Back in Palmetto Championship, team remembers storms

Zach Weaver, who plays for Arab High School, shot a 3-over 74 in the qualifying round of the Palmetto High School Championship.

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— On a blistery cold and windy day at Barefoot Resort and Golf, the Arab (Ala.) High School golf team was just happy to be back at the Palmetto High School Championship.

The five team members – Zach Weaver, Luke Whitaker, Joe Crowder, Ryan Parker and Clay Tidmore – and head coach Jason Malone made the 10-hour trek to compete in the championship for the first time in two years.

In 2011, the team played in the Palmetto on April 22-23, where the team placed second in the First Flight of the tournament. A freshman at the time, Weaver placed in the top 10 individually. They made the drive back to Arab happy with their finish.

Soon after, disaster struck.

It was April 25 when an outbreak of tornadoes hit Alabama, slamming Arab with three deadly twisters. Five residents were killed and 14 injured, the Huntsville (Ala.) Times reported, citing two days of search-and-rescue missions that led to the totals. The state's emergency management agency said 238 people died from three days of tornadic activity in Alabama, the most of several states affected by the storms. Tornadoes had rummaged the town of 8,500 and left debris everywhere.

“It was hard for us,” Malone said. “A lot of us lost power for five or six days.”

For the golf team, the season was not over yet. The team left for a sectional tournament just two days after the tornadoes struck.

“We loaded up, all in one truck, and drove like two hours, for a course we’ve only seen once before,” Malone said. “The hardest part was leaving our families behind, who didn’t have power. Even when we returned, most families still had no power.”

Only one player on the team this week was part of the team in 2011. Weaver, who has been on the team since eighth grade, said the tornado affected the team just enough that it was tough to leave family behind for that sectional tournament.

Thursday, Weaver shot 3-over 74 on Barefoot’s Fazio course. He birdied both par 5s on the front nine. The No. 1 player for the Knights fought through a headache most of the day because of his contact lenses.

Weaver wants to play in college after he graduates next spring. He has multiple offers, but said wants to go to a school, ‘that fits me well and wants me for me.’

He also believes that the team can finish well this week. Although the team finished 54 over for the qualifying round, Weaver believes they can place pretty well if they can shoot in the high 70s to low 80s during the next two days.

They will compete in the Championship Flight along with defending champions, Myers Park High School, who shot a 22 over on the Fazio course.

Teams teed off on both the Fazio and Norman course, and what flight each team will play in depends on their scores for the day plus their handicaps.

Eric Mitchell, competing for Forsyth Country Day School, shot a 1-under 70. On the front nine, Mitchell shot 5-under 30, which included three birdies and an eagle on the short par 5 fourth. He and the team claimed first place after the qualifying round.

Click here for scores.

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