NEW TAZEWELL – Claiborne girls golf coach Scott Payne has been with two members of his team for a very long time and now he gets to see them try to put a cap on their high school careers with the ultimate prize: a state championship.
The Lady Bulldogs qualified for the state golf tournament which will begin this week in Manchester after they posted a strong showing in the regional tournament at Link Hills in Greeneville, winning the event in impressive fashion. The team of seniors Lucy Shockley and Hayley Holt along with sophomore Ella Compton head to the Middle Tennessee for one last event with the coach who has instructed them for years. “Lucy and Halle have been with me since their sixth grade year as I coach middle school as well. In their sixth and seventh years, they won the middle school district. They have been with me for quite a while so I was tickled for my two seniors to be able to do that this year. I hate to see these seniors go as they have been with me for a long time but sure am glad this is the way they are going out, with a trip to the state tournament,” Payne said.
Payne said he has encouraged his team to make the most of this opportunity that few teams across Tennessee have a chance in which to participate. “Enjoy the experience of it and I have also told them all season long to just do what they do and play their game. I told them early in the season that if they did that, things would fall into place and they have done that for most of this season. We don’t know what the scores are from all across the state from other teams and that can be a little misleading because those teams could have been on a course that was easier than the one we played on. We are going in with the thought of playing the same way we have all year long. I want them to play the way I know they can and we will see where we fall.”
This will be the first trip to the state tourney for the Lady Bulldogs since 2008 but for Shockley, it will be her third as she has qualified as an individual the past two seasons. Having Holt and Compton join her will be a special treat Payne said. “They have really improved lately and came on strong at the end of the season.”
Payne reflected on the play of his team at the regional tournament which propelled them to state. “At the region, it was interesting as we were scheduled to play on September 17 but got rained out because of the rains left over from a hurricane that came through. It was moved to the 21st and it was cooler and better golfing weather. They started out a little stronger than they had in the district where we stumbled a little. When they made the turn, there was a three-way tie for low medalist as they were all Claiborne County girls and two of them were mine with Lucy and Ella along with Cayden Walker of Cumberland Gap. Things changed on the back nine as we struggled a little bit but even when we were struggling, we did pretty well. We finished out and finished strong and took first place by 45 strokes as a team. Lucy was second place low medalist, Ella was third place and Hayley was fourth place. I was very pleased with them even though we knew we left some strokes out there.”
While Shockley and Holt have been with Payne for many years, the Lady Bulldogs’ boss said he was very impressed with the way Compton has evolved throughout the season. “Ella has been one of the most improved players I’ve had in a long time in such a short period of time. Between her freshman and sophomore years and even throughout this season, she has really gotten better and stronger in her game. Because of that, she was able to move up to where I had a pretty close score between those three. I am looking for good things to happen with her throughout the rest of her high school career.”
Play in the state tournament will begin on Monday at the WillowBrook Golf Club in Manchester.