Golf shooting for title at district

Season full of individual and team success ends at Wolfdancer Golf Club


Nicolas Ospina

FOLLOWING THROUGH: Sophomore Knox Cannon aims for the green with an iron shot. In his second appearance, Cannon successfully competed in the district tournament.

Ben Tillisch, Sports Editor

Stepping to the first tee box of the district tournament, junior Alex Payne feels the harsh wind whip against his face. Training his eyes on his target, the neatly trimmed fairway of Wolfdancer Golf Club, Payne steadies his breathing. 

Drawing his club back, Payne coordinates his effortless swing, striking the ball and sending it hurtling into the air. Fighting the incessant wind, Payne’s first drive of the district tournament finds itself neatly tucked in the fairway. 

In preparation for the district tournament, the golf team spent countless practicing and getting comfortable at Wolfdancer Golf Club, the location of the event. Playing in his third district tournament, Payne sought to physically hone his skills and mentally prepare himself for competition. 

“We had purposely planned a tournament out at Wolf dancer just to get a feel of the course because they added in four new holes, so we kind of needed to learn those to make sure we knew what we were doing,” Payne said. “And then we had a couple of weeks without tournaments before districts just to help practice and get into the right mindset.”

Played over the course of two days, strong wind characterized both rounds of the district tournament. Payne and the rest of the golf team were forced to adjust and overcome such unfavorable conditions.

 “We got on the range and we warmed up by shooting straight into that wind,” Payne said. “We were able to kind of practice keeping those shots lower so that the winds just didn’t move the ball as much, and that definitely helped us out on the course.” 

In his seventh year coaching the golf team, head coach Sam Miller connects the difficult conditions to other mental factors the golfers were forced to overcome during the tournament.

“The district tournament is very stressful,” Miller said. “You’re competing versus the best players in the district and you want to perform at your best. The course is one of the hardest in the area and the weather this year was not great on day one. So lots of things stack up against you and you just have to get after it and compete.”

Sophomore Knox Cannon also participated in this year’s tournament, representing Bowie at the district level for his second straight year. A key player on the golf team, Cannon recalls how the district tournament compared to other tournaments played throughout the season.

“District is the tournament that matters the most because the stakes are higher, so there is a little more pressure and drive to play better,” Cannon said. “The first day was really hard this year because of the weather, but at the end of the day, you just have to go out and play your best.”

Having played golf competitively since middle school, Cannon describes the importance of mental strength and confidence in golf. Cannon relates these needed traits to his personal preparation for the tournament.  

“I practiced a lot and tried to get my mindset focused before the tournament,” Cannon said. “We had won a couple of tournaments over the course of the year, so that helped with our confidence going into the first day.”

Prior to the district tournament, the golf team competed in multiple individual and team events throughout the year. The strong bond they formed during these tournaments has allowed them to better themselves and each other. 

“The team has had strong chemistry all year and it has only gotten stronger as the year continued,” Miller said. “They all feed off each other’s play and like to compete with one another.  But at the end of the day they all root for each other and support each other.”

The only senior on the team, Jake Cole had a major influence on the team’s environment and performance. Payne reflected on Cole’s impact on the team and the emotions of competing with the senior for his final district tournament. 

“Jake’s a great guy and he’s so fun to be around,” Payne said. “It’s crazy that it’s already been three years and it’s already behind us, but he kept a positive outlook. He had a great second day too, so I think he finished the season on a good note and it was a good run for him for sure.”

Coaching the senior in his last tournament for the golf team, Coach Miller reflects on Cole’s time with the ‘Dawgs. 

“Jake and I go back to his freshman year which was basically my first full year as head golf coach,” Miller said. “I have watched him hit some incredible shots over his high school golf career and seen him shoot some low scores. I was so happy for him to finish his career having a day to remember.”

Despite a disappointing conclusion to a successful season, Miller is looking forward to returning four varsity golfers that can help the team once again compete at a high level. With only one varsity spot to fill and an experienced team, Miller hopes to build on this past season. In doing so, the golf team plans to compete past the district tournament next year and challenge for the regional and state titles.

“With so many young players that can compete at the varsity level, they are gaining great experience in each tournament,” Miller said. “We still have some great upper-class players with plenty of tournament experience that they passed along to the young players. But finishing this year so close to the top guns like Lake Travis and Westlake, I feel confident that they know they can compete with the best and get to that next level.” 

*Additional interviews and contributions by Michael Vienneau