SILVER LAKES — The elephant in the room must remain ignored for at least another week for White Plains’ boys golf team, but here are hints.
The Wildcats won the Class 4A North substate Monday. Led by two-time low medalist Kenny Okins’ 1-over-par 73 at Silver Lakes, they shot a team score of 304 and won by a comfortable 16 strokes over Brooks and Oneonta.
Brooks won a playoff for the second and final team qualifying spot at next week’s state tournament, Monday and Tuesday at Prattville.
The Alabama High School Athletic Association’s competitive-balance rule bumped 23-time state champion UMS Wright up to 5A this year, making 4A North the toughest substate and a certain accomplishment within reach for others in 4A.
White Plains boys claim 4A North substate hardware. pic.twitter.com/dzYyQQiGvX— Joe Medley (@jmedley_star) May 6, 2019
Oh, and there’s this thing that’s never happened in boys sports at White Plains High School.
“I haven’t allowed anybody to talk about it,” White Plains coach Chris Randall said. “It’s hard enough to keep them focused on that putt, that hole.”
White Plains sent the signal Monday that’s it can, indeed, bring home a state title … if focus stays very nearsighted.
Okins made it back-to-back substate low-medalist honors, tying Madison Academy’s Teagan Miller. Both qualified for state, Miller as an individual, and there was no individual playoff
White Plains also got a 74 from Andrew Miller, 77 from Gage Miller and 80 from Wesley Jenkins. Gavin Burrage (82) didn’t factor in the team score but will also go to state with the team.
The field played down Silver Lakes, allowing no lie improvement. The Wildcats played up, like a team with something big in reach.
“It puts a different feel on these tournaments, sectional, substate and, hopefully, state,” Okins said. “You get to just feel it’s different. You know you can get there and can grab it.”
White Plains’ girls golf team won the school’s first team state titles in any sport with 4A-5A championships in 2015 and 2016. Now, the Wildcats can add a boys state title.
How much do they talk about it?
“Honestly, not a lot,” Okins said. “Coach doesn’t want us to focus on the state championship, just the next round.”
The Wildcats also showed short memories Monday, shaking off slow starts.
Okins shook off a bogey on No. 1, parring the next three holes. After a penalty stroke doomed him to double on No. 5, he birdied No. 6. He covered 60 feet in two putts for a par on No. 17.
“You can just never count Kenny out,” Randall said. “He’s the ultimate grinder. He’s 100 percent confidence and zero percent cocky. He’s got so much confidence in his putter that he can make those 8-, 10-, 12-footers for par, and he just made a handful of them.”
Andrew Miller was 2 over through nine, but his round picked up with a par save on No. 9. He teed over the green, downhill, and couldn’t see the flag for his approach. He upped to within 20 feet and made the putt.
It was that kind of day.
“After about six holes, coach came up to me and said we’re just going to have go grind it out,” he said. “We’re going to have roll on, everybody, today. Nothing is guaranteed.”
Randall lauded the way his team fought, top to bottom. Jenkins battled through a couple of penalty strokes late. Gage Miller was 1 over on the back nine after shooting a 40 on the front.
“Gage didn’t shoot his best today, but he just kept us in it,” Randall said. “Gavin shoots an 82, and we don’t count him, but he’s 9 over at the turn. He shoots 45-37.
“That’s a senior for you, somebody who didn’t feel sorry for themselves and just hung in there. We could’ve counted that 82 and been just fine.”
Playing in the 3A North substate, Weaver made its first substate appearance as a team and finished at 441, good enough for third of four teams that fielded enough players to score. Lexington withdrew, and Geraldine had one of its four players withdraw.
Westbrook Christian won at 328, and Will Weathington shot a 68 to finish as low medalist. Lauderdale County was second at 403.
“I’m excited about what we’ve done today,” Weaver coach Justin Brown said. “Coming from where we’ve been the past two years to today, we’re building.”
Eighth-grader Nick Ledbetter led Weaver at 91, tying Pleasant Valley’s Damon Parr. Both missed the second individual state qualifying spot by one stroke.
“This is big, because golf has never been big at Weaver, but I want the school to know what it is and know that we are good and we’re not just a little team that’s nothing at the high school,” Ledbetter said.
Piedmont’s Ethan Floyd shot a 106 in his fourth and final substate appearance.
“He’s a first-class individual, and I’m just proud of him,” Piedmont coach Horace Bramblett said. “He’s been with us for five years now, and he’s represented our school and community with class.”