The timing couldn’t be worse for Elizabeth’s Mitchell Smith.
A Cardinals senior, Smith was considered one of the favorites to win the Class 4A state golf title going into the season after he finished 13th in last year’s tournament. And Smith certainly played like a favorite throughout the year, winning five of the nine matches he entered while carding a 74.3 average.
But a groin injury he sustained moving a heavy object while working at Spring Valley Golf Course recently has him hobbled heading into Monday and Tuesday’s Class 4A state golf tournament at The Links at Cobble Creek Golf Course in Montrose.
The injury was obviously bothering Smith in last week’s regionals, as he struggled to a fifth-place finish after shooting an 83 at Raccoon Creek.
“I was certainly having a good season,” said Smith, who also qualified for state as a sophomore. “Of our nine outings, I won five. I felt I had a shot to win at regional, but I injured my groin at work at Spring Valley golf course lifting a heavy object and it wasn’t a good thing. I still think I have a shot to win state, but I may not be 100 percent.
“Hopefully my injury won’t hold me back as much at state as the regional,” said Smith, who had his best round of 69 on the Spring Valley course. “I’m ready to do much better than I did at regional and I am confident I can do better.”
Smith will be joined in the tournament field by his teammate, sophomore Sean Herr. Herr has been the No. 4 player for the Cardinals and coach Andrew Wilson this season, but he managed to come through to beat Smith by one stroke in the regional for his fourth-place finish. Herr averaged 88.8 strokes a round this season.
Elizabeth’s other two top golfers this season, Ross Galmon and David Walstrom, failed to make the state field. Galmon missed the cut by a single stroke and Walstrom was sick with a sore throat and flu and not able to be at his best for the Cardinals.
“I’ve been very pleased with the way to boys have played,” Wilson said. “Mitch pulled his groin muscle, but he tells me that he is feeling a lot better and feels he will be much better by state. If he plays his best then he has a good chance to win state or certainly place high. He has the ability to shoot a 69 or 70 and that could put him in the running.”
Herr has had a sense of relief since he was able to make the state tournament field.
“It was a tough region,” Herr said. “I shot the 82 at regional to qualify, but it was iffy the day through. The last three holes I was quite nervous and I was thinking what if I can’t make the cut. Yeah, those last three holes were testy and I just started letting go and I was able to pull it together.
“I’m surprised that I qualified,” Herr said. “I at least thought I would have a shot as a junior and senior, but to make it this year makes me feel pretty good. I just want to focus, try hard and do the best I can. I hope to place high and I’m going to be giving it my all.”
Giving his all is all that Wilson could ask of his surprising sophomore.
“Shawn has been on the varsity all year playing at our No. 4 position,” Wilson said.
“He has a load of potential and the past couple of weeks he has turned it on. Good things can happen with this young man.”
Wilson, though, said it is unfortunate that Galmon and Walstrom, the number two and three players for the Cardinals, did not make the cut for the state field.
“The only good thing here is that they are both juniors,” Wilson said. “We’ll certainly be glad to have them back next season.”