Looking out for everyone

Scott County and Great Crossing golfers watch a drive by Ethan Flanders of SC during a tournament at Cherry Blossom last season. This year’s Scott County Invitational will welcome 26 teams to the course on Saturday, but each group will contain only players from the same school as an enhanced social distancing measure.

Like everything else in this most unusual year, the second-annual Scott County Cardinals Invitational boys’ golf tournament will look completely different.

SCHS coach Bryan Flanders hopes it won’t feel different, though, to players and their families. 

A similar field to last year’s inaugural event — 26 schools and 127 players were entered as of Thursday — will tee it up Saturday morning at Cherry Blossom Golf Club.

“I think things will be pretty smooth,” Flanders said. “I think the coaches are going to like it. We’ve still got people coming from across the state.”

In addition to safety precautions already in place that will keep contact to a bare minimum, Scott County will utilize an experimental format to help further enhance social distancing.

Unlike most all-day golf festivals in which players from different schools are in mixed groups, the Cardinals’ classic has slotted a time for each team to hit the course together as a quintet.

“The way that we could get    approval both from administration and from the local health department was to keep the teams together,” Flanders said. “That was in everybody’s opinion the least amount of risk.”

That system is not without precedent. It has a name, the Maxwell format. In researching the pros and cons, Flanders found out Big 12 schools have utilized it for decades at the college level.

Golf House Kentucky and the Kentucky High School Athletic Association have given their blessings as well. 

Everyone is on board except for the committee that awards all-state points and selects that team at season’s end. Saturday’s results will not be eligible for the all-state tally.

“We are limited to 20 events on the season already, and seven of those are a nine-hole match format in the conference, so that really narrows down your (all-state) scoring opportunities,” Flanders said. “My argument has been we’re in a pandemic. Let’s think outside the box. It will allow these kids to play, allow these kids to compete, and let’s go on.”

Almost every school has entered a full team, which eases one potential complication. Last year about 30% of the entries were individuals, Flanders said.

Golf was the only KHSAA sport to start on time due to its inherent individual and socially distant qualities.

Since the season opened July 31, Scott County has played at events in Morehead, Frankfort, Lexington and Richmond, almost all of which followed the traditional, pre-COVID format.

“The other tournaments we’ve played have been well managed,” Flanders said. “There are things you learn and say, ‘Hey, we could probably do a little bit better this way.’ Food seems to be a way of congregating people. You’ve also got to think about how to handle a rain delay.”

Teams will tee off from either No. 1 or No. 10 at Cherry Blossom, which is also a change this year.

Staggered starts and finishes make the tournament run a little longer, but they prevent the estimated crowd of more 300 individuals from ever congregating at once.

“You can’t do a shotgun start, which is the traditional format. Everything is tee times now, and that’s cut down on a lot of traffic,” Flanders said.. “You don’t have that mass of people at the starting gate when the tournament kicks off.”

Scott County’s A and B teams will tee off consecutively at around 9:30 a.m.

Great Crossing is not entered. If you wish to see the “Battle of the Birds” at Cherry Blossom, you’ll have to wait until Tuesday, Sept. 8, for the rivas’ Bluegrass conference match-up. 

Birthday bash for Bennett

Great Crossing High School freshman Alex Bennett celebrated his birthday in style Saturday, shooting a 2-under 70 to lead the Warhawks at the Battle of the Bridge in Danville.

The Warhawks combined for a team score of 322.

Sophomore Landon Bergman’s tally of 84 included a personal-best second nine of 35.

“It shows there is no quit in him,” GCHS coach Steven Conley said. “Proud of him for sticking it out.”

GCHS also received solid rounds from Ashton Cochran (83), Jake Caudill (85) and Robbie Gift (85). 

Cardinals fight weather delays, tough competition this week

Scott County boys’ golf battled both the elements and a pair of challenging courses at the Madison Central and Frederick Douglass invitational tournaments.

Ethan Flanders’ team-best 79 in the MCHS event at Gibson Bay in Richmond included three birdies.

Kyle VanValkenburg led the remainder of the roster with 89, followed closely by Wyatt Holbrook (90), Blake Ford (91) and Caden Less (92).

The Cardinals’ team total was 349.

Scott County fought back with some low numbers after a two-hour weather delay Monday in the FDHS showcase at Greenbrier. VanValkenburg took top honors for the Cardinals with 79.

Holbrook has his best round of the season at 80. Flanders fought through many highs and lows on his way to an 89, with Less (92) and Ford (96) rounding out the field.

VanValkenburg and Holbrook each broke 40 on the second nine for SC, which improved its team total to 340.

Marcum No. 25 in world

Rylea Marcum’s win in the AJGA Justin Thomas Junior Chmapionship at Harmony Landing last week vaulted her into select company.

When the new Rolex world junior rankings emerged after the victory, Marcum vaulted all the way to No. 25 in the world.

Marcum, who will play at Western Kentucky University, is the 19th ranked American and seventh among players who graduated from high school in 2020. 

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

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