Senior day tiptoed up on Scott County High School boys' golf seniors Kyle VanValkenburg and Ethan Flanders more quickly than it did on some of their teammates in years past.
Golf is the only fall sport that had a normal starting date and mostly traditional rhythm of practices and matches due to COVID-19, but it's still been an experience far from the norm.
"With everything that's going on, it's different," VanValkenburg said. "You don't realize that it's flying by this fast. I had a little nerves on the first tee, but after that it was just regular golf with Ethan and those guys. It was fun."
SC picked the right time to change course and collect its first conference win in three tries this season, 156-167, over Anderson County on Monday afternoon at Cherry Blossom Golf Club.
Playing together in the Cardinals' lead group, Flanders and VanValkenburg shot 37 and 39, respectively. '
Flanders finished with a birdie after reaching the par-5 ninth hole with his approach shot, and it was enough to earn him medalist honors in a scorecard playoff.
"I went for it," Flanders said of the final green. "Had a short (distance) in, and I figured the wind would carry it, and it did. I ended up way past the hole. I didn't know that would happen, but I still ended up two-putting, which I'm happy about."
Caden Less, a sophomore, shot 38 to boost the Cardinals. Seventh-grader Brady Parker rounded out the scoring contingent with 42, while Wyatt Holbrook registered 45.
The other Cardinals seeing action on the day, Wyatt Merkins and Waylon Smith, each shot 41.
"Our team is getting together. The last couple tournaments, we've been posting good scores. My game's where it's at with two straight 73s and 37 here," Flanders said. "It's been a little different during a pandemic, but at least we're getting to go out and play."
Taylor Hensley matched Flanders with a 37 for the Bearcats.
SC was coming off a busy weekend in which it competed Saturday at the Montgomery County Invitational and Sunday at the Bourbon County Invitational.
Sunday's team total of 311 was the lowest of the season. That's a climb that puts a smile on the face of Cardinals' coach Bryan Flanders, who's had the privilege of coaching his son the past two seasons.
"It's been very challenging for us as adults. I can't imagine what's going through kids' minds, but they're pretty resilient. I think it's pretty important to have sports and have this avenue for them," coach Flanders said. "We got the benefit of having about 30 days of extra (summer) practice this year, so that's been good."
VanValkenburg (76) and Blake Ford (78) also played some of their best golf to date on Sunday. Less (84) and Holbrook (85) completed the quintet.
Saturday saw Flanders finish in a tie for eighth overall. Other SC scores: Holbrook 82, Van Valkenburg 82, Ford 84, Less 87.
"I've met a lot of great people," VanValkenburg said of his varsity golf journey, which began in eighth grade. "You're able to experience so many things. We've had people shoot 37, 38 for the first time, and it's awesome being part of that, because you remember your first time. It's been a great time out here."
After VanValkenburg shook off the senior day jitters and a double bogey/bogey start, he birdied the third, fourth and sixth holes.
The first putt in that sequence was a 15-footer that packed a punch.
"I had no reaction, because I thought that had no chance of going in," VanValkenburg said. "That looked to be screaming for mercy all the way past that hole. It was fast."
He had an eagle putt from the top tied of the fifth green and expertly left it about two feet away for the easy birdie.
"Five was a good birdie, because I didn't think I had a chance to make that eagle putt," VanValkenburg said. "I just wanted to get an easy two-putt and walk out."
On six, VanValkenburg hit a 60-degree wedge to within six feet. Flanders double bogeyed that hole but recovered nicely down the stretch
VanValkenburg stumbled with a double bogey of his own at eight before a strong finish with par after initially finding the fringe to the right of the green.
"I kind of lost it at the end, but I held it together on nine to stay where I was," VanValkenburg said. "I've had some blow-up holes, so I'm working on trying to eliminate those. Otherwise, my game right now is about where I want it to be."
Flanders nearly had a hole-in-one on the par-3 fourth when his drive landed about two feet from the cup. It took enough of a hop to create a tricky putt, which he missed.
He atoned by matching VanValkenburg's birdie with a 10-footer at the par-5 fifth.
SC's top player said the stiff breeze was a factor in the decision to play the white tees Monday, but the shorter distance turned out to be not much of an advantage.
