West girls earn first state berth

Bulldogs back in state after 40 years

By Steve Williams

Championship performances by two Knox County golf teams Monday (Oct. 2) had their coaches looking up historical information after the Region 2-AA tournament ended at Three Ridges.

Tyler Lane, Bearden boys’ coach, discovered his Bulldogs qualified for the TSSAA state tourney for the first time since 1983.

West’s girls coach Todd O’Dell believed his team qualified for the state for the first time in school history and said he would check all of the old trophies at WHS. The school confirmed the following morning that was indeed true.

“We were definitely the underdogs of the day,” said O’Dell. “We were probably picked to finish third or fourth, so it was a big upset for us winning.”

Only six strokes separated the first through fifth place teams on the scoreboard as West totaled 158, followed by Bearden (160), Halls (161), Maryville (163) and Gibbs (164) in the 18-hole round. Farragut shot 176.

Anna Claire Gibson, a junior who came to West from CAK last year, led the Lady Rebels with a 77 and placed third individually. Calley Holbert, also a junior, carded an 81. Senior Riley Phillips shot an 89. Only the top two scores figured into the team total.

“All three of them played really well and I’m very proud of them,” said O’Dell.

The key to the upset victory?

“They stayed true to their game and didn’t have some big blowup holes,” said O’Dell, who is in his 10th season as golf coach.

Carson Cameron, the Class AA boys’ state runner-up in 2021, also played for O’Dell.

Other girls who qualified for this year’s Division I-AA state tourney, which begins today at the Sevierville Golf Club, are first place medalist Sophia Gambini of Heritage, who shot a 2-under-par 70, Bearden’s Maya Hira (76) and Halls’ Lauren Davis (79).

Bearden’s boys totaled 300 to finish five strokes ahead of runner-up Halls (305). The Bulldogs’ region title did not come as a surprise like the West girls’ did. In fact, Bearden came in as the District 4-AA champion and had won the 5Star Prep Masters tournament at the start of the season.

Bryce Harmon led Bearden with a 71, followed by Jaden Morrell (72), Conner Hall (75), Grey Loftin (82) and Charlie Culbertson (83), with the top four scores making up the team total.

“I was really proud of both the boys and girls,” said Coach Lane. “They played hard. They were focused. Several of them struggled at various points in the round but did a good job of bouncing back.

“They played for each other, which is what we try to do. They never gave up and the boys especially were rewarded in the end. It was just a special season all-round for the boys and girls.”

Hardin Valley’s Jacob Sheffield tied Harmon in regulation play but lost on the third playoff hole when he made a bogey and ended up the second place medalist. The other two individual state qualifiers were Halls’ Ethan Whitaker (72) and Evan Caldwell (73).