By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Stillwater High School’s Troy Fort knew he wasn’t in contention for an individual title, entering the day 35 shots behind Edmond Santa Fe’s Max McGreevy.
But with that in mind, Fort went out and played his game at the Class 6A state tournament Tuesday at Karsten Creek. Sure, there were a few mistakes — leading to a 48 on the front nine and a 92 overall en route to a final score of 269 — but it’s those mistakes that could pay off for the Pioneers next season.
“It definitely feels good,” Fort said. “It’s a great course to play as long as you play well. I still had a good time though, despite all the high scores. It was definitely a learning experience.”
Fort may have had his struggles on the day, aided by the fact he started on No. 10 and closed out with arguably the toughest three holes on the course, but he was far from the only one that struggled.
“That’s a tough stretch,” Stillwater coach Larry Hesler said of the brutal final three holes of the front nine. “You’re ending with that, after 54 holes, that’s a long stretch. He fought hard through there and made some good swings.”
Most of the morning individual scores came in a little higher than expected as the morning dew made what are typically fast greens slower.
“It was a little difficult in the beginning because the greens had some dew on them, so it was a little adjusting,” Fort said. “There were just certain holes where a few shots got away from me.”
Fort wasn’t alone in that aspect, however. Jenks’ Brandon Jelley, an Oklahoma State recruit, missed a putt at the end of his round that would have allowed him to join the three-person playoff to determine the individual title.
As it turns out a soon-to-be Oklahoma Sooner took the individual title as Max McGreevy came from behind in regulation before knocking in back-to-back birdies on both playoff holes to dispatch Norman North’s Thomas Johnson and Edmond North’s Nick Heinen to win his second straight title with a 214.
“Last year was a little bit more stressful,” McGreevy said. “I played a little bit better last year on the last round, but I can tell how much I’ve improved by the scores I put down last year. I put a lot of pressure on myself, even though I probably didn’t need to and I’m proud of myself.
“Both the guys are great players. I knew that they’re both longer than me off the tee, so I knew they could both reach the hole. I was just trying to stay in my zone and not let their shots affect me, just kind of play how I wanted to play, and let the outcome come.”
McGreevy wasn’t the only one repeating as champion Tuesday. The Edmond North Huskies won their ninth straight title, beating Jenks by 27 strokes with a 884.
“No, it doesn’t (get old),” Edmond North coach Jeff Doherty said. “It’s a lot of fun. What yesterday did was just kind of shellshocked a few teams. Visiting with a couple of coaches they were thinking, ‘Hey if I shoot a good number here, at least we’re going to be in the hunt tomorrow,’ and then it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, they did it again.’ … Sometimes I think we get in people’s heads and I think that’s what happened.”
McGreevy and Edmond North may have drawn most of the attention — even with a small herd of Stillwater fans following Fort around — but shot of the day belonged to Jenks’ Connor Houston at the par-3 15th.
“It was 178, a little downwind, and my coach said it would be a perfect 7-iron,” Houston said. “I took out the 7-iron and he said to aim right of the hole. I pulled it just a tad and I was like, ‘Oh, crap.’ From there on it just started going right at the hole. It took one bounce and disappeared. I couldn’t tell if it went over the ridge at first, but then everyone started yelling, so I knew it went in.”
That’s right, the junior recorded the lone ace of the tournament. It also happened to be his first hole-in-one.
“I was like, ‘Please let that be in,’ because I knew my mom was up there,” Houston said. “I told my coach, ‘I guarentee my mom is crying.’ Sure enough, she was up there just in tears. It was a good time.”
Tuesday wasn’t about winning or losing. From McGreevy to the Edmond North squad, from Houston to Fort there seemed to be one common theme — enjoying what will likely become the memory of a lifetime for those involved.
“I didn’t really have to say anything to (Fort),” Hesler said. “He was out there to represent Stillwater and that’s what he was doing. He was doing the best he could and hopefully he enjoyed it. I was just out there to try to show him some lines and play a little better.”
And next year, not only does Fort hope to compete for the individual title, but he and Hesler are also hoping to have a couple of teammates by Fort’s side.
“It gave him some expereince, that was the main thing,” Hesler said. “Just go out and know what you’re going to get into for next year, and see how it goes from there. When we come back we’ll be talking about the state tournament again. We won’t be talking about missing it, and I think that’s going to excite everybody. We had an individual in. We’ll just have to try to get a team out here next year.”