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Smith, Sykes shooting for title in national golf tourney

WESSON — Freshmen Craig Smith of Brookhaven and Dale MurphySykes of Monticello have high ambitions in this week’s NJCAADivision III National Golf Tournament at Chautauqua, N.Y. They arerepresenting Copiah-Lincoln Community College in the 4-daytournament which began today on the plush par-72 layout.

Smith and Sykes hope to follow in the footsteps of former Co-Linstandout Matt Mooney of Brookhaven. Two years ago Mooney wasnational runner-up.

“Matt Mooney told us about the course,” said Smith.

Sykes recalled the conversation, too. “(Chautauqua) is all bentgrass. The fairways are real lush. You take big divots.”

Smith, Sykes and Co-Lin golf coach Justin Smith flew to Buffaloand made the short drive to the course. They had the opportunity tosee Niagara Falls for the first time.

“Coach did a good job taking care of us this season,” saidSmith. “He got our stuff right.”

Smith and Sykes qualified for the nationals in theState/Regional competition at Canebrake Golf Club in Hattiesburg.Smith labeled Canebrake his favorite course because, “I shot69.”

Sykes said his favorite course this past season was Riverbirchwhich is located in Amory. “It was cold and rainy when we playedthere but I shot by best round, a 75. “It’s real pretty.”

On the season, Smith had a stroke average of 74.5. Sykesaveraged 78.1.

Smith, 6-foot-2, 165 pounds, decided to concentrate on golfafter a standout athletic career at Brookhaven Academy. He wasselected Mister Basketball on The DAILY LEADER’s All-Lincoln CountyTeam in 2003.

At Co-Lin, Smith said his favorite course is biology. In hisgolf bag, Smith uses a King Cobra driver, a Callaway Steelhead3-wood, Titleist 762 irons, a Cleveland sand wedge and a Kurt Curryputter. He putts left-handed but swings the rest of his clubs fromthe right side.

“Craig is an excellent natural talent,” said Coach Smith. “Hehas a lot of potential and I expect he’ll go on to another levelafter Co-Lin.”

Smith also played on Co-Lin’s tennis doubles team thisspring.

Sykes (6-0, 195) starred for the Lawrence County golf team inhigh school. His favorite class at Co-Lin is WorldCivilization.

In his bag, Sykes carries Taylormade RAC irons, a Titleistdriver and 5-wood, a Taylormade 3-wood, a Cleveland sand wedge anda Seemore putter.

“Dale is probably one of the hardest working golfers I’ve seen,”said Coach Smith. “He loves the game of golf and he thinks about it24/7. He has a load of talent, too.”

Wolf Tales: Smith said he decided to elevatethe Co-Lin golf program to Division II, starting next season,meaning the golfers will receive additional scholarship aid. “Thelocal talent around here is amazing.”

Besides Smith and Sykes, also returning for their sophomoreseasons are Eric Ferron of Brandon and Taylor Fortinberry ofGadsden, Ala. Incoming freshmen are Leland Hinton of Wesson, CodyJordan of Brookhaven and Jesse Smith of Summit.