Seeking a lifeline halfway through the Virginia 4A state golf championship, Alex Price turned to the man who always knows what to do. Holed up in a hotel with his Woodgrove teammates, Price called his father David.
The junior missed short putt after short putt Tuesday, he told his father, and was trapped in his head. He shot a 77. The elder Price told his son to focus on placing the ball at a specific spot rather than obsess over getting it in the cup.
On his second hole Wednesday at Glenrochie Country Club in Abingdon, Price buried a putt from about 40 yards out. It proved the launchpad for a successful day, as Price shot a 69 and squeezed into the top six to earn all-state honors.
The Wolverines, competing in their first state tournament, Coach Jason Lutman said, followed Price's lead and earned second place with 608 strokes. Blacksburg (571) ran away with first place.
"The two days were a tale of two stories," Lutman said. "Our middle and back-end players played well yesterday, and our top two had a rougher day than they're used to. Today was the opposite. The top two came through, and the back end help us get in there for second place."
There's a different feeling in the air, Lutman said, when competing for a state tournament. The four teams met with Virginia State Golf Association officials Monday night, listening to the rules for the upcoming tournament while feasting on a catered meal of hamburgers and baked beans.
And when golfers came up to the tee for their first hole of each day, the PA announcer would holler the golfer's name and school: "Alex Price, Woodgrove!"
Price doesn't consider himself a vocal leader, instead choosing to let his play stand for itself. He couldn't help but notice hidden tricks on the course, with surprise bunkers not visible from the fairway.
"Luckily I didn't hit any of them" Price said.
The Wolverines feel more confident going into next season after the second-place finish. Price will be a senior, and even though Kyle Potter, who shot 79-76, will be gone, several more starters return.
Freshman Michael Thomas, who shot a 75 Tuesday, will be back. So will Joey Eastman (77-80) and his younger brother, Nick. Kelly Klimek, the team's alternate, is expected to take on a bigger role.
"We should have a better chance of winning," Price said of next year's state tournament.
Lutman lauded the depth of his team, noting that he often counted on scores from some of his less-hyped golfers when necessary. The team's capricious nature will be what he remembers most.
"I never knew who was going to be the four scorers for the day," Lutman said. "Who do I need to pump up to finish out a round? Who do I need to get their head back in it this round? The unpredictability, but always knowing someone would come through. And they did."