STRONG FINISH: FC golfers claim eighth-place finish in state 3A golf championship

by Sean Dunlap

AMORY — Franklin County High School’s golf team finished its 2022 campaign last week with an impressive eighth-place finish among Class 3A programs from across the Magnolia State.

As a whole, the just-completed season for the Bulldogs’ golf team will be one for the record books, and will hopefully build momentum for the links program in the years to come, according to FC Head Golf Coach Jeff Long.

“Making it to state competition was huge for the long-term development of our golf program,” Long noted.

“Up until now, the biggest tournaments our guys have played in were regional events, but getting to play in state-level competition was truly big for us and bodes well for the future.”

Long said while his FC squad finished fourth in its region this season — behind Saint Patrick, Saint Stanislaus and Wesson — the team played well enough to punch its ticket to this year’s state title series on Monday, May 2 and Tuesday, May 3 at Riverbirch Country Club.

The Bulldogs shot a collective 355 in the regional title tilt in mid-April at Sunkist Country Club in Biloxi to advance to Amory event.

“Our guys knew what they had to do by coming in under a 360, and that was a major step for us to move beyond being just a regional competitor,” Long said.

“In getting to state, I think they were a little nervous, but they all had a blast during their time there. It certainly built a desire among our guys to want to go back and play at that level again.”

The Bulldogs’ top four participants finished with a two-day score of 781 — 395 on Monday and 386 on Tuesday.

When the dust settled, Saint Andrews Episcopal School of Ridgeland finished atop the 3A leader board with a team score of 648 while Amory claimed second place in the event with a 673.

Franklin County sophomore Kolby Cox finished with a combined team-best score of 160 — 77 on Monday and 83 on Tuesday.

Cox, as an individual competitor, finished fourth overall in the 3A ranks and missed a medal by one spot.

“We want to be back at state next year,” Cox said.

“For me, I wanted to go and hit a bunch of bombs, made some birdies, but had too many bogies along the way.

“As a whole, I think I did pretty good on the first day, but not as well as I would have liked on the second. Still, I was happy coming out fourth, but want to see that improve.”

Three other members of the squad and their final and two-day scores that contributed to the team total included: Freshman Tim Hutto, 200 — 99 and 101; freshman Jack Hutto, 209 — 109 and 100; and sophomore Kyle Walker, 212 — 110 and 102.

Tim Hutto said he was thankful the Bulldogs showed strong improvement on the links in 2022 and wants to see the growth of the program continue.

“I think we have a really good opportunity to do a lot better in the future and that certainly includes working toward going to state again,” he continued.

Jack Hutto noted he feels the team won’t rest on this year’s milestones and believes there is unfinished business in the golf seasons ahead.

“Everyone on the team will be looking to grow and get better and want to put up a lot better scores next season,” he said.

“Before it’s over, I think we’ll want to make another run at a state championship.”

Walker said that while advancing past regionals to state was not a part of the plans to start the golf season, it certainly became a focal point down the stretch run of this year’s campaign.

“Being at state for the first time makes you want to go back and try to do better than before,” Walker added. “It’s definitely a goal to get there from now on because the big picture is a lot bigger for us.”

In addition, FC eighth grader Parker Cupit finished with a 218 (110 on the first day and 108 on the second) and eighth grader Preston Cupit wound up with a 225 (112 and 113, respectively).

Parker Cupit said he, for one, was certainly excited for the way the campaign turned out.

“We had a lot of fun and had the chance to grow as a team along the way,” he said. “It was a good season overall.”

Preston Cupit agreed and said he, personally, improved a lot between the start and end of the season.

“I think we all learned a lot about ourselves and how we could be part of something special,” he added.

“Making it to state was great, and something we will want to do again.”

Members of this year’s team — sophomore Zachary Kent, sophomore Drew Berryhill and sophomore Parker Jordan — did not travel to the state event.

Still, where Long said he is concerned, the bar as it pertains to expectations for the FC golf team has been raised, and the passion shown by his players will always be the most encouraging element of the program.

“I think one of the things that I am most impressed with where this team is concerned is their love for the game,” Long said.

“That came through at state where they really showed their character, which was unmatched.

“They followed the rules to the letter and even helped teams that posted lower scores than us by showing them how to drop or what the procedures were for competition rulings.

“That made me more proud than anything because they were teaching the game while they were competing. I had numerous comments from parents and spectators from other schools in complementing our boys on their behavior and knowledge of the game.”

In this regard, Long said golf also has the potential to teach participants about life.

“I can say these boys are on the right track to not only being some of the best golf players around, but also some of the best people around,” he added.

“I think we are all excited about what the future holds because they’re learning things that will touch them personally on and off the course.”

Long said another plus for the program is that it now has a booster account that will help with the future purchases to allow the team to have matching attire as well as equipment to play the game in future tournaments.

“With all of this, I think we have finally made a name for ourselves where golf is concerned ... not just here, but across Mississippi,” he went on to note.

“We greatly appreciate those who have supported us in the past and want to see even more people get behind us in the future as we build a reputation focused on hard work, determination and fair play.
“A lot of schools at state didn’t even know where Franklin County was, but now they do and that is another positive.”

Long said his players have committed to work in the off-season to improve themselves and their games, which bodes well for next year.