Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
The mission of 14-year-old Jake Herring was not only to emerge the 2018 boys medalist but perform like a champion.
Despite a convincing performance in accomplishing his objective, Herring was hardly satisfied — not by his standards and expectations.
Herring matched par of 71 over the Willow Springs Country Club layout in Wednesday’s final round of the 40th annual Larry Pittman Memorial/Wilson County Junior Golf Championship and seized overall supremacy in the boys division for the first time with rounds of 77-74-71 for an 8-over-par total of 22 and victory margin of 33 shots in the Ages 15-18 division. Herring, a rising sophomore at Fike, competed in the county championship’s oldest age group at the age of 13 last year, and only a quadruple bogey on the final hole prevented him from seizing the title.
“I am very disappointed,” Herring, the 2018 3-A Big East Conference Player of the Year, declared. “I was hoping for under par each day, but I played like crap.”
Adam Dermer, a rising senior at Hunt High, finished the runner-up at 84-86-85—255, while recent Fike graduate Johnathan Hendricks salvaged third at 87-87-85—259.
Arguably the most ecstatic champion in the boys division was 12-year-old Ethan Boyette, who repeated as the 11-12 front-runner at 39-36-36—111, a new 27-hole record in the age division. Last year, Boyette, a rising seventh-grader at Elm City Middle, established a record for the division’s lowest nine-hole score.
“I am really proud of this,” Boyette exclaimed after winning his sixth career county age-group crown. “I did all I could do, and it feels good leaving this age division on a good note. I played a lot better than I did last year. I had one good (record-setting) round last year.”
Also claiming titles were Ryan Richardson, a rising junior at Fike High, in 15-16; Drew O’Neal in 13-14, and brothers Samuel Allegood and Luke Allegood in 9-10 and 8-under, respectively. The Allegood brothers are tournament newcomers. Richardson, who observed his 16th birthday on Tuesday, notched his third age-group victory, while O’Neal celebrated his first — at the expense of his twin brother, Nate, who won the Ages 11-12 title in 2016.
In 17-18, Herring appeared poised to atone for disappointing play — at his expected level. He birdied the first four layouts and followed a double bogey with a birdie at No. 9. But Herring fumed over a 3-over 38 on the back nine.
“Nothing like falling apart the final day of the Larry Pittman,” he lamented. “I was feeling good, but I let it get to my head. I fell apart on the back nine; I’ve got to learn from that. I would have felt a whole lot better.”
However, Herring, despite a demanding summer schedule, doesn’t play to skip future county championships.
“For sure, I will play the rest of my high school career,” he pledged. “I don’t think it would look very good to think you are better than everybody else.”
Boyette, in 11-12, completed a sterling tournament performance with a round of eight pars and a bogey on the par-5, No. 13 layout.
“I was very pleased,” he reviewed. “I hit good shots. Sometimes, the birdies don’t come, but I did a job of converting (opportunities). I had a few missed putts and a few missed reads, but I played really well.”
Brayden Joyner surged back to a runner-up finish at 48-57-43—148, while Cameron Ratliff slipped one position to third at 52-49-52—151.
“I want good competition and I’ll get it next year (in 13-14),” Boyette assured.
Awaiting him will be the O’Neal twins and Noah Joyner.
Drew O’Neal, the second-round leader, stayed steady, prevailing with rounds of 88-75-76—239. Nate O’Neal hung onto second place at 88-81-78—247, while Joyner remained third at 90-81-79—250.
Drew O’Neal started the final round six shots in front of his brother. Nate pulled as close as five shots. But Drew birdied a layout that Nate double-bogeyed and Nate decided to turn his attention to taking second. The twins are rising eighth-graders at Speight Middle.
Drew actually emerged the runner-up to Ages 17-18 champion Jake Herring in the medalist chase. His round of 38-38—76 included birdies at Nos. 2 and 17.
“It feels amazing to beat my brother,” the bespectacled left-hander said with a huge grin. “But it’s a good thing for him to be happy for me. He played well — I just beat him.
“The first day, I have no clue why I played like I did (88). I played great (Tuesday) and OK today. Today, I didn’t make as many putts but I hit my irons pretty well.”
Nate O’Neal sealed a runner-up finish with a par on No. 18.
HUNG IN THERE
Richardson, in 15-16, added Wednesday’s 83 to a 95 and an 85 for a 263 total for 54 holes. Dante Gaetano grabbed second at 100-93-91—292, with Clay Williams in third at 104-96-90—290.
“It feels pretty good,” Richardson said of his third age-group victory. “I hung in there, kept grinding and didn’t give up. I improved each day. I expected to do pretty good and, after the first day, I knew I would probably win.”
In 9-10, front-runner Samuel Allegood matched runner-up Joseph Butts shot-for-shot the final five holes to seize the top finish. Allegood shot 23-23-25—70, while Butts took second at 22-29-25—76. Colby Kennedy surged to third at 24-30-37—81.
“I played pretty good,” Allegood expressed. “I wanted to shoot 25 or lower. I had a six-shot lead. I shot 25 and my nearest competitor shot 25.”
Luke Allegood, in 8-Under, dominated at 30-26-27—83. Bowman Smith wound up second at 29-34-32-96. Thomas Layton, a 4-year-old who created a buzz, placed third at 33-33-33—99.
“Good,” Luke Allegood answered when asked how he felt about his first golf championship and how he played.
And the 8-year-old added a parting shot: “I have waited my whole life to play in this.”