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Ram golfers shine in early going

Madison Holmes is a key player in the Lady Rams' golf team this season. Holmes has medaled in all three tournaments this season thus far for PHS.

Courtesy photo

BY Cole Turbeville cturbeville@paragoulddailypress.com

The Paragould golf program put together one of the most successful years in recent history in 2017 under head coach Jace Watson.

Both the girls' and boys' won their district tournaments and finished in the top three at state.

Now the Rams are reloaded with talent and experience entering the 2018 season.

"I feel like we've got a really good group this year," Watson said. "We've got a good core group of guys back with a lot of experience. We've got the twins, Chase and Chance Matthews, backs. Those two probably have the most experience out of any high school golfers in the state when it comes to this level. Then we've got Simon (McBride) back as a sophomore. He had a really, really good year as a freshman so he's trying to build on that this year. He played in his first tournament (on Tuesday) and shot a 65 for us."

PHS will face several new conference opponents this season with the addition of Jonesboro, Searcy and Mountain Home.

"I like the team we've got," Watson said. "But the conference realignment is going to make it tougher on us. We've got Jonesboro in our conference now and they've had as much success as anybody in the state in high school golf. But we also lose Valley View because they got bumped down to 4A so it is what it is. I still think we'll be competitive and we get to host the boys' state tournament this year so that'll be a big of an advantage for us."

Watson said he's looking for his boys' team to compete for the 5A state tournament championship this fall at Paragould Country Club.

"Our boys won district last year and finished third in state. I think with everything we've got back, they're really hoping to make a run at district again. Then with us hosting state, you never really know what could happen there. It's going to be tough, but that's how championships are supposed to be," the coach said.

For the boys, the Rams have their top golfer back from a year ago in McBride. The returning All-State sophomore played in several tournaments over the summer, including the Arkansas State Golf Association Junior Boys Match Play Championship.

"I know Simon traveled around and played in quite a few tournaments over the summer and you can tell because nothing really fazes him out there. He just plays his game. He's played against some really quality golfers and really held his own. I think one of the most impressive things he did was he finished in the top four in ASGA match play a couple of weeks ago. There were some really good golfers there and he was one of them. That was impressive," Watson added.

On the girls' side of things, Madison Holmes has been stellar for Paragould thus far finishing at the top of the board in all three tournaments.

"I can't say enough about Madison," Watson said. "She was good as a freshman, but you can tell that she's put in the work and has really grown as a golfer. She's playing some really good golf right now for us. We've played in three tournaments and she's medaled in all three. She's got an opportunity to be really special one day. I'm excited to watch her play this season ”ŽI don't think our girls' program has really seen this caliber of a golfer."

But Watson admitted that it'll be hard for the Lady Rams to match the success from 2017, but he's still optimistic about the season.

"Last year our girls finished second in state. That was the best season our girls' golf program has had. We graduated most of our team so we've got some kids that are just starting out and still learning the game. It'll be a rebuilding year there, but we still hope to be competitive and qualify for state at the end of the year," Watson added.

Watson said having both Holmes and McBride on the team really elevates the other golfers' levels.

"It's a big advantage to have Simon because it gives the other guys something to go after and it gives us a little leeway in team play. Our boys are really competitive and when they see that he's playing well then they really up their game in practice. Madison also plays with our boys a lot of times in practice and she gives them a run for their money, too. I think having a good competitive group like this really helps in matches and in practice."

So far, the Paragould boys have won one tournament outright and finished second twice this season. Holmes, McBride and Chance Matthews have all medaled this season.