremy Martin and Bryan Flanders, for getting him hooked on the game.

“The first tournament two years ago, I shot 102, and a couple weeks ago I shot 71,” Ford said. “That's just crazy to me. It makes me strive to get even better.”

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