After a rough start on Tuesday, Handley senior Jack Thome showed why he’s one of the better golfers in Virginia.
After starting out 4-over par after four holes, Thome played the last 14 holes in 1-over par at the Class 4 state golf tournament at Glenrochie Country Club in Abingdon.
Thome — the first Handley golfer to play in a Virginia High School League combined boys’ and girls’ state tournament since 2005 — finished with a 5-over par 77 to tie for 17th among 60 golfers on Tuesday.
Thome was one of only two golfers from the Class 4 Northwestern District to qualify for the tournament. Thome, who tied for second at the Northwestern District tournament, tied district champion Ben Gray of Kettle Run with his score. Thome finished fourth among Region 4C golfers on Tuesday. Thome was sixth at the Region 4C tournament at Winchester Country Club.
“I’m happy with how I played,” said Thome in a phone interview on Tuesday. “I’m happy I came back on the back nine and I didn’t just give up after the front.”
Also on Tuesday, Clarke County sophomore Hunter Breece competed in the Class 2 state tournament at Olde Mill Golf Resort in Laurel Fork and shot a 35-over 107 to tie for 56th among 60 golfers. Breece shot an 87 at Heritage Oaks in Harrisonburg at the Region 2B tournament to qualify for Tuesday’s state tournament.
Thome said he was having issues putting early in his round. Thome parred the opening par-4, but then recorded a bogey on No. 2 (par-3), double bogey on No. 3 (par-4) and another bogey on No. 4 (par-3).
“I missed a very makeable putt on the second hole, and the third hole I four-putted, so I was not feeling too hot,” said Thome with a laugh. “Then I three-putted the fourth hole.
“The first four holes killed me. I just could not get the speed down. I couldn’t get my lines down. I just could not putt on the first four. After that, I just finally got the speed down, and I was fine.”
Thome said he wasn’t consistent with his driver on Tuesday, but his iron play made a big difference.
“I felt very confident toward the back nine with my irons,” Thome said. “My irons were pretty good today on the back nine, which saved me a lot.”
The front nine is par-35 at Glenrochie, and Thome entered the turn with a 5-over 40 after also recording a bogey on the par-5 seventh.
Thome played the back nine with an even-par 37, highlighted by his birdies on the 417-yard, par-4 12th hole and the 517-yard, par-4 No. 14.
Handley coach Troy Mezzatesta said the green on the 14th has water in front of it and a sand trap, and it’s easy to hit the ball out of bounds on the right side.
After driving the ball 306 yards, Thome’s second shot with a six iron landed hole-high, 12 feet from the cup. Mezzatesta said with one more ball rotation on Thome’s putt, he would have had an eagle. Thome said it was an inch from the hole.
“There’s no room for error,” Mezzatesta said. “I was thinking he was going to land on the front of the green or just short of the green. He hits a laser, and it’s right at the flag, right on the line that we talked about.”
Thome had bogeys on 16 and 18 — he missed a difficult right-to-left three-foot putt on 18 — but overall, Thome couldn’t have done much better in the final high school round of his career.
“I’m happy I’m here [in the state tournament],” said Thome, who lost in a playoff for the final state tournament berth at the Region 4C tournament held in the spring of his junior year. “I played good. All the scores are kind of higher than what I thought they’d be.”
“[After the first four holes] he just played amazing,” Mezzatesta said. “He almost chipped in on No. 8. He almost chipped in and made a great par save on No. 7.
“He just battled, battled, battled really tough. It’s a tough course. The greens are really hard. I’m just super proud of the intensity that he played with, the effort that he gave, and the career that he’s had.”
Blacksburg won the Class 4 title with a four-player score of 285, which is 3-under par. Taking second in the eight-team competition was Jamestown (298). Region 4C champion Loudoun County tied for third (309) and Region 4C runner-up Rock Ridge took sixth (316).
Blacksburg’s Jake Albert won by a stroke with a 5-under 67 to beat Great Bridge’s Trey Marrion.
In Class 2, Floyd County won with a 326, nine strokes better than Patrick County. Region 2B champion Madison County placed sixth (360) and Region 2B runner-up Mountain View took eighth (396).
Individually, Dylan Olinger (Bruton) shot even-par to win by a stroke over McKenzie Weddle (Floyd County).
In a phone interview, Breece said the experience of playing in the state tournament as a sophomore will help him for the future.
“[The course] was definitely difficult,” he said. “I could have done better, but this is good evaluation for where I’m at right now and where I need to go next year.
“I got a lot better in the last couple of months. I know if I stay on this track, I can do well next year.”