LOUDON — Sweetwater’s Will Cofer finished just two strokes shy of qualifying for the TSSAA Class A Golf State Championship, while the Tellico Plains team put together a solid effort to earn a third place finish at the Region 2-A Championship at Tennessee National Golf Club on Sept. 28.
Cofer’s finish might seem all too familiar for the junior. A year ago, Cofer finished one spot short of a state tournament appearance.
“I know he was thinking about that going into the last couple of holes, but I really hated to see him come up two strokes short,” Sweetwater Coach Bryce Mitchell said. “It made it tough and I hated to see him come up that short. But I have no doubt next year will be Will Cofer’s year. He’ll be there next weekend.”
Cofer finished fifth of all golfers not on the qualifying team — Kingston — with an 85, one stroke behind fourth and two behind the cutoff golfer Connor Mason of Meigs.
For the Bears, Clifton Cruz churned out what might be his best performance as a Tellico Plains golfer with a 92.
“He kept (the ball) in play. He has shown flashes of playing good golf, but it’s been bang-bang. We practiced Saturday and he did not perform very well and hit a lot of balls out of play. But he got over his nerves, calmed down and kept in play during the tournament,” Tellico Plains Coach Shawn Yates said. “He did a good job. I was tickled — that is probably his best score that he has had for us.”
Cruz was followed by Kaiden Hicks with a 98 and freshman Lake Sewell with a 100. The Bears’ team score — 397 — helped them edge out McMinn Central by one stroke for a third place finish. Loudon finished second with a 378 while Kingston’s 297 qualified them for the state tournament as a team.
Senior Jayvin Teague filled in the final qualifying score with a 107.
“He picked it up last year and he has improved a lot. I don’t know if people realize how difficult golf is, but Clifton and Jayvin have only played the last couple of years. It was just tough. They had a hard time hitting the ball to start with, but they have worked hard,” Yates said. “It is fun just to watch them improve like that. It is tough when they struggle, they get disappointed with themselves, but it is really fun to see when they have a good round and are excited.”
Cade Scoggins, another senior, wrapped up the Bears’ performance with a 115.
“Cade Scoggins did not have his best day and I am sure he is probably disappointed with the way he played, but he has played with us since he was a freshman. He has some experience and he has done well,” Yates said. “When he played this year he kind of struggled with hitting his driver, so that kind of affected his game. But he played very well in the district, but he struggled a little bit (on Tuesday). He has been a great kid to have on the golf team. I have enjoyed working with him.”
Senior Dalen Gibby entered the match coming off a District 4-A Championship performance last week and looked to return to the state championship after qualifying — along with teammate Trent Bibee — a year ago.
However, Gibby’s day ended early, being forced to withdraw from play with an injury.
“For Dalen, I hate his season ending the way it did. I know he had a lot of different plans for how he wanted the year to finish,” Mitchell said. “It is almost hard to put into words because I am going to miss them so much. Dalen, he has had a really good golf career and I am looking forward to seeing what he will do at Roane State.”
Another senior, Brayden Wagner, competed and finished with a 113. Sweetwater provided three of the five at-large spots out of District 4-A for region play.
“Brayden Wagner has made leaps and bounds of improvements every single time he played,” Mitchell said. “It is one of those things that if maybe he started playing sooner he would have been right there with Dalen. He just got into golf a little later and really it is the same thing with Morrison (Davies).”
Davies, along with Kaylee Huckabey, represented Sweetwater on the girls’ side. Davies, a senior, scored a 124, the second highest of the at-large individuals. Huckabey scored a 215.
“Morrison had to play softball and golf — to make those two different swings and go back and forth each year … all three of (the seniors) are really good kids and you do not have to worry about any of them getting into trouble,” Mitchell said. “I am just going to miss seeing them out there and talking with them before and after the matches. Those are the things that I am going to miss about them.”
Brooklyn Sewell and Abbi Wear represented Tellico Plains on the girls’ side. Sewell scored a 153 followed by a 168 from Wear.
“I wanted them to have fun. There were a few holes there that were going to be really difficult. The girls there for us — this was their first year playing. When we practiced back in the summer we probably did not even play a full nine holes. We did not play very many matches this year,” Yates said. “They have had their struggles, but they have shown that they can play the game. That’s what I wanted was for them to get the experience and to enjoy it. They realized how hard it is, but they also hit some good shots. To me, that is the only way you can get better.”
Senior Madison Dodson withdrew from the competition to join the Tellico Plains soil judging team at an event that was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dodson competed in the region tournament a year ago and played golf all four years for the Lady Bears.