Cavs send four to regionals

Published 10:25 pm Thursday, September 24, 2015

Lakeland High School golf coach Stephen Watkins had plenty of reasons to smile after the Conference 27 golf tournament on Thursday at Bide-A-Wee Golf Course in Portsmouth.

While the Cavaliers were not able to qualify for regional competition as a team, it was not because they failed to play well. They produced four individual regional qualifiers — junior James Whitley, sophomore Ben Leonard, junior Jake Hardy and freshman Corey Hasson.

“I feel like we did very well,” Watkins said. “Everybody on my team shot below their average. Obviously, having four guys make it to the regional tournament is a big deal. We’re definitely excited about that.”

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In order to qualify as a team, Lakeland would have had to place in the top two for its conference.

“We were third, but we were really close,” Watkins said. “York (High School) ended up beating us by (21) strokes.”

Tabb High School won the single-round tournament with a score of 336, York took second with a score of 365 and Lakeland took third with a score of 386.

Because their teams qualified for regional play, all of the Tabb and York golfers automatically qualify individually. Removing them from Thursday’s individual results, Whitley finished as the top individual qualifier by shooting a 91.

Ben Leonard shot a 97, Jake Hardy had a 98 and Corey Hasson shot a 100.

Watkins said his players battled some nerves early on, but they ultimately left him increasingly confident in the future of the Lakeland program.

He noted that Tabb and York will be losing some players after this year due to graduation, while he will get everyone back next season.

“I feel like we’re going to be right there with Tabb,” Watkins said. “We’re going to be one of the teams to beat next year in the conference.”

The Cavaliers finished the regular season with an 0-9 overall record, but their competition was exclusively Southeastern District schools, all of which are larger than Lakeland. Watkins said plans are being made for the Cavs to take on some of their conference opponents during future regular seasons.

The regional tournament featuring Whitley, Leonard, Hardy and Hasson will also be a single-round event and will be held on Oct. 1 at the Shenandoah Valley Golf Club.