GREENFIELD — Birdies were difficult to come by at Hawk’s Tail of Greenfield on Monday, and so was a warm breeze.
With temperatures uncharacteristically dipping near freezing, the Greenfield-Central Cougars and Eastern Hancock Royals contended with more than their scorecards.
Their nine-hole match was a test of wills.
“When it’s this cold, the mental aspect is the toughest part. You’re just trying to stay in it, trying to stay positive, which is really hard after hitting a few bad shots,” Greenfield-Central senior Clayton Long remarked. “It just keeps getting colder and colder, but if you can keep positive, it’s not too bad.”
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The Cougars kept their cool in check on their home course, defeating the Royals 202-212 in the season opener for both programs.
Long earned medalist honors with a low score of 46 despite recording just one par-4 on the seventh hole, no birdies and bogeying the rest.
“It should have been a 39 or at least a 40,” Long said while critiquing his round. “A 40 would have been fine today with how cold it was, but I just couldn’t feel anything around the greens.”
He wasn’t the only one. A total of seven golfers shot 52 or higher, and three couldn’t bring their scores under 60.
The Cougars’ top-four golfers stayed below 55, with freshman Noah Moehler following Long with a 48. Sophomore Garrett Bice finished with a 55 and freshman Zach Archer had a 53. Nash Boyk fired a 58, while sophomore John Barber tallied a 62.
“It was nice to get one under our belts. It was great to go straight from (spring) break and practices and to the first match,” Greenfield-Central head coach Jeremy Spencer said. “Our next match is a week away (April 12), so it gives us some time to reflect and see who is going to be positioned where and figure out our strengths and weaknesses.”
The obvious advantage for Long showed in his drives. The team captain routinely crushed the ball out of the box before running into problems with his short game and putts — details he intends to correct as the season pushes on — and warms up — the two-time regional qualifier noted.
“He played very consistent, and I expect his score be even lower next round,” Spencer said. “Our team as far as our top five or six players are going to be pretty consistently within one or two strokes from one another. Last year, we were more to the extremes. It’s good to have that this year and next year while in a rebuilding year to hopefully get all of those scores down collectively.”
The Cougars welcomed three freshman to the fold this season and have a pair of sophomores on the roster after finishing 4-14 a year ago. The key, Spencer emphasized, is gaining experience by playing every chance possible.
“It was a little too cold for our first match, but it was nice to play,” Long said. “It was just nice to get back on real grass.”
For Eastern Hancock senior Conner Cross, being able to swing a golf club was a major victory in itself.
After a frightening accident this past January, Cross’ career nearly came to an end.
“I was questionable about a lot things I would be able to do after that,” the Royals’ lead golfer said. “I was definitely scared.”
While setting off parachute flares with his family, Cross had one detonate in his right hand. The explosion split open and burned his hand, fingers and forearm.
Cross didn’t lose any fingers, but his recovery involved several surgeries, including the insertion of multiple pins to help stabilize the limb.
He lost substantial tissue in his forearm and muscles, tendons and ligaments near and around his thumb. He slowly regained movement in the hand and had the pins removed recently.
“When they took the pins out of my hand, the guy told me I could try to play golf but probably wouldn’t do very well,” Cross said. “I went out and started playing and it actually helped me. I don’t try to hit the ball as hard any more, I just try to swing easy.”
With a brace on his hand, covering the tender tissue and visible scars from countless stitches, Cross posted a 53, the Royals’ second-best score. Junior William Harwood tied him at 53 and junior Cody Young led the team with a 52. Senior Kenny Bunnell shot a 54.
“I hope we can win a few more matches this year,” Cross commented afterwards. “For me, I would like to make all-conference.”
Greenfield-Central 202, Eastern Hancock 212
Location: Hawk’s Tail of Greenfield
Medalist: Clayton Long, Greenfield-Central 46
Greenfield-Central: Clayton Long 46, Garrett Bice 55, Zach Archer 53, Noah Moehler 48, Nash Boyk 58, John Barber 62
Eastern Hancock: Kenny Bunnell 54, Conner Cross 53, Cody Young 52, William Harwood 53, KC Smoak 61, Jait Shutz 63