HARRISONBURG – As Harrisonburg High School golfer Kyle Templeton spoke to a reporter following his first round of the 4A state tournament at Heritage Oaks on Monday, coach Mike Ruckman patted him on the back and said three simple words.
“You’re in it,” he said.
Templeton shot a 3-over-par 73 to get into strong contention at the 4A tournament, which concludes today, but his friend Ocean Armstrong’s 6-over 76 in the concurrent 3A tournament might have put him too far behind to come back on Day 2.
Both Templeton and Armstrong, a Broadway senior, struggled with the putter for extended stretches Monday, but Templeton responded with a string of birdies on the back nine while Armstrong continued a hot-and-cold performance that he called “embarrassing.”
“It’s the most important tournament of the year, and you can’t deliver anything better than a 6-over,” Armstrong said. “That’s awful. You feel so mad at yourself, that’s unbelievable.”
On Templeton’s 18th birthday Monday, the HHS senior was happy with his score after surveying the leader board following his round on a gray, cool day. Ruckman told him before the round that nobody was going to go super low — and he was right. On the 4A side, Templeton’s 73 trailed only Erik Dulik of Dominion’s 72 (four players were tied for second).
“Coming in and looking at the scores, I’m pretty happy with how it ended up,” Templeton said. “Out there, 4, 5 and 6 and a couple other holes I made a string of bogeys and I was getting a little flustered. But I came back and settled down and came in with three pars, which was important.”
At the 2A state tournament Monday at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club in Front Royal, East Rockingham sophomore Jacob Laughlin shot an 8-over par 79, tying him for eighth among the 2A individuals. The low score among individuals was only a 77 by Appomattox’s Chase Mayberry and R.E. Lee’s Jordan Plogger.
Armstrong and Templeton played a practice round together on Sunday at Heritage Oaks, so both players knew what to expect from the course, which had gotten almost 3 inches of rain in the past week. The course played slow, especially on the greens.
Templeton misread the greens on his putts, while Armstrong miss-hit the ball.
“I had trouble reading a few of the putts,” Templeton said. “It wasn’t really my putting stroke or my putts; I hit good putts. They were just off line. I think that’s because I couldn’t read a few.”
Armstrong three-putted seven holes, he said, and planned to work on his putting sometime in the 16 hours before his next round this morning.
“It’s very disappointing on the home course,” said Armstrong, who grew up playing at Heritage Oaks. “I’d push [a putt] then I’d pull one, push one and pull one. Then I’d hit it straight, but I aimed it to push or pull. It was just an off day.”
Armstrong advanced to the state tournament for the first time this year after failing to qualify at regionals for three straight years. Templeton, however, played in the state tournament last year at Lakeview Golf Course, and was in a similar position after the first round. His 2-over 74 in the first round had him in the mix, but a shaky putter and the pressure of the state tournament was too much to overcome in the second round.
“I put that pressure on myself last year and it didn’t work too well,” Templeton said. “Obviously, after last year it was a little bit tough, but I learned a lot from that. The thing is tomorrow is to just go out and have fun; it’ll be my last high school tournament and see what I can do. Just leave it all out there.”