Kettle Run golf team wins fifth consecutive Combs Cup
For a 19-stroke victory, the Kettle Run Cougars surprisingly had to face a few anxious moments during the Combs Cup.
Kettle Run won that Fauquier intra-county tournament on Thursday with a 36-hole score of 389 over two days at Fauquier Springs Country Club. The undisputed favorite to win the Cup for the fifth consecutive season, Kettle Run led underdog Liberty by only one stroke after the initial nine holes Wednesday. And then Fauquier made a late run at Kettle Run on Thursday.
The Falcons pulled within two strokes of the lead when the Cougars' No. 1 golfer, Jeremy Cates, posted an unusually poor score of 47 over nine holes of singles play – the final of four formats – while Fauquier's No. 1, Frankie Strano, shot 40.
"I stay worried," Kettle Run coach Dale Edwards said. "I knew Fauquier was going to be good this year, and I knew Liberty's top guys were going to be good."
Kettle Run's depth, however, kept the Falcons and Eagles at bay. The Cougars' No. 5 and 6 golfers – Nick Meding and Pat Turnure – shot under 45 and contributed to their team's four-man singles score during the final nine-hole round of the tournament, allowing Kettle Run to finish comfortably ahead of Fauquier (408) and Liberty (452).
So, for the fifth consecutive summer, Kettle Run claimed the Combs Cup title.
"It's pretty amazing," Edwards said of the Cougars' run.
"I wasn't here five years ago," Cates said, "but the past [few] years have been really fun. … It's pretty cool."
Kettle Run won its first title in 2010 and needs only one more Cup victory to tie Liberty for the all time lead with six titles. Fauquier, which has also won five Cups, has recently been the Cougars' main competition in the tournament.
"It's changed a lot in the three years I've been here," Cougars junior Austin Finan said. "Originally Liberty was the [better] competition and now Fauquier has a really good, young group."
Fauquier last won the Cup in 2009 before Kettle Run made its run of five consecutive titles.
"I think it has a lot to do with Kettle Run in general," Fauquier senior Will Griffin said. "Kids who go to their school really focus on their sports. They really like to be the best of the best … They're cocky, but that's good at times.
"We have the skill, we just don't have that mindset," he said.
Winning the Combs Cup so frequently didn't diminish the Cougars' joy from claiming the 2014 championship, either.
"It's always a big deal," said Finan, who became the singles medalist by shooting a 37 during singles play. "You don't want to lose. You've got competition, and they want to beat you."
The Falcons and Eagles certainly tried to do so during a tournament that featured four different formats of play. For each school, two of three teammate pairs contribute in scramble, alternate and best ball rounds, and then four of six individuals contribute in the final round.
After nine holes of scramble play on Wednesday, Kettle Run led Liberty by only one stroke, 64-65, while Fauquier trailed at 75.
"We felt great after nine holes," Eagles coach Tom Determan said of a Liberty team that was 3-under par during scramble play. "After that it just kind of snow-balled and got worse.
"It shows them in golf just how quickly things can turn around," he said. "You can go from one shot back to almost 20 shots off the lead."
Liberty's score jumped to 175 after shooting 110 over nine holes in the alternate shot format. Meanwhile, the Falcons rallied by shooting an 88 during alternate shot play. Kettle Run shot 93, which narrowed its lead over Fauquier to 157-162.
"It just took that front nine for us to get warmed up," said Falcons freshman Frankie Strano, who played the alternate shot round with Griffin.
"We were really flowing and we were really feeling each other's shots," Griffin said. "We were getting in our groove."
Later, on Thursday, Kettle Run expanded its lead to nine stokes, 227-236, by shooting a 70 over nine holes of best ball play. Fauquier shot 73 and Liberty shot 78. The Cougars then finished the tournament with a score of 162 during nine holes of singles play, while Fauquier posted a 172 and Liberty carded a 199.
The singles round did not start well for Kettle Run, though. Cates' score from of 47 as the No. 1 seed narrowed the Cougars' lead from nine strokes to two.
His teammates, however, picked up the slack. No. 2 Finan shot a 37, No. 3 Jed Hackman shot a 41, No. 5 Nick Meding shot a 44 and No. 6 Pat Turnure shot a 40. So, Kettle Run did not have to count Cates' score toward their four-man team score and the Cougars won the Cup by 19 stokes.
"I wasn't too worried because I knew the rest of the team would come in with a low score," Cates said.
"Our 5 and 6 came in clutch both days," Finan said. "That's been huge every year for us. We're always probably the deepest team in the area."
Turnure and Meding shot low enough rounds to contribute to Kettle Run's team score in all four formats. Meanwhile, Fauquier's 2-6 seeds each failed to shoot under 43 in the individual round.
"We definitely could have played better in crunch time," Griffin said.
Finan and Cates won the scramble round with a score of 31, while Strano and Griffin shot a 43 to win the alternate shot format. Cates and Finan also won the best ball round with a 35 before Finan won the singles format.
Finan faced a challenge on hole No. 3 of singles play that ended up boosting his game. He saved par by chipping on and then one-putting from about six feet away.
"When I make a reasonable-length putt it just gets my confidence up with the putter," he said. "It just got me going so I could keep the momentum."
He shot a birdie on the next hole and finished the round three shots better than any other golfer.
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Combs Cup Title History
2014: Kettle Run (5 titles)
2013: Kettle Run
2012: Kettle Run
2011: Kettle Run
2010: Kettle Run
2009: Fauquier (5 titles)
2008: Liberty (6 titles)
2002: Highland (1 title)
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Kettle Run 64
Fauquier 75 – 163
Kettle Run 93 – 157
Liberty 110 – 175
Kettle Run 70 – 227
Fauquier 73 – 236
Liberty 78 – 253
Kettle Run 162 – 389
Fauquier 172 – 408
Liberty 199 – 452
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