"It helped us out a little bit, but the wind was the strongest it's been all year and kind of canceled it out, so it kind of played about the same," he said. "It only helped us on two holes. The rest was pretty rough. It definitely took yardage off our shots, but I still grinded it out and ended up with 1-over."
Milestone stretch for GCHS golf
Great Crossing boys' golf enjoyed a similarly productive stretch, with a conference victory Monday, a top-three finish by freshman Alex Bennett in the Montgomery County tournament, and a team record score for 18 holes in the Bourbon County festival.
Clay Pendergrass (68) of Madison Central and Logan Liles (69) of Lewis County were the only players to top Bennett's 1-under 71 on Saturday. Bennett finished in a four way tie for bronze honors.
Other Saturday totals for the Warhawks: Connor Smith 83, Jake Caudill 85, Landon Bergman 86 and Ashton Cochran 89. GC's team total of 325 placed eighth of 16 teams.
Despite missing Bergman for the day due to injury, GC roared back with the best-ever 315 in Sunday's tournament.
Bennett (76), Caudill (77) and Smith (78) led the charge, with Cochran completing the scoring at 84. Bryce Bowling stepped up into the varsity five and shot 93.
Liam Spurlock topped the Great Crossing 'B' team with 87, followed by Andrew Bennett (89), Robbie Gift (91), Dawson Gifford (97) and Revan Marcum (101).
Bergman was back at it in a big way Monday, matching Bennett for the low total with 37 in GC's 163-193 road win over Western Hills.
Smith (44) and Cochran (45) gave the Warhawks ample cushion over the Wolverines. Caudill collected a 48. Bowling (42), Spurlock (43), Gift (46) and Andrew Bennett (49) provided an impressive second wave for GC.
Great Crossing will hold its senior ceremonies next week when it hosts Franklin County.
Cards take two, finish third at Tribe Shootout
Scott County boys' soccer placed third over the weekend with back-to-back wins in the Tribe Shootout at Madison Central.
The Cards bounced back from a loss to the hosts earlier in the week by nipping North Laurel, 3-2, on Saturday, then serving up a Sunday shutout of South Laurel, 1-0.
Nick Sparks and Hayden Britsch were named to the all-tournament team for the Cards, who also won two games in the week-long round-robin tournament last year.
Harrison Siegel, Elijah Tarter and Eduardo Flores picked up the goals in the victory over North Laurel.
Tarter tallied off a feed from Josh Adams for the only strike SC would need in its second triumph.
Logan Jean made eight saves to secure the Scott County shutout.
The Cards will remain road warriors this week against reigning state champion Henry Clay on Tuesday, Lafayette on Thursday, and Berea on Saturday. The Cards' home opener is scheduled against Frederick Douglass next Tuesday, Sept. 22.
Volleyball win streak ends, but not without fight
Great Crossing volleyball's season-opening unbeaten streak ended at three matches in dramatic fashion Monday evening.
The Warhawks forced a fifth set that went to extra points before dropping a 19-25, 25-15, 25-17, 18-25, 16-14 decision at Frederick Douglass.
GC led wire-to-wire in the opening set but suffered a key loss in the second game when senior middle hitter Alora Wilson left the game with an injury.
Perhaps fueled by that and the memory of last year's ouster at the Broncos' hands in the 11th Region tournament, the Warhawks wouldn't go away until the hosts cobbled together back-to-back points and put it away in the fifth.
Two more tough trips to Lexington await GC – Henry Clay on Thursday, and Tates Creek next Monday.
Broncos squelch Cards in district girls' soccer
Scott County girls' soccer dropped a 5-0 verdict at Frederick Douglass on Monday evening.
It was the first district and overall loss for the Lady Cards, who defeated Bryan Station last week in their season opener.
Hannah Muncie had two goals to lead the Broncos (2-1, 1-1). Emily Coke added a goal and an assist.
The Cards received some tough saves from Reagan Oliver and Kennedy Kanavy to keep the gap from widening further in the second half.
SC has two more road games this week at Berea (Tuesday) and Boyle County (Thursday) before its home opener next Monday against Boone County.