Darton’s Parks Brown watches an approach shot Tuesday during the final round of the Region XVII championships at the Golf Club of South Georgia in Tifton. Brown, who finished as the tournament’s low medalist for his first career collegiate win, led the Cavs to their 12th region title and secured the program’s spot in districts
TIFTON — It could have been the hole where everything fell apart for Parks Brown.
A drive straight into a fairway bunker, a second shot that disappeared into the water to the left of the fairway and an approach that floated 10 feet past the green.
Instead, the 18th hole in Tuesday’s final round of the Region XVII golf tournament turned into a perfect example of why Darton golf coach Bill Jones III calls Brown the team’s “anchor.”
Brown, a freshman from Gainesville, saved bogey on the final hole to finish his round at even par, clinching region medalist honors and leading the Cavs to a 12th straight state championship.
“I had a lot of confidence coming into this tournament because I have had a good semester so far and have been gradually getting better,” Brown said. “Winning this hasn’t sunk in yet, but it’s definitely a good feeling to get your first college win.”
The Cavs didn’t just extend their region winning streak to a dozen in a row, they did it in runaway fashion, pulling away from the field after leading by just four strokes after the opening round at the Golf Club of South Georgia.
Monday’s second-round score of 295 put the Cavs in command by 21 strokes, and then Tuesday’s 292 gave Darton a 38-stoke win against second-place ABAC.
“It feels good that we didn’t let Darton down,” Darton sophomore Nick Green said. “I know coach probably had some doubts (before the tournament), and I don’t blame him because we hadn’t played very well. It means a lot to us to just keep winning, but (Darton director of golf Dale Dover) has been through all of this, so this is big for him. To win and keep the streak going for him means more to us than anything.”
The team title was never in doubt Tuesday for the Cavs, but the medalist honors were up for grabs as Brown and ABAC’s Lee Wright entered the final round tied for first at 4-over.
Wright bowed out of contention early, finishing with a 12-over 84 and five shots outside of the All-Region team, which was comprised of Brown (220), Darton’s Madison Turner (223), Green (224), Georgia Military’s Bruce Ferguson (226) and ABAC’s Robbie Johnson (227).
Brown, who has been near the bottom of the Cavs’ lineup all season, didn’t stray far from even-par and even fell to 1-under with a birdie on No. 17.
He stepped to the 18th tee with a 4-shot lead on Turner but drove it left into a fairway bunker and then knocked it into a pond with his second shot.
“I just took a couple of deep breaths after that shot and told myself that it would be OK because I had a big enough lead,” Brown said. “I knew that I had some shots to spare, so I was able to calm myself down. When the ball went into the water I got a new level of focus. I was kind of tentative with that shot out of the bunker, and I told myself that I needed to trust my swing on my next shot.”
Brown hit his next shot past the green but went up-and-down to win by three strokes, securing his first tournament victory since last year’s GHSA Class AAA state meet.
“We knew Parks was capable of those types of numbers, but he just doesn’t do it very often,” Jones said. “This semester he kind of has that confidence back, and his last three tournaments he has either been our best guy or very close.”
Jones said he wasn’t surprised to see Brown settle down after an opening-round 76.
“We always talk about him being our No. 5 guy. And then he comes out and wins a golf tournament, and that’s just awesome,” Jones said. “This golf course really does suit his game of putting it into play and putting on the right part of the greens. His wild-card is putting, and while he missed several this week, he didn’t make any mistakes out there. If you aren’t making mistakes, somebody will have to play really well to beat you.”
Jones earned his second region title and Coach of the Year honors since replacing Dover as head coach two years ago, but this year’s championship came with some drama as Green told The Herald last week that “if every team in our region is on their A game and we are on our B game that we can still win by 10 strokes.”
Green, who said Tuesday that the pre-tournament hype was more about getting him and his teammates fired up and less about taunting the other programs, felt good about backing up the statement.
“I was trying to add a little more to it because I didn’t want to come out here all relaxed,” Green said.
ABAC (930) was the only team within 40 shots of the Cavs, who are undefeated against Region XVII opponents this season. Other teams competing in the tournament were Georgia Military College (937), Gordon College (943) and Andrew College (983).
The next stop for the Cavs is the NJCAA District 4 Championship in Pendleton, S.C., where they will need to finish in the top seven to qualify for the national tournament.