May 5—Nick Ledbetter made himself heard at Montgomery's Arrowhead Country Club on Monday. Thanks to him, Weaver High School will be heard at the state golf tournament.
Ledbetter won a two-hole playoff with T.R. Miller's Turner Smith for the final state-qualifying spot at the Class 3A South sub-state, becoming Weaver's first golfer to qualify for state.
The breakthrough comes two years after Ledbetter sat for two hours, waiting out a sub-state at Silver Lakes, only to learn that his score came one shot short.
There was no state tournament in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It means a whole lot," Ledbetter said. "It's like, everything I've worked for is to do this. The next thing is to go and win it."
Ledbetter and Smith were the two golfers to shoot 74 at Monday's sub-state in Montgomery. Three shot 72.
Westbrook Christian's Jackson Bowman won the North sub-state at Silver Lakes with a 72.
That's how close Ledbetter is to the top golfers in 3A, and his breakthrough is already felt around Weaver.
"He's a big deal," Weaver coach Justin Brown said. "Kids see him doing that, and it helps. More kids are talking about golf at Weaver."
Knowing what was at stake Monday, Ledbetter showed nerves early, going 5-over par for the first four holes. After he saved par at 6, Brown tried to calm his nerves.
Ledbetter had three birdies between 6 and 14 and stood at three over when a storm forced a 30-minute weather delay. During the delay, Brown checked out reported scores to find out where Ledbetter stood.
The top two teams and top-two individuals not playing for the top two teams qualify, and Smith was in the clubhouse with a 2-over 74.
"I told him he had to birdie one to get there," Brown said.
It came down to No. 18.
Ledbetter's drive went right and into a section of trees, and he cut it out with a 6 iron. He made the green but faced a 35-foot putt for birdie.
"Walking up fairway, I kept telling myself, 'Dude, you have to hit this putt,'" Ledbetter said. "Trust it and make it.
"Ten feet from the hole, I knew it was going in. I did a big fist pump and yelled, 'Let's go!' I think the whole course heard me."
Both players missed birdie putts on the first playoff hole, Ledbetter from 6 feet. On the second hole, Ledbetter teed to the front-right of the green, and Smith's chip from 20 yards ran off the front of the green. Ledbetter putted to within a foot and tapped in.
Brown called Ledbetter's putt to force a playoff "definitely clutch."
"I don't understand how a 16-year-old 10th-grader overcame nerves like that," Brown said, "but he practices so much."
Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.