By Gene Phelps
MADISON – Austin Rose rolled in two clutch, monster putts Thursday in a gallant effort to defend his MHSAA Class 6A state medalist title.
The Tupelo senior’s final putt, a 30-footer to save par on the first hole of a sudden death playoff, however, wasn’t enough as darkness settled in at Lake Caroline Golf Club.
His playoff foe, DeSoto Central’s Braden Thornberry, stepped up and dropped a pressure 10-foot putt for birdie to capture medalist honors.
“That was pretty gutsy play by both of them,” Tupelo coach Mark Enis said.
Rose, a Mississippi State signee, forced the playoff with a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole. He made up two strokes on Thornberry the final two holes to finish with a two-day regulation total of 7-under-par 69-68–137. Thornberry, an Ole Miss commitment, recorded a 67-70–137.
“I don’t really get that nervous,” Rose said. “I hit two really good putts (at the end).”
Thornberry felt some pressure when Rose sank the 30-footer on the playoff hole.
“It changes your mindset,” Thornberry said. “You have to stay positive. I had putted a little better today on the back nine.”
Moments earlier, Rose and his Golden Wave teammates saw their six-year state championship winning streak stopped by tournament host and rival Madison Central.
The Jaguars, who took a 13-shot lead into the final round, defeated the surging Wave by six strokes – 575 to 581.
“We just ran into a buzz saw,” Enis said. “Madison Central played solid for two days. I thought we played solid today. Our guys played hard and I’m proud of them.”
Enis pointed to the fact Tupelo recorded a 16-over-par score over its final six holes in Wednesday’s first round.
“Those are the most difficult holes out there,” Enis said. “Madison Central played those holes well and we didn’t.”
Hayden Buckley was second for the Wave with a 74-72–146. He was followed by Blake Harris 78-71–149, Kirk Reeder 75-74–149 and Daniel Purnell 79-76–155.
In Class 5A, Germantown won by 30 strokes to win the school’s first state title in any sport. Oxford finished fifth overall.