E.A. Sports Today

No lightweight

Freshman Okins fires career-best 70 to win Substate medalist, lead White Plains boys to team title; Donoho, PV, Oxford girls also Substate champs

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

SILVER LAKES – A month ago Kenny Okins was chipping and putting, chipping and putting, hoping to sharpen his game enough to be considered for a spot in the evolving White Plains five-man lineup.

On Monday, the freshman, at 78 pounds just a wisp of a player, was a sub-state medalist.

Okins shot the best round of his high school career – a 2-under-par 70 – to win low medalist and lead the Wildcats to the Class 4A North Sub-state title at Silver Lakes.

White Plains freshman Kenny Okins, all of 78 pounds, shot 2-under 70 for low medalist in Class 4A North Substate Tournament at Silver Lakes. He’s in the lower right of the cover photo. (Photos by B.J. Franklin)

“I’m pretty happy about this,” he said. “It still hasn’t hit me. I can’t believe I did it.

“It was pretty unexpected. I’ve been playing good the last month, but I didn’t come out here and expect to shoot under par.”

The Wildcats weren’t the only Calhoun County team advancing to next week’s state championship at RTJ-The Shoals as Substate champions. Donoho won the boys 1A-2A North title at Gadsden Country Club, Pleasant Valley won the boys 3A North title at Silver Lakes and the Oxford girls qualified for the state tournament for the first time by winning the 6A South title at Timber Creek in Daphne.

Okins’ previous best in competition was a 68 in last year’s Pine Hill Country Club club championship (junior division), but his best in a high school tournament was a 76 he turned in earlier this season at Chesley Oaks. He shot 34 in a nine-hole practice round at Silver Lakes Friday.

Okins has been in the Wildcats’ lineup since shortly after their Calhoun County Tournament championship. His round Monday featured four birdies and an eagle, results directly related to all the grinding he’s done to improve his short game.

He was 2-over after three holes, then something just “sprung up.” He knocked it to within two feet on Mindbreaker 4 for his first birdie, hit it inside a foot on 5 for another and then holed a 54-degree on 9 from 76 yards and a downhill lie for eagle.

His other two birdies came on 6 and 7 of the Backbreaker nine, with the one on 16 coming from 25 feet and three feet off the green.

“Seventy-eight-pound Kenny Okins shoots 70; finally, somebody who can shoot eight shots under their weight,” White Plains coach Chris Randall said. “I’ve heard of people shooting their age, I’ve never heard anybody shooting their weight; that’s pretty strong. You shoot your weight, you’ve done something.”

The Wildcats shot 310 as a team and advance to the state championship at The Shoals next Monday and Tuesday. They also counted 81s from senior Nathan Griffin and freshman Gage Miller and freshman Wesley Jenkins signed for a 78.

“I’m really confident for state now,” Okins said. “I’m ready to go to Muscle Shoals and see how I can do. I’m happy I helped my team advance.”

Class 1A-2A North Boys

SILVER LAKES – Donoho won the 1A-2A North at Gadsden Country Club with a team score of 317. They counted a 75 from Jacob LeCroy, 78s from county champion Harrison Hughston and Jack Svensen, and an 86 from Buddy Ray, but coach Garrett Burgess knows it will take better to succeed at state.

“It was about the same as sectionals, nothing special,” Donoho coach Garrett Burgess said. “We’re just in a funk right now. I’m hoping once we get settled up there at state that will help them get comfortable and feel like they’re not rushed. They’re capable of playing a lot better than they have here lately.

“I guess there was some pressure just getting to it; I didn’t think much about it. I thought it was pretty smooth sailing but when they didn’t play good you felt a little leery. Now they’ve got that off them they can concentrate. They’ve got two days and can leave it all out there.”

Westbrook Christian also advanced after shooting 322. Nick Sawyer of Cedar Bluff was the medalist (70).

Class 3A North Boys

SILVER LAKES – Ethan Johnson held it together after making a big number in the middle of his round to shoot 78 and Pleasant Valley waited out the field to win the substate and qualify for the state tournament for the first time since 2005.

The Raiders posted a season-best 375 in the first wave of the day and watched over the next “nerve-wracking” 90 minutes as the rest of the field come after it. They won by seven shots over second qualifier Glencoe.

PV also counted an 86 from Brooks Davis, 98 from Adam Pritchett and 113 from eighth-grader Damon Parr.

“I’m super excited for the kids because we didn’t know coming into today,” PV coach Ronnie Preston said. “We finished third at our sectional, but I also knew today the course was going to be difficult for some of those teams coming in. We played our best round of the year today. That’s what I told the kids: You peak at the right time you never know what can happen.”

Johnson was 2-under going into Backbreaker 7, but took a 9 on the par-5. But instead of letting it destroy his round, he returned to focusing on the good swings he made early in the round and got back on track.

Class 6A South Girls

DAPHNE – Oxford won the 6A South at TimberCreek, qualifying for the state tournament for the first time in the program’s 10-year history. The Lady Jackets shot 257 and won by 15 shots over Spanish Fort, but the Toros withdrew from the state tournament due to scheduling conflicts, leaving the spot to third-place Homewood.

The Lady Jackets counted a 78 from Kayla Huckeba, 80 from Anna Bolton and 99 from Kaylee Reaves.

“Everybody played well,” Oxford coach David Weeks said. “I think they played really close to their potential. I’m just super excited for the girls.”

Huckeba was substate medalist, winning a playoff over Spanish Fort’s Letitia Sim for the title; she made par on the first extra hole. It was her second straight individual tournament victory.

“This is her sixth year,” Weeks said. “The last month she has really stepped it up and worked hard, doing a lot of stuff on her own.”

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