Oakland Mills golfer Donnie Shin had one of those matches where absolutely nothing seemed to go wrong when he played against River Hill last week at Fairway Hills. The junior shot 4 under par in the nine-hole match and set a county record by tallying 31 points under the Stableford scoring system. The old record was 29 points.

Pars are worth three points in Stableford, with birdies earning four and bogeys two. Shin birdied five holes, parred three and had one bogey.

River Hill still won the match -- and Oakland Mills is winless in five matches this season -- but Coach John Browne acknowledged that a sensational round like Shin's gives his program "instant credibility."

"He was amazing [in that match]," Browne said. "You know, he was a little down from the match the day before, almost apologizing. He said to me that he was 'going after it' [in the River Hill match]."

On Monday against Marriotts Ridge, Shin cooled off a bit, shooting 1 over par and earning 26 points, but still showed a flair for the dramatic. After hitting a shot into a greenside bunker, he blasted out from 30 feet right into the cup.

"This kid, he's unbelievable. He might hit a bad shot, but his next shot is an amazing recovery every time," Browne said. "He's very competitive. He's having fun out there."

Everyone's a Winner

When River Hill held tryouts for the golf team, 25 students tried to make the team. Coach Matt Praves kept seven, and all seven have played this season as the Hawks have started 4-0, keeping pace with undefeated Mount Hebron and Glenelg for first place.

The day before each match, Praves has his golfers play nine holes to see who will earn the four places for the match. The players who finished first and second in the previous match have what Praves calls a "free ticket," but the remaining players on the roster compete for those final two spots. Justin Fabling, Todd Amburn, Sabih Iqbal, Travis Hanbury, Janeal Falco, Mike McKee and Patrick Bindel have all played a match where his or her score counted.

"It lets you know that you've got the depth [on the team]," said Praves, who played golf during his college days. "I have seven good golfers. That's the key to winning these matches. Number 1 and 2 [typically the team's best golfers] are going to put you out there; 3 and 4 are going to win the matches for you."

Fabling, who won the county fall tournament in 2004, has played solidly this season, but Praves doesn't think Fabling has "peaked yet." He qualified for the state championships last fall but didn't make it past the 18-hole cut.

Praves said there's a buzz around school now that golf is a varsity sport and that River Hill is excelling. And he tries to impart to his players a sort of golf mantra.

"My key is the F-U-N word. That's the mentality you have to have," Praves said. "These are seven kids getting a free membership for a season, a chance to play some of the nicest courses in the county. Relax and enjoy it."

Three Work Together

A big reason for Glenelg's 4-0 start? Call it "the Big Three."

Andrew Gotschall, Matt Philie and Cody Dillon each scored between 21 and 25 points in the past couple of matches, an 88-46 victory over Reservoir and an 87-49 win over Oakland Mills. That equates to nine-hole scores between 2 over and 6 over par. Both rounds were at Glenelg's home course, Cattail Creek.

Coach Bob Bowen praised Gotschall's iron play: "He's a real good ball striker with a good mental attitude." He said Philie, who has played in area junior events, has no weaknesses in his game: "He's the real deal, biggest surprise this year." And he praised Dillon for his accuracy: "He does very well keeping it in play."

He's also a big proponent of the Stableford points system.

"One hole won't ruin it for the kids," Bowen said. "One of the biggest lessons in golf is 'Put it behind you.' "