STILLWATER — It's been Edmond North's strategy all season.
An unintentional strategy. One that has driven coach Jeff Doherty crazy.
Edmond North has always started slow in the first round, then rebounded on the next 18 holes.
But never like this.
After shooting a 21-over 309 in Monday's first round of the Class 6A state tournament, Edmond North shaved 27 strokes off its second-round score to finish the day with a 591.
That allowed Edmond North to jump from third to first — with a 13-stroke lead over second-place Edmond Santa Fe. And it has put Edmond North in prime position to capture its ninth consecutive team title heading into Tuesday's final round.
“That's the worst round of golf that I've seen since 2004, and it's the best round of golf that I've seen since 2004,” Doherty said. “In the same day. We've shot lower to par than that, but not a course as hard as Karsten Creek.
“ … They weren't down (after the first round). They were so embarrassed that I knew they would play well. I just did not know they were going to do this.”
Every Edmond North player improved their score by at least three strokes, led by Hayden Wood's 6-under 66 and Nick Heinen's 4-under 68. Heinen's Day 1 score of 142 trails Edmond Santa Fe and defending medalist Max McGreevy by one stroke for the individual lead, while Wood is four shots back with a score of 145.
“At a course like this, anything can happen,” Wood said. “We always kind of get off to a slow start, but this golf course is hard and we just get warmed up ...”
Wood's 66 was the best round of the day. He tallied seven birdies and an eagle on 14 on a putt off the green.
Others that enter Tuesday in contention for medalist honors include Jenks’ Brendon Jelley, Norman North’s Thomas Johnson and Edmond Memorial's Ty Tamura, who all finished with a 1-under 143.
Edmond North used a similar formula last year, ranking second in the team standings after the first round only to blow away the competition on the second 18 holes and cruise to its eighth consecutive championship.
Doherty is still trying to figure out the reason for the bumpy starts. Perhaps each player is trying to jump out to an early lead, he said, rather than just playing the round hole-by-hole.
“I think they all changed their mindset a little bit the first round,” the coach said, “and then they all just locked down. It can go south on you for two rounds, and fortunately, it just went the opposite.”
On the drive back to Edmond, Doherty said he planned to ask his team to be honest about what happened on those first 18 holes and what then keyed the gigantic turnaround.
And the message for Tuesday's final round will be simple and obvious: Use the second-round approach.
“I'm not going to get into any analytical thing,” Doherty said. “They know I'm not like that. They'd start laughing at me. I'll just tell them, ‘Tell me what was your thought the first round?' And I'll let them talk to me. Then I'll say ‘OK, now what was your thought the second round? Let's approach tomorrow like that.'
“That doesn't mean that they're going to shoