Home > This is how they celebrate a state golf title | USA Today High School Sports

This is how they celebrate a state golf title | USA Today High School Sports

How do you celebrate the school’s first state golf championship in 35 years?

How about a jump off a bridge into 10 feet of water.

That’s how Robert E. Lee’s golf team ended the day Tuesday at the Group 2A tournament on the Golden Eagle Golf Club course in Irvington after winning the state title by 10 strokes over second place East Rockingham.

Teams celebrate many ways. In baseball, it’s usually a dogpile. In basketball, it’s cutting down the nets. But jumping fully clothed into an inlet of the Chesapeake Bay?

Actually, the big splash had been in the plans for awhile if the Leemen succeeded in capturing the state.

“It had been in the making for two years,” said Lee senior Gunner Cook. “James (Lee golf coach James Corbett) came up with it. He said, let’s dress the best, practice the best, play the best and make sure we celebrate the best.”

“It was at the regional two years ago at the Kiskiack Golf Course (Williamsburg) that we came up with the idea to do it together to jump in,” Lee junior Banner Robson added. “We said we would find it if the water wasn’t there.”

Luckily for the Leemen, the state final was at a golf course on the Chesapeake Bay. One of its small inlets splits the 18th and ninth holes. There was a bridge, and plenty of water.

Before jumping, the players made sure the water was deep enough.

“We had an alignment rod,” said senior Jordan Plogger. “And one of the guys in the pro shop told my dad it was about 10 feet deep. We were so excited.”

All went off the bridge at the same time as parents and fans videotaped and photographed.

“I never touched the bottom,” Jesse Bartley said of her jump. “It was really cold.”

Although the mid-October water was a lot cooler than had it been summer, the 80-degree weather helped. And there was a change of clothes awaiting on the bank.

Now that the water jump is over, there are still celebrations to follow. There will be a large picture and a banner on the wall in the Lee gym and a ring ceremony to celebrate the first school team championship since the varsity girls basketball team accomplished that fete five years ago.

On the seven-member team are five seniors. Of those, Plogger, Bartley, Madison Davis and Austin Rehfield all started on the Lee team as eighth-graders. The fifth senior, Cook, joined as a freshman after transferring from Buffalo Gap. Junior Banner Robson and freshman Thomas Otteni will return next season.

Long-term goal

For this Lee golf team, plans for a state championship were in the making as long as four years ago.

“We talked about it as ninth-graders,” Corbett said. “It was a goal of ours to win the state.”

“In our sophomore year, we said we had something special going,” Cook said. “It was then we believed it was a real possibility.”

“We set the bar high,” Plogger added.

As juniors, Lee came close to winning the state, finishing second to a stronger and more experienced team from Appomattox.

“Losing to Appomattox gave us more confidence,” Bartley said. “We played a lot harder as a team this year.”

“We knew we had work to put in,” Cook added. “It motivated us this summer to start earlier and stay later in the day. It was that extra fuel to the fire.”

“We felt 100 percent we would win it this year,” Corbett said. “We had talked about it within an hour of finishing the state last year that we would settle for nothing but the championship this year. Anything else would be a disappointment.”

But winning the state wasn’t that easy. Lee breezed through the Conference 36 and 2A East Regional titles by 16 and 12 stroke wins over East Rockingham.

Then they wound up at the Golden Eagle Golf Club course for the state.

“It was the most difficult layout for high school golf I’ve ever seen with its small greens and narrow fairways,” Corbett said. “Every hole was tree-lined and out of bounds. It was the most difficult challenge these kids ever had.”

“If you missed the fairway and were in the trees or water, you could lose yourself mentally,” Robson said.

“You had to avoid big numbers,” Bartley added. “You had to try to hit in the fairway and to the green and avoid the bunkers. I even putted out of a bunker and made a par.”

“You couldn’t make any mistakes off your tee shots,” Plogger recalled.

“Every shot was mentally taxing,” Cook added.

Lee held just a two-stroke lead over East Rockingham and a five stroke margin over Giles County after the first 18 holes.

“We didn’t play well the first day, and still led the state,” Robson said. “I felt if we played decently, we could get the job done.”

“We never pressed the panic button,” Cook added.

And as it turned out, Lee increased it’s lead to win the state tournament by 10 strokes, again with East Rockingham second.

“They had never beaten us, but they pushed us to do better,” Cook said. “They were very good competition. We took them seriously.”

Plogger felt that the tougher course added five to seven strokes on to everybody’s final score.

Lee’s key to success all year was its ability to post decent scores. In high school golf, six players compete for each team. The top four scores count toward the team total.

Plogger, the defending state Group 2A individual champion, led the way most of the time, but throughout the season, five different players at one time or another were low medalist. In that group were Plogger, Cook, Bartley, Robson and Otteni.

Although Davis and Rehfield were never low medalists their contributions were still significant.

“They were the guys who were the glue of the team,” Cook said. “They made it fun.”

“Top to bottom, we were a lot stronger this year,” Plogger said. “There were a lot of golfers around the same skill level. If someone had a bad day, someone else would pick him up. At the state, if we could have counted five scores, it would have been a run-away.”

All told, over the last four years, Lee has captured 10 different team trophies with all five seniors a part of it. In the group are two Valley District championships, three Conference 36 titles, two Region 2A East crowns and this year’s Group 2A state title.

“We were all dedicated. We played as a team rather than as individuals,” Robson said.

“This was an extremely coachable group of kids,” Corbett, who was named the Group 2A state coach of the year, said. “They bought into the team concept.

“In practice, they wanted to beat each other, but the team aspect was their No. 1 objective. They were each others’ biggest cheerleader.”

For the Lee golf team, a mission set in motion when most were freshmen is now complete.

“I wish we could stay like this forever,” Plogger said.

“We spent so many hours together,” Cook added. “I’d give a lot to go back to those dog days of summer. This was the closest-knit team you could ever get.”

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