BY DAVE LINK
Alyssa Montgomery of Central and Cade Russell of Christian Academy of Knoxville share the highest of goals for their golf careers.
They eventually want to play professional golf after playing college golf.
Montgomery has signed to play for Virginia Tech and Russell with Tennessee. They’ll be college freshmen this coming fall.
“I think with the resources that the University of Tennessee has and then with the coaching available there and the time available to put in, it’s definitely an attainable goal,” Russell said.
“But at the same time, it’s a great school with great help from academic counselors for a backup plan if (pro golf) doesn’t work out for me. That’s definitely what I’m trying to do, play professionally, but we’ll see. Whatever God’s plan is.”
Montgomery knows she’s got work to do before reaching her goal.
“That’s definitely a desire I want to do, going pro,” she said. “So it’s just a matter of getting to Tech and continuing to improve my game and playing against other bigger college golfers, and just getting more experience on and off the course to prepare for that.”
Both players capped remarkable careers with big senior seasons in 2018 and are the inaugural 5Star Preps golfers of the year.
Russell won the 2018 Division II-A state tournament and led CAK to its second consecutive state title. He was on the roster for three state championship teams (2015, 2017-18) and posted a individual fourth-place finish at state in 2017.
“It’s extremely awesome,” Russell said of his CAK career. “It’s really hard to put into words. I can’t believe it worked out like that. It was just a group of guys that had a goal to accomplish from every single person on the team to the coaching staff.
“We start practicing high school golf right after dead period in the summer at the end of June or early July. We know our goals, so it was definitely really cool to be on a team that was focused and knew what it wanted to accomplish and be able to do it.”
In the 2018 Division II-A state tournament, Russell shot even-par 72 on the opening round and was two strokes off the lead. He started on the 10th hole on the second day and liked his chances.
“I didn’t start making putts until (Hole No.) 16, and after that, I started getting some putts to fall and the rest is history,” Russell said.
Russell made the turn at 3-under and went 2-under on the front nine for a 67, the low score of the tournament.
“It’s a picture-perfect finish,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for better, getting a team state championship and a win as an individual.”
Montgomery didn’t have quite the fortune in the Division I Class Large tournament at WillowBrook at state schedule Oct. 1-2.
After the first round, Montgomery was third with a 3-under 69, one shot behind Station Camp’s Lynn Lim and two shots behind leader Isabelle Van der Biest of Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett.
As inclement weather moved into the area, Montgomery doubted a second round would be played.
“Going into it, we kind of knew there was a good possibility there was going to be a washout,” Montgomery said. “Just watching the weather that night, that it was supposed to rain just for hours that evening and all through the next day, and I think even people during the first round got rained on pretty good the last few holes, so we weren’t expecting to be able to play the next day.”
They didn’t play the second round due to the weather, and the first-round leaderboard stood with Montgomery in third place.
“I really feel she would have won had we played the next day,” said Central coach Tony Patterson, the inaugural 5Star Preps girls’ coach of the year. “For the season, she was 26-under-par, which is unbelievable, so she wasn’t going to go backward. I really feel bad she didn’t get a chance.”
It still stings Montgomery.
“Yeah, it was very disappointing,” she said, “because I knew I could go out and shoot that same score I did the first day or even improve on that even more and easily come out with a win.”
Montgomery was on a roll going into state, having won four consecutive tournaments – one in Oak Ridge, one in Morristown, and the District 3-AAA and Region 2-AAA tournaments.
She was an all-state player all four years with a fifth-place finish as a freshman, a sixth-place the next year, and a seventh-place as a junior.
“She’s a phenomenal player and a hard worker,” Patterson said. “She has a tremendous amount of talent but she works at it just about as hard as anybody I’ve ever seen. Golf is not easy. It’s hard to have most of your game working, but I hardly ever saw her when her game wasn’t working. She’s so intelligent, and she always knew where she was and what she needed to do.”
Montgomery was at the top of her game last summer in the Tennessee State Open Championships.
It was her second consecutive appearance in tournament with Patterson as her caddie. She plans to play again this coming summer.
“I really enjoyed the past one, especially having coach Patterson on the bag with me,” Montgomery said.
“I just really enjoyed that and being able to compete against those other college golfers and even some who were professionals, trying to get their cards, and being able to see how I rank up against them was really exciting.”