Eagles look to putt their way to 6A title

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Oak Mountain Eagle golfer Jeff Goozee hopes his team&8217;s bond, which grew during the Bradley Johnson Memorial Golf Tournament in March, will show through Monday and Tuesday at the AHSAA Class 6A state golf tournament at Opelika’s Grand National course.

The night before the memorial tournament in March, Goozee took his teammates to the grave of former Spain Park golfer Bradley Johnson to pay their respects and put the event into perspective. The team&8217;s conversations that night carried over into its play at the tournament on the way to a second-place finish and Goozee&8217;s only tournament win of the season.

After the Eagles&8217; top golfer, Tyler Murray, busted his knuckle with five holes to play on the first day, Goozee and his team stepped up to the challenge, finishing 10 strokes behind defending state champion Auburn.

&8220;(Tyler) was shooting 15-20 shots higher than normal. That kind of proved to us that we can beat Auburn (at state), and that was a lot of motivation for us,&8221; Goozee said.

Since that tournament, the team, once a group of individuals playing golf in the same shirt, began to spend time together off the course and eating together after practice.

&8220;After the Bradley, for the first time since I&8217;ve been in high school, we do things as a team. Before that we never really talked to each other,&8221; Goozee said, giving credit for the change to the night at Johnson&8217;s grave.

The new team attitude continues as Oak Mountain rallied to defeat Northridge last Tuesday by a stroke in a playoff to determine the runner-up to Vestavia Hills and qualify for state.

After shooting a 304 for the tournament, Oak Mountain was tied with Northridge, forcing a one-hole playoff.

Jack Greer sank a 5-foot birdie putt to seal the win, but Goozee is quick to point out that the win was a team effort of birdies and pars throughout the day.

This will be Oak Mountain&8217;s first-ever state tournament trip after just missing its chance in the past.

&8220;They didn&8217;t call us Choke Mountain for nothing,&8221; Goozee said. &8220;We felt really confident going into sectionals this year though.&8221;

Also qualifying was defending state champion Trey Del Greco of Spain Park, who defeated Hoover&8217;s Cory Gilmer in an elimination playoff, and low medalist Hunter Slatton of Northridge.

Individually, Goozee hopes to battle Del Greco for the state crown. Although he knows the title will come down to more than just two guys.

&8220;I think it&8217;s going to be a really close tournament. There are at least five guys, and of course anyone of the guys on Auburn&8217;s team that have a chance,&8221; Goozee said.

He suspects Murray and Slatton will join the field of challengers, with an outside threat coming from Greer.

In other classifications, Briarwood Christian boys look to defend their title in Class 5A, while Spain Park looks to compete in Class 6A for the girls&8217; title.