Five golf invitationals, three championships.
Life is good for the Ashland Tomcats.
Nick Blankenship, the team’s lone senior, matched par to earn medalist honors and Ashland continued its impressive start Monday with a 23-shot victory in the Bellefonte Invitational.
“I’m thrilled with where we are,” said Tomcat coach Bob Blankenship after watching his team post a 301 total in the 11-team event.
“Even though the field wasn’t big, to put up a 301 is fantastic,” Ashland’s coach said. “That score wins a lot of tournaments.”
No question, Ashland is on a roll despite sending three seniors to the college ranks off last year’s sixth-place State Tournament team.
“It’s crazy,” Nick Blankenship said. “We lost a lot of good talent and are putting up better scores.”
The 2012 season opened last week and Ashland rang up titles in the Lewis County Invitational at Maysville Country Club and Saturday’s Greenup County Invitational at Hidden Cove.
Two days later, the Tomcats struck again under a sunny sky at Bellefonte Country Club.
Thomas Hall of the Tomcats tied for third individually with a 74 — one shot ahead of teammate Evan Cox. Both are juniors.
Freshman Tate Justus completed Ashland’s scoring with an 82. Sophomore Logan Jones came in with an 83.
“I’m extremely pleased,” Bob Blankenship said. “These kids have high expectations for themselves and it shows. This was another confidence builder.”
Nick did his part with a round that included five birdies, including a 10-foot chip-in from just off the No. 4 green.
“My iron play was very solid,” he said. “I hit the ball well and had nothing above a bogey. I missed some opportunities, but if somebody had told me I would shoot par, I would have said OK. It’s the lowest competitive round I’ve shot out here.”
The Eastern Kentucky Junior Golf Association’s Player of the Year in the Boys Grade 11-12 division recovered from bogeys on 16 and 17 to make an 8-footer for birdie on the final hole.
“I’m really proud of him,” said Nick’s father and coach. “He took longer over that putt than any putt in weeks. He read it, read it, and read it.”
Turns out, the birdie not only allowed Blankenship to shoot par but saved him from a playoff with Darren Carpenter. The Bath County senior shot 71.
Carpenter continued his strong play after finishing second to Ashland’s Cox in a four-hole playoff at Hidden Cove.
“It feels pretty good,” Carpenter said of his back-to-back efforts. “I had a real bad summer. I didn’t break 80 until the Flyer Invitational (high school season opener) at Griffin Gate.”
Like Blankenship, Carpenter ended his round with a birdie.
“I just played real smart today,” he said. “This course can jump up and get you. I hit 4-iron off most of the tees.”
Russell’s Bobby Thomas tied for third with Hall and led his team to second place in the team standings. Sam McGuire shot 81, Tony Huddleston 84 and Trace Wilson 85 for the Red Devils, who finished four shots ahead of Pikeville in the third-year tournament.
“We wanted to shoot lower, but I’m happy with second place,” Russell coach Perry Yates said. “Hats off to Bob (Blankenship). He has developed this into an absolutely great tournament that everybody looks forward to each year.”
The busy early schedule for area teams continues today with the Eagle Trace Invitational in Morehead. Yates said Russell expects to have No. 3 man Johnny McGuire back in the lineup after he missed two tournaments with a heart murmur.
Blankenship shoots even par to pace Ashland to 23-stroke victory
Five golf invitationals, three championships.
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