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Staff photo by Patrick MacCoon / Signal Mountain senior Ben Seay hits a fairway iron shot on hole No. 13 during the final round of the Division I Small Class state championship in Manchester on Wednesday. The Eagles repeated as champions and set a new state record.

MANCHESTER, Tenn. — The Signal Mountain Eagles repeated as boys' golf state champions in a fashion not likely to be soon forgotten.

Led by steady left-handed seniors Ben Seay and Foster Wood and juniors Benjamin Burns and Beck Lewis, they finished an undefeated season Wednesday by breaking a state tournament record that had stood since 1939.

A tight-knit group paved its way to a second straight TSSAA Division I Small Class title with a 67-stroke advantage (595-661) over second-place Kingston in the 36-hole event that started Tuesday, breaking the record of 58 set by Memphis Central two years before the United States entered World War II.

Signal Mountain finished 19 over par and won easily despite not having a top-three individual finisher.

"To set a new record is amazing," said Wood, who tied for fourth at 3-over 147. "We have had a really great season and beat the best of the best. For our team to go into history makes it even sweeter. To have that honor really helps define this season for us."

The Eagles, who led by 31 strokes after Tuesday's chilly first round, separated themselves further quickly on Wednesday — they were 5 under after the first eight holes. Seay led the group on the final day by shooting 2 under to tie for sixth at 4 over.

Seay was confident from tee box to pin, splitting fairways and sinking big putts.

"Getting two rings in a row is pretty surreal," Seay said. "This team is special. We all have shown we can shoot even or better any given day. The bond we shared and how deep this team is made us really special. We are going to remember this for a while."

Signal Mountain challenged itself all season with tough tournaments against the state's top private and public school programs. The Eagles won the City Prep championship for the first time and also shot 5 under as a team at the WillowBrook Invitational in late August.

A tournament victory at Heatherhurst in Crossville also did wonders for the Eagles' confidence because they beat powerhouses including Baylor, Montgomery Bell Academy and Ensworth, which won the Division II-AA state championship last week.

"Just to see them finish the season the way they started it with good solid golf is really satisfying," coach Rodney Mitchell said. "An unbeaten season rarely happens. There are so many good teams in the state and great golfers. To go undefeated is a big one for our group that has been rock solid all year."

Said Wood: "It was all 11 golfers on this team. Our back side could do really well, and everyone pushed each other. We all could rely on one another. The past few years it has been really easy to lean on each other and has been a lot of fun."

Beck opened with a 72 and closed with a 77 to finish eighth, and Burns tied for 10th with back-to-back 76s.

"This team can three-peat next year," Seay said of the Eagles, who also return Carson Johnson and Peyton Ogle, who shot 76 and 80, respectively, in the first round. "They have what it takes."

 

Holland is sixth

In the Small Class girls' state tournament, Sale Creek junior Ashley Holland showed steadiness as she and Gordonsville's Sophie Linder — the top-finishing individual — tied for the state tournament lead with 24 pars over 36 holes.

Holland closed with a 77 to finish 15 over and finish sixth, and her Lady Panthers finished one stroke behind state runner-up Adamsville. Summertown won the team title.

"I feel good about how the season went," said Holland, who along with freshman Carly Wetherhill helped Sale Creek win district and region championships. "Next year we are coming for the top two spots and want to win it all. We can do it as long as we keep our head in the game."

Contact Patrick MacCoon at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.

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