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Lee High golf had five-star season in 1990

Tanner Cook • May 11, 2020 at 10:00 AM

Many great sports stories follow the narrative of a comeback.

Lee High — just two years into consolidation — polished off one of Southwest Virginia’s great comeback stories by winning the VHSL Group AA golf championship in October 1990.

The title remains the Generals’ only state team championship in any sport since five schools became one in 1989.

HOW IT ALL CAME TOGETHER

Todd Watson, Sean Vandergriff, Chris Stacy and Jason Johnson posted strong seasons for the Generals that fall.

But the first day of the state tournament at Holston Hills Country Club in Marion did not go as planned. Lee, which went into the event as one of the pre-tournament favorites, trailed by six shots.

Harrisonburg was out front after recording a first-day 316, one stroke better than Lord Botetourt (317).

Watson sat tied for sixth with Marion’s Martin Winters after both shot 4-over-par 76. Vandergriff’s 79, Stacy’s 81 and Johnson’s 86 rounded out Lee’s opening- round scoring.

“We’ll be all right,” Generals coach Matt Cridlin told then-Times News reporter Pat Kenney after that first day of play. “We need to shoot a couple of shots below our average for each player and that should put us back in it. I know Todd, Sean and Chris are capable of much better scores.”

Watson had a much better back nine than he did on the front, following his 40 with a 36.

“I started feeling more comfortable on the second nine,” Watson said. “I made three birdies and that has helped my confidence.”

COMING BACK IN A HURRY

Lee came out firing in the second round and shot a tournament-best 312 to win the championship by eight strokes over Lord Botetourt.

Harrisonburg faded badly and finished fourth.

The Day 2 turnaround came on the heels of a team meeting after the end of the first round.

“We knew we could win the team title,” Vandergriff said. “We set a goal of shooting 310 in the second round and we didn’t miss it by much.”

Johnson’s second-round 76 keyed the comeback by the Generals.

“I knew that this would be my final round of golf representing Lee High,” Johnson said that day. “I told myself that the individual thing was not within my reach, but I could certainly help the team if I just went out and concentrated.”

Watson wound up fifth individually after carding a second-day 76 to finish at 8-over 152. He was fourth in the state tournament the previous season.

“This is such a great feeling,” Watson said after the Generals clinched the crown. “I wish I had played better overall, but for us to win the championship is tremendous.”

PROUD COACH

Cridlin was bursting with pride on that mid-October day up in Smyth County.

“These guys put out a super effort today,” the coach told Kenney at the time. “They outshot Lord Botetourt by 13 strokes and Harrisonburg by 27.

“Jason’s effort was what it is all about. He reached down within himself and produced under pressure. I’m really proud of him and happy for the whole team.”

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