High School Sports

St. Xavier deals Marshall the Payne

BOWLING GREEN — St. Xavier's David Payne lived the storybook finish, but he got there without ever fully understanding the plot.

Trailing by two shots as he stood in the 18th tee box, Payne was thrilled when he carded a birdie that clinched the team title for the Tigers, the 17th in school history and the fifth in the last 10 years.

Then he found out the rest of the story.

"My coach told me I was in a playoff (for the individual title)," Payne said. "I didn't know it until he told me."

Payne, a junior, regrouped and parred on No. 18, beating Marshall County's Travis Thompson — the defending state champion — to take home both honors on Saturday at the Leachman KHSAA State Golf Championships at Bowling Green Country Club.

St. Xavier's score of 6-over 582 was the second-best in state tournament history and beat Marshall by three shots, dethroning last year's state championship squad.

Thompson, a junior, hit his tee shot out of bounds on the playoff hole and eventually settled for a bogey and opened the door for Payne.

"I wanted to hit first and put some pressure on him, but I got a little quick with it and went too far to the right," Thompson said. "My provisional shot was just off the fairway, but it was fine. If I had hit that one first, I would have birdied. He shot par, so I might have won it."

After Thompson took the penalty stroke, Payne took the safe approach, laying up in front of the green on his second shot.

"I could have gone 3-wood, but there is a lot of trouble to get into up there (around the green)," Payne said. "So I just hit a 3-iron, put myself 100 yards from the green, chipped and two-putted."

The leader board was dominated by players from St. Xavier and Marshall, the two teams favored to battle for the team title going in. Payne, the first-day leader, shot a 3-under 33 on the back nine and finished a 71 in Saturday's round to finish at 3-under-par 139.

Thompson, who made two long putts on the front nine and posted three straight birdies on Nos. 14-16 to take the lead, shot a 68.

St. Xavier sophomore Justin Thomas finished third at 4-under 140, with Marshall's Peter Meeks in fourth at 143.

Most of the rest of the top 10 hailed from the Lexington area.

Blanton Farmer of Lexington Christian and Kyle Wilshire of Scott County tied for fifth at even-par. Nate Johnson of West Jessamine and Paul Dunbar's Zack Butler tied for eighth at 3-over, and Hunter Frazier of Lexington Christian tied for 10th a shot behind them.

Lexington Christian edged Dunbar by one shot to take third place in the team standings, 16 shots off St. Xavier's pace.

Early in the fourth round, it became evident that the title would be decided by a St. Xavier-Marshall duel, with the lead changing hands several times and neither team holding more than a three-shot advantage.

Marshall's final score was 10 strokes better than last year's winning total, but not good enough to hold off St. Xavier, which needed the second-best team score in state tournament history. Trinity won with a 579 at Eagle Trace in Morehead in 2003.

"We brought our 'A' game," Thompson said. "St. Xavier just had their 'A+' game. They deserved it."