Thiravong earns all-conference honors for Albia golfers

Tein Thiravong sends an approach shot to the ninth hole during the 2021 South Central Conference boys golf tournament for the Albia Blue Demons at Edmundson Golf Course in Oskaloosa.

OSKALOOSA — Marty Hermsen told his team all season.

If the Albia boys golf team was going to win a South Central Conference title, challenging Evan Smith was going to be the key.

"If we were going to compete with Knoxville, someone had to stay within six shots of him," the Albia head coach said of Smith.

"We didn't get that done."

Smith ultimately led the Panthers to a 14-shot win over Albia in the 2021 South Central Conference boys golf tournament, easily winning the individual conference championship by 10 shots over Clarke senior Taylor Henry. Smith was the only golfer to post a round in the 70s, finishing right at 70 at Edmundson Golf Course with an incredibly consistent back nine in which the Knoxville freshman never needed more than four shots on any hole to go from the tee to the pin.

"Basically, it was all off the tee," Smith said. "If you could keep the ball in the fairway, it's a course that you can make birdies on. My first birdie was on the par-5 11th. You just have to hit a good tee shot there and you can get on in two.

"From then on, it was all par 4s and one more par 5. If you hit good tee shot and a good second shot, the putter was working well for me all day. I made a lot of putts. I just had to get the ball on the green."

Smith finished 11 shots ahead of Albia sophomore Landen Simpson, who earned all-conference honors by finishing third in the SCC tournament. The Blue Demons edged out Clarke by eight shots for second place, but couldn't make up the double-digit deficit created by Smith's championship round.

"I thought it was pretty crazy to see a 70 go up on the board. That's a great score by Evan," Simpson said. "I feel like, as a team, we did pretty well. It was a pretty good score."

Albia had a very balanced effort with four golfers finishing in the top 10, including all-conference honors for both Simpson and Tein Thiravong. After finishing with an 84, Thiravong didn't realize he had earned all-conference honors by finishing fifth alone in the tournament.

"I thought I played pretty well, but I feel like I could play better," Thiravong said. "Evan has been good all year. Seeing him post 70 is not much of a surprise. It's tough to beat a score like that."

Albia will head to Knoxville on Friday looking to extend the season competing in the Class 3A sectional tournament at Pine Knolls. Hermsen believes the Blue Demons have the ability to make some postseason magic happen with a tough sectional test awaiting them.

"I still don't feel like we've played our best golf yet," Hermsen said. "If we can avoid the penalties and avoid the three-putts. If we do that, we strike the ball well enough to give ourselves a chance."

Davis County was edged by Chariton (367-368) in the battle to finish fourth in the conference tournament. Easton White led the Mustangs with a round of 88, finishing two strokes out of the top 10 heading into Class 2A sectional tournament play at the Bloomfield Country Club on Friday.

Centerville finished sixth in the SCC tournament, posting a team score of 377. Austin White added an 88 for the Big Reds, who also compete Friday in Knoxville in the 3A sectional tournament.

Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont posted a team score of 424, good for seventh place in the conference. Kolin Speer led the Rockets in the tournament, posting a score of 97 to finish 28th as EBF will compete in the 2A sectional tournament in Bloomfield on Friday.

— Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

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