The 2011 Ledger-Enquirer All-Bi-City golf teams are stocked with familiar faces as Columbus and Brookstone golfers and coaches again share the top boys honors, a Central-Phenix City athlete is named the area’s top girls golfer for the third consecutive season and the Columbus girls coach is honored after his team won a dozen consecutive tournaments.
Brookstone’s Robert Mize and Columbus’ Jimmy Beck led their teams to their second consecutive championships in 2011 while capturing medalist honors and, for their performances, were voted as the All-Bi-City Boys Co-Golfers of the Year.
Their coaches, Brookstone’s Marty Durden and Columbus’ Chris Parker, share All-Bi-City Boys Golf Co-Coach of the Year honors after they won their classifications’ championships for the second straight season.
On the girls side of the team, Central-Phenix City’s Alex Harrell is again the All-Bi-City Girls Golfer of the Year, marking the third consecutive season she has won the honor.
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And Columbus coach Chris Spraggins, whose team finished second at the Class AAA championship, has been voted the All-Bi-City Girls Golf Coach of the Year.
Mize, Beck share top honors
While Brookstone and Columbus may have been picked early as potential repeat state champions, Beck and Mize said they were surprised at just how well their seasons went.
Beck, a Kennesaw State signee, had to fill a new role after winning medalist in 2010 and sharing Golfer of the Year honors.
“Just coming from a good ending to my junior season, I knew there was a lot of pressure this year,” said Beck, who averaged 72.4 and shot a season-best 68. “I came back not expecting to be able to play as good, but I expected to be more consistent at par or below. I also knew I had to be a leader this year, and I kind of think that gave me more of an incentive to actually go out there and shoot as low as I can every round.”
Mize, a Furman signee, said he was disappointed in some of his performances as a junior, particularly at the 2010 state championship, but said he was able to step up at many of the team’s most important meets in 2011 as he averaged a 74.7 with a season-low round of 69.
“A lot of the reason I had a such a good season was that I played good in the all the big tournaments this year,” said Mize, who is the son of former Master’s winner Larry Mize.
“Maybe the hardest field we played in all season long was at the Atlanta Athletic Club, and I won that, too. It just seemed like I was just able to show up big in all our big tournaments.”
Durden, Parker repeat
Columbus’ Parker and Brookstone’s Durden said the competition between their teams has been crucial to both program’s success and credited that to their second consecutive year sharing the top boys golf coaching honors.
“It’s a very unique and special environment with golf in the city,” said Durden, who in May resigned to accept an athletic director position at Presbyterian School of Houston in Texas after 11 seasons as Brookstone’s boys golf coach. “The guys on all the teams feed off each other and between teams. They really drive each other, and I’m really going to miss that. The competition in golf here has been great for a long, long time between teams like Columbus, Brookstone and Northside, and that has helped all of those programs.”
Durden said his team’s trek to another state championship wasn’t an easy one but one he knew his players could make as the team returned all of its five top golfers from 2010’s championship squad.
Parker, however, had to take a new route as only Beck and first-team All-Bi-City selection Jon Howard returned from the previous year’s title lineup.
“Besides (Beck and Howard), the rest of this year’s team had only one varsity match’s worth of experience,” Parker said. “Obviously the keys were having those two seniors back and playing even better than we expected them to play and having the other guys step up to fill some big shoes from the previous year.”
By the end of her sophomore year, Central’s Harrell has accomplished as much as arguably any Bi-City girls golfer before her.
In seventh grade, she was part of Central’s state championship squad. She finished second in the state as an individual as an eighth grader, finished third as a freshman and placed second again in 2011 as a sophomore.
She credited her season, and her third consecutive season as All-Bi-City Girls Golfer of the Year, to her focus on playing with consistency.
“I just practice all year and play in as many tournaments as I can,” said Harrell, who averaged 72, shot a season-best round of 68 and was medalist at nine tournaments. “My goal is to always be consistent. I love my coach (T.J. Carey) because he gives me a lot of drills to work on that teach me how to be consistent, I always feel like I can do my best because he relies on me to lead the team.”
Harrell said she hopes to continue improving her scores through more practice at junior tournaments, to compete for a team and individual state title next season and to begin the recruiting process as a junior.
“I’m finally starting to look at a lot of colleges,” Harrell said.
“I can’t wait until Sept. 1 of this year when they can contact me.”
Lady Blue Devils’ season
Columbus’ Spraggins saw his team win 12 consecutive tournaments before finishing second to Franklin County at the Class AAA state championship, earning him All-Bi-City Girls Golf Coach of the Year honors.
He credited that run to his team’s ability to pace itself through the season leading up to the state meet, where senior Caroline King shot a season-best 82 to finish third overall.
“We peaked at just the right time,” Spraggins said. “Every week we improved and improved, and then at the state tournament we shot our best ever.”
Spraggins said the experience should help Columbus for years to come as three of the golfers from the runner-up team will return next year in junior Ashley McCloskey and freshmen Brett Beavers and SuJin O.
Chris White, 706-571-8571; follow Chris online at twitter.com/le_chriswhite and at facebook.com/lechriswhite.