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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Bearkatz state champions

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

STATE CHAMPS: The Melbourne Bearkatz are Class 2A state champions in boys' golf. From left are: Ben Cooper, Spencer Caraway, Brad Lamb and Sam Cooper. Photo/Mullins
Really, all the suspense in this one happened late.

Well after the fact.

The Melbourne Bearkatz turned back the rest of their Class 2A competitors with relative ease, winning the boys' state golf championship by 20 strokes Oct. 7 at Cooper's Hawk in Melbourne.

The Smackover Buckaroos finished second in the team standings with a 255, while East Poinsett County was third with a 261. Ridgefield Christian and Marked Tree tied for fourth with twin 262s.

"It's something we've been waiting for since 2001 (the last time the Katz won the state title)," Melbourne Head Coach Mike Watson said. "We've came close a couple of times since then, but this is the year we've been pointing to. I knew when we consolidated (with Mount Pleasant) that this would be the crew. I held off hosting the state tournament until this year, because I knew Sam (Cooper) would be a senior and Brad (Lamb) would a freshman. But a lot of things had to work out right and they did. It couldn't have worked out more perfect."

And it was Watson's dynamic duo of Cooper and Lamb that supplied most of the drama, long after the scorecards were turned in. Marked Tree's Jerry Phillips earned state medalist honors with a one-over 73, while Cooper and Lamb tied with identical two-over 74s, forcing a sudden-death playoff between the two teammates for runner-up honors.

The playoff did not disappoint and took an amazing five holes to determine the winner, which in the end, was Lamb by one stroke.

"The most I've ever seen here was a two-hole playoff, so that was really something. I thought it was over two or three different times," said Watson. "Brad made an unbelievable putt on number three to get the save. I was glad we had the opportunity (for runner-up medalist), but I hated that they had to play each other. Sam's going to be a little disappointed, but I think when he gets home and realizes what happened ... he's been our horse all year long that's led the way. Thirty years from now, the only thing they'll remember about this day is Melbourne was the state champion."

Phillips, Cooper and Lamb all earned invites to the Overall Golf Championship Oct. 15 at Little Rock's Pleasant Valley Country Club.

Spencer Caraway finished with an 87 for the Katz, while Ben Cooper shot a 93 for the day.

"We thought Sam would shoot even, Brad would shoot about four over and then we wanted Spencer or Ben to shoot in the low 80s," Watson said. "And Sam shot a couple of strokes higher than what we thought, Brad shot a couple of strokes lower and Spencer shot about what we needed him to shoot. It was perfect."

Perfect might be a good way to describe the way Sam Cooper finished the 2009 season, earning regional medalist honors with an impressive 68 before turning in a 74 in the state tournament.

"He's (Sam Cooper) so long off the tee box. He's going to hit it 20 yards farther than everybody else," said Watson. "He's got good command of all his clubs and he's just got so many shots in his bag. He's just an excellent golfer that's got a lot of golf left in him."

The same could be said for the freshman Lamb.

"They call him 'Steady Eddie.' Man, he's a player. He's a silent killer," Watson said. "He just played all day long. Everybody was looking at Sam for medalist and Cameran McKinny (Ridgefield Christian) for medalist and Brad was two-over, two-over, two-over ... he just kept holing them in. He just kept making par after par. He doesn't get shook and has the perfect mindset for golf. His best golf is still in front of him."

Izard County's Preston Harmon turned in an 80 in the state tournament, good for a spot on the All-State team. Salem's Matt Twilley finished with an 86 on the day.

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