Kurtis Grant surveyed the 18th fairway stretching below him Wednesday afternoon, his right leg crossed casually around his left as he sipped a 23-ounce can of Arizona-brand Arnold Palmer Lite Half & Half Iced Tea.
The South Lakes junior typically takes about 30 seconds to guzzle the drink before his round. But in homage to “The King” — and to stay better hydrated — Grant cracked open his favorite beverage at the turn of Wednesday’s Virginia 6A North region golf championship and nursed it throughout the back nine.
“I usually don’t finish very well,” Grant said. “That was different today.”
Grant carded four birdies and zero bogeys on Hidden Creek Country Club’s second half en route to a 4-under-par 67. That followed a 68 on Tuesday, giving him individual medalist honors by eight shots on the testy Reston course.
Grant’s refreshment may have helped, but the real driving force behind his seamless navigation of the narrow layout was something even more drawn out: preparation.
Thanks to a practice round Sunday and constant guidance from South Lakes Coach Carol Molesky, Grant knew exactly where to place every shot. He only pulled out his driver a handful of times Wednesday, instead opting to keep his tee shots in play with long irons and a trusty 3-wood. He knew the greens consisted of Poa annua and bentgrass, meaning they don’t break as much you might think.
And he left all but one approach shot strategically below the hole on the back nine. The one time he didn’t resulted in a one-foot tap-in for birdie on 18.
“I play year-round, and I just keep building experience, so I came into this year with a lot more confidence,” said Grant, who finished one stroke behind the winner at regionals last year . “I can keep my mental side calm now. It’s mainly experience and being able to hit the shot you want to hit and minimize the mistakes.”
Langley senior Brandon Berry remembers the first time he played with Grant in a tournament six years ago at Herndon Centennial Golf Course. Berry shot 71 that day. Grant shot 110.
“He’s come a really long way,” said Berry, who finished one stroke behind Grant to take second place at last week’s Virginia Conference 6 tournament at Herndon Centennial. “His putting has gotten a lot better. Every time I play with him he makes pretty much everything.”
Teamwise, Battlefield held off Langley for its first 6A North golf title with a total of 605. All six Bobcats broke 80 on Wednesday, led by a 73 from sophomore Mitchell Hummel. Otto Voettiner paced Battlefield overall with a third-place total of 146 (70 and 76).
Langley, seeking its first state crown since 2011, finished four shots back of Battlefield to finish second and qualify for next week’s state tournament at Magnolia Green Golf Club in Richmond. The Saxons sat in fourth after Day 1 but came back to beat third-place Patriot by six shots. Four-time defending champion Chantilly finished seventh.
Colin Caporal (Patriot), Milan Matneja (Robinson), Aaron Liu (Madison), Thomas Lipowicz (West Potomac) and Kevin McCarthy (McLean) will join Grant as individual qualifiers next week.