With his stable of horses split into two sides, you can't blame Kevin Long for imagining a photo finish in the Augusta Preparatory Day School Invitational golf tournament, which tees off today at Midland Valley Country Club.
Augusta Prep senior golf team members are: Sam Nicholson (from left), Mason McKnight, Kenan Yount and Paul Tritter. Not in the photo are Jim Bennett and Zadoc Williams. The Augusta Prep golf team will play host to the Augusta Preperatory Day School Invitational on Sunday and Monday.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Long, the Cavaliers golf coach, would love to see his Blue and Gold squads square off in a sudden-death playoff when the 36-hole event concludes Monday at Forest Hills Golf Club.
"It's not inconceivable. Either one of those teams could win," Long said. "I'm sure the other teams would have something to say about that."
Augusta Prep's opponents had the final say last season. The Cavaliers entered 2001 as the defending Georgia Independent Schools Association Class AAA champions, and with every member of that record-setting team back, Prep was supposed to cruise to another crown.
After a reasonably strong season, including a second-straight Region 3-AAA title, Augusta Prep stumbled at state and finished sixth.
"When you finish sixth with the same team that won the state handily, it's a little demoralizing," Long said. "Last season everyone assumed we were going to win. All of us might have felt, individually and as a team, that we were going to do it again.
"We did have a good year. We don't want to lose sight of that. Most teams would have been delighted, and we were too. Not playing our best at state was the only disappointment."
There could be a happy ending, though. The six players who helped Prep take the state title - Sam Nicholson, Paul Trotter, Mason McKnight, Kenan Yount, Zadock Williams and Jim Bennett - are back as seniors this season.
"This year we're back to the same feeling we had in 1999," Long said. "We're dangerous and competitive, but the internal pressures have been removed. Everyone on the team is focusing on each event, having fun and enjoying the competition, especially the seniors."
Augusta Prep began 2002 by blitzing the field at the Frederica Invitational. Prep placed five individuals in the top 10 on the way to a 28-shot victory at Sapelo Hammock Golf Club near Brunswick.
Even the '99 squad had to settle for second in that season-opening event.
This week, Augusta Prep shoots for its third straight APDS Invitational win, and the Cavaliers will have two chances at the crown.
Nicholson, McKnight, Trotter, Yount and Alexander Abate comprise the "Blue" team. The "Gold" squad will consist of Bennett, Williams, Peter Newlin, Jimmy Howard and John Henderson.
This year the invitational expands from 18 to 36 holes, and the change has prompted an unconventional format - there will be three team champions and three individual medalists.
Today at Midland Valley, Augusta Prep's Blue and Gold teams are joined by Porter Gaud (Charleston), Providence Country Day (Charlotte), Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Academy and Brentwood School. They all will compete in a separate one-day tournament, but their work will not be done.
Those six squads return Monday at Forest Hills, and will be eligible for the overall championship and medalist honors; meanwhile, George Walton Academy, Frederica Academy, Westminster and Augusta Christian enter the fray, but will only be eligible to win one-day individual and team honors.
Additionally, today's competitors also can win championships for Monday action.
That sounds complicated, perhaps, but it does present a unique opportunity - if the putts fall properly, Augusta Prep could win six separate titles in both team and individual competition.
"That's the idea," Long says.
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