By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
BELDEN – Noah West’s name will go down in the MHSAA state record book as the 2011 Class 6A medalist in golf.
However, he will be just as proud to see his Tupelo High team listed as the state champion.
“Winning medalist and the team championship is kind of the same feeling,” he said. “Really, this (high school golf) is a team sport.”
West fired a 1-under-par 72-71 for a total of 143 over two days to win the state title Wednesday on his home course, the Tupelo Country Club. The first Golden Wave golfer to win medalist honors since Jeremy Self in 2007, West was the only player to finish under par.
Two of his teammates – Wilson Reeder 71-74 – 145 and first-day leader Austin Rose 68-79 – 147 – finished second and third in the medalist hunt.
Hayden Buckley’s 73-76 – 149 gave Tupelo a 582 winning team total and a commanding 39-win stroke victory in the 13-team field. Oak Grove was second with a 621 while DeSoto Central was third with a 624.
The state title was the fourth straight for the Golden Wave.
What’s even more amazing is the fact that Tupelo won handily without the score of senior Mississippi State signee Fletcher Johnson, who struggled in his final 18 holes of high school golf. The 2010 State Amateur champion recorded a 71-80 – 151.
“It just wasn’t my day,” a disappointed Johnson said. “I haven’t felt comfortable the past week or so.”
West birdied three holes, including his first, and collected two bogeys on the front nine.
He rolled in a 15-foot putt for birdie on par 4 No. 1 hole. He finished his front nine with a 30-foot birdie putt, from above the hole, on No. 9.
On the backside, he birdied No. 15 with a tap-in after hitting a gap wedge to the green.
“I felt good yesterday and I felt good today,” said West, a junior. “My putting is better than it has been. I gave myself opportunities to make birdies by hitting it straight, too.”
Tupelo coach Mark Enis said West struggled during the season, but stepped up down the stretch.
“He really started playing well the last two weeks,” Enis said. “He turned it up a notch. That’s a testament to him that he bounced back.”
West admitted that his scores were “higher than normal” while he was working on his swing.
“I made some changes,” he said. “I’m hitting the ball well again.”
Reeder could have forced a playoff against West if he had recorded par on 18, but he missed a 6-foot putt.
“To be honest, I had no idea where I stood,” said Reeder, also a junior. “I knew I was somewhere close.”
All five Golden Wave players captured the first five places on the leaderboard in the opening round. Two of those, Rose and Buckley, are freshmen.
“It was fun to see all of our guys in the mix,” Enis said. “I knew coming in we had a chance to be 1-2-3. I can’t say enough about that.”