There is no doubt that losing in the playoffs at the Region 4C tournament for a spot in an individual state tournament in the spring was one of the things that pushed Handley’s senior Jack Thome to golf success this fall.
Ahead of those playoffs – which lasted two holes – Thome clocked a career-high 3 of 74 on April 12 at Fauquier Springs Country Club just a week after shooting an 85 at the same spot in the North District Class 4 tournament. Where is.
The 74 was unforgettable, but in a way so it was the 85. Another thing that motivated Thome this year was the desire to never see a number like 85 on his scorecard again while wearing a shirt. Handley Golf Course.
Thome’s consistency produced one of the best seasons the judges have seen in a long time, and it ended with Handley’s first appearance in a state tournament since 2005. Thome is Winchester Golfer of the Year. Star after producing an average of 18 holes. of 77 and taking first place in the region’s Class 4 State Tournament since Brett Loy of Sherando in 2015.
“I think he just played with a quiet confidence that kept him from feeling like the wheels were coming off with one or two bad shots,” Handley coach Troy Mezzatesta said. “He knew, ‘Hey, I’ve got a lot of more punches left. I’ll get this back.
Due to changes to the Virginia High School League schedule created by COVID-19, only a little over three months elapsed between the end of the spring 2021 VHSL season and the regularly scheduled 2021 season, which started with training last week. July.
Thome made this time count. He played four or five times a week and competed in half a dozen Virginia State Golf Association and Hurricane Junior Tour competitions. Competition helped, and playing from tees farther apart than he experienced playing golf in high school also made him work harder on his game.
With tee shots from 300 yards, Thome can carry the ball far. This year, it was his putter that was the main reason for his success.
“I definitely had a couple of three putts, but overall my putting was really consistent,” Thome said.
One of Thome’s goals was to shoot the ’70s every time. Thome has never reached 74 this year, but in nine rounds of 18 holes, Thome shot in the 70s in eight of them. Most of the events in Spring 2021 were just nine-hole events, but Thome’s performance this year certainly showed how much he’s grown since his sophomore year, when his scoring average was 84.1.
He started his year with three consecutive 78s over an eight-day period August 2-9 (two Class 4 minis from the Northwest District at Fauquier Springs and Blue Ridge Shadows, and the Curly Licklider at the Shenandoah Valley Golf Club) and those weren’t even his top five scores.
Thome led all local golfers and placed fifth overall with a score of 77 at the 12-team Bryan Gunter Memorial on August 30 at Winchester Country Club. The next day, Thome set a season record 3 of 75 at Cacapon State Park in Berkeley Springs, W.Va.
Thome’s only non-70 score came at the Skyline Invitational at SVGC on September 14, where she shot an 80 in a tournament that only saw James Wood’s second student Caden Ganczak break 80 among local golfers with a 75.
In the playoffs, no Winchester-Frederick County golfer was better than Thome.
At the Northwestern District Class 4 tournament on September 27 at Blue Ridge Shadows, Thome tied Ganczak for second place with a 77 and led Handley to second as a team, behind Kettle Run, as the judges won their second place. in a row in the region 4C tournament. . Handley also placed second at the Spring District Tournament to claim his first place in a regional tournament since 2009, but this season’s place meant more because unlike the spring, Frederick County schools participated.
“It was definitely more difficult,” Thome said. “We finished second and we proved that we are one of the best teams.”
The Region 4C tournament took place at Handley’s playground, the Winchester Country Club. Thome figured he should shoot low given the quality competition from Dulles District, and his putting played a major role in keeping his hopes up.
After his tee shot on the 16th par 4 for 382 yards, Thome landed three straight shots that clearly didn’t go as far as he wanted. Thome flipped his club slightly towards his bag rather than placing it inside after his uphill chip shot landed just over 20 feet from the hole. But then he coldly emptied his putt for bogey.
At the 17th for 322 yards, Thome’s approach shot landed short on the right side, then chipped all the way to the back edge of the green and barely on the front rough to fall again 20 feet off. the cup. But he pulled out his putter and sank the shot for the par, punctuating the mark by slapping his right arm in the air.
“I’ve had some good times these last few holes,” Thome said.
“His putter was his saving grace as a freshman,” Mezzatesta said. “It was special for me to really see that putter and that little game really come back like it did.”
A bogey on the last hole left Thome with a 76, which meant he had to wait over three hours to see if he had secured one of the three individual state spots awarded to golfers who didn’t. part of one of the top two teams. Thome took last place, beating a group of four golfers with one stroke for it.
It was a watershed moment for Thome and Handley, who hadn’t sent a golfer to the VHSL Combined Boys and Girls State Tournament since Greyson Hurt in 2005. Thome performed well at the Glenrochie Country Club in Abingdon, recording a score 5 -by 77 which placed him tied for 17th in a field of 60.
Thome is hoping that what he has done this year will lead the Handley golfers to appear regularly at the State Tournament. He certainly doesn’t want it to take another 16 years before one of the school’s golfers appears at the combined boys and girls state tournament.
“When somebody goes to the United States it’s good for the youngsters on the team,” Thome said. “It sort of sets the standard for the future of Handley golf. It kind of pushes everyone to go to the states every year. “
Mezzatesta said Thome’s influence is one of the main reasons the judges have had such a successful team season. While Kettle Run is clearly the best team in the Northwest District in Class 4, it was a season-long battle between Handley, James Wood and Millbrook behind the Cougars, and the judges’ consistency played a big role in the second. district square.
In the six joint tournaments between the three local teams, Handley has finished behind James Wood and Millbrook only once. The judges were also the only team in the district to beat Kettle Run in a double match.
“He set the standard for what you need to do to be successful,” Mezzatesta said. “The younger ones play in the VSGA tournaments, because that’s what he does. You can’t just go out and play with your friends. You have to go out and test your mettle against the field. Jack has been doing this all summer against some really good golfers, and it helped him start the high school season. He just wanted to compete at a high level.
Thome said he has spoken to a few coaches about the possibility of playing golf at the college level, but he is not sure if he will take that route. Whether he’s playing for a team or just playing recreationally in the future, he won’t forget his time at Handley.
“I had a great coach who pushed me to do better every day,” Thome said. “It was a great team environment.”