One mark of a true champion is the ability to get the job done -- even on a day when you might not be playing your best.
Especially on a day when you're playing on the biggest stage of the season, matched with an opponent that had just defeated you the previous week.
It takes a true champion to blow past all that and find a way to win.
The Izard County Cougars are now true champions.
The Cougars shot a team score of 268 to push past second-place Ridgefield Christian (274) in the Class 1A State Golf Tournament Oct. 6 at The Course on Turkey Mountain in Horseshoe Bend.
After edging oh-so-close a state title in girls' golf the past couple of years, Izard County was finally able to seal the deal on the boys' side of things this year, even though the squad had not managed to make the state tourney the past four years.
"It's a nice feeling. We finished as runners-up twice and third-place twice in girls' golf (the last four years), but this is the first time the boys have qualified for the tournament in the last four years," said Izard County Head Coach David Harmon. "So getting qualified and then winning it were nice accomplishments. We were close to qualifying the last couple of years, but we were bunched in with Class 1A and Class 2A and then this year they split the classes (each having their own separate state tourneys). But you look at the scores and we would still have qualified had it been in the 2A tournament."
But in order for the Cougars to claim the top prize in 1A golf, they had to survive a fourth meeting with the Ridgefield Christian Warriors.
Ridgefield Christian had knocked off Izard County by 10 strokes at RidgePointe Country Club in Jonesboro, before the Cougs turned the tables two weeks later and beat the Warriors by 14 strokes at Turkey Mountain.
Round number three was at Cooper's Hawk in Melbourne in the district tournament -- a match that ended up on Ridgefield Christian's side.
"To be honest, I felt like we were capable of shooting better (in the state tourney) than what we did," said Harmon. "I thought we could have, and several times this year we have, posted better scores than what we did at the state tournament."
Preston Harmon paced Izard County with a 76, good for second place individually behind Medalist Cameron McKinney from Ridgefield Christian. He also earned an invite to compete in the Overall Tournament at Pleasant Valley Country Club in Little Rock.
"The big thing with Preston is his swing. He doesn't try and overpower the golf ball," coach Harmon said. "A lot of kids, especially in high school golf, have such a hard swing that when they get in a pressure situation, they start hitting errant shots. But I've had other coaches comment on how smooth his swing is. So when he gets in those situations, the pressure doesn't faze him, because everything stays the same. He's been playing in summer tournaments ever since he was 10 or 12 years old, so he's been in pressure-packed situations and has played enough that it doesn't bother him too much."
Izard County's Uriah Mead also had a huge afternoon at the state tournament for the Cougars, carding an 89, earning him sixth-place individually.
"A big key was Uriah Mead. Every time I was getting an update, he was letting me know that he was struggling," Harmon said. "But, he picked it up and shot a 40 on the back nine. That was a big plus. When he made the turn with that 40, I thought we had a chance. I thought he would come in around the 80 range and sure enough, he did."
Caleb Cowan finished with a 103 for Izard County, while Jake Dockins carded a 111.
"Caleb and Jake are both capable of posting better scores -- a number of times this year they've came in with low 40s on nine holes and even 80s on 18 holes," said Harmon. "And they both struggled in the early rounds, but they settled down and played better on the second nine and ended up turning in good scores for us."
Viola's Skyler Robbins shot a 94 to finish in 10th place individually.
Concord came in third with a 278, followed by Lead Hill (280), Shirley (288) and Jasper (306).
According to Harmon, his team's knowledge of the ins and outs of The Course at Turkey Mountain came in handy in the tournament.
"Turkey Mountain is not an extremely long course, but if you're not familiar with it, you can get yourself in trouble," he said. "Those teams that don't get a chance to play it very much, it probably bothered them some. There were some trouble areas that they weren't expecting to get into."