SHS Places Second At States
Salem Cruises To Victory
HARRISONBURG – In describing the pep talk that Spotswood High School’s golf coach made Monday night, Bob Failes compared it to speeches made by legendary former Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne.
Of course, Failes may be a little biased. After all, SHS’s coach is also his wife, Linda Failes.
Apparently, though, the speech worked.
One day after shooting a season-worst team score of 316, the Trailblazers rebounded with a second-round 306 on Tuesday to finish as the Group AA runner-up at the state tournament at Lakeview Golf Club, the best showing in school history.
Spotswood finished 25 shots back of tournament winner Salem, but the Blazers’ two-day total of 622 bested Lord Botetourt (313-313—626), Tunstall (315-311—626) and Culpeper County (315-316—331) for second place, after the Blazers trailed all those schools by between one and three strokes heading into the day.
“I basically just said, ‘Don’t be sorry for yourself, don’t be mad at yourself,’” said Linda Failes, who said she’s still on the fence about retiring from coaching golf after 29 years. “I said, ‘When I see you tomorrow morning, the only thing I want to see in your eyes is a determination to play well today.’”
Salem (304-293—597), which won its first state title since 1982, was the runner-up in this year’s Region IV tournament to Tunstall.
“You just want to survive regionals,” Salem coach Thad Snyder said. “In fact, we’re state champs – last week’s forgotten.”
Blacksburg senior Ryan Mondy, who has committed to Virginia Tech, shot a tournament-best 5-under 67 – nine strokes better than his first-round score – to total 144 and win individual honors by one stroke.
“I knew it’d be tough. I knew I’d have to put up a [low] number,” said Mondy, whose brother, Jake Mondy, won the tournament in 2010. “I didn’t think that  would get it done, but fortunately some people came back to me, and it worked out.”
Even though they finished second, the Blazers felt good, too. Certainly a lot better than the previous day.
Spotswood, which had sights on its first-ever state title, had played itself into a hole with its bloated first-round score on a nasty, cold Monday at Lakeview. But with the sun occasionally shining and temperatures in the high 50s Tuesday, the Blazers’ attitudes brightened.
Particularly junior Cole DeLucas, the second player not named Robbie Failes to shoot the top score for Spotswood. DeLucas, the Blazers’ No. 3 player, carded a 2-over 74 Tuesday after opening the tournament with an 80.
“I went out and just said, ‘Hey, we have no pressure on us, motivate yourself,’” DeLucas said. “…To bring Spotswood this kind of feeling, honestly it feels amazing.”
Senior Robbie Failes still didn’t have his best day, but he recovered from a bad round of 79 to at least a passable 75 in his final high school tournament. The four-time district Player of the Year said he’s still in search mode when it comes to college golf, though he listed James Madison, Richmond and William & Mary as possibilities.
“As I look over and see [JMU golf coach] Jeff Forbes right there…” joked Failes, peering at Forbes standing about 100 feet away. “No, but there are lots of good options out there. I’m sure I’ll find the right one.”
Junior Daniel Wine shot a two-day 155, and senior Clay Sowers a 159 to complete the scoring for the Blazers.
As for Harrisonburg junior Kyle Templeton, he left Lakeview with an empty feeling similar to the one Failes had the day before.
After posting a 2-over 74 Monday that tied him for sixth, Templeton struggled to a 9-over 81 to finish outside the top 20. His putting, normally the strength of his game, was a weakness Tuesday, as he had roughly 40 putts on 18 holes – including a 3-putt for par on No. 5 after lipping out a 12-foot eagle putt and missing a 2-foot birdie.
“It’s just one of those days – everybody has a bad day,” Templeton said. “Robbie had a bad day yesterday. I had a bad day today.”
But it wasn’t such a bad two days overall for Failes and the Blazers – and their Knute Rockne-esque coach.
“[Finishing second is] a great accomplishment for a couple of reasons,” Linda Failes said. “No. 1, we’re a smaller school now. We’re competing against schools not quite twice our size, but a lot of them are [close]. We’re considered more of a rural school and competing against a lot of kids coming from areas that are more known for their ‘country-club sports.’
“They’ve brought a lot of honor to Spotswood. I’m really proud of them.”