By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Troy Fort knows the greens at Lakeside Golf Course so well he could almost putt with his eyes closed.
That knowledge paid off Monday as the senior-to-be at Stillwater High School won the South Central PGA Stillwater Junior Golf Tournament with a birdie on the first playoff hole to defeat Midwest City’s Kade Davis.
“(Knowing the course) helped a lot,” Fort said. “It’s all about the short game and the putting, so it helps a lot to know the greens pretty well.
“It means a lot to win my hometown tournament. After regionals, which was also here, there were some holes out there that I left a lot out there and I think I could have done even better.”
Fort was better Monday, carding a 73 — six strokes better than the 79 he carded at regionals in the spring to earn a berth in the state tournament at Karsten Creek.
“I felt pretty good,” Fort said. “There were still some holes here or there that I felt like I could have done better on, but that gives me some room for improvement.”
Fort may have been hoisting the clear championship trophy for the boys’ 15- to 18-year-old division, but he wasn’t the only Stillwater native to use the home course to his advantage.
Minutes before a thunderstorm popped up over the course, Samantha Dennison carded a 90 to finish third in the girls’ 15- to 18- year-old division — one stroke behind second-place finisher Ashlea Mahen.
“Playing on my own is definitely less pressure because I don’t have to support the team or try to support them,” said Dennison, a soon-to-be sophomore for the Lady Pioneers. “It’s less pressure and that ultimately makes it more fun.
“It could have been better, but it could have been worse. It was just one of those days.”
Without a doubt Dennison and Fort had their struggles during the round — much like most of the golfers facing a tough course with the wind whipping out of the north.
Fort’s tee shot on the first playoff hole sliced right, putting him behind a tree and forcing him to leave a lengthy putt for birdie.
Dennison found the creek on No. 17 — a shot she thought might have been at the pin had she not topped it.
But it’s their knowledge of the course and how they were able to recover that helped them each take home some hardware.
“I knew where the lakes were and where not to hit it,” Dennison said. “I topped it (on No. 17), actually. If I had hit it well, it would have been over and probably on the green.”
And while not every Stillwater player came home with a trophy — Hunter Northern and Zach Bryant just missed out on making it a Stillwater sweep — even the familiar setting of Lakeside proved to be a challenge at times for the most seasoned of course veterans.
“It was a lot of fun,” Bryant said. “We really don’t have much of an advantage over anybody else, even though we play here all the time. I’m coming at it like I don’t know where the pin is going to be and no one else knows where it’s going to be. I may have played the course more, but I don’t hit it as straight as I’d like to so it creates less of an advantage for me.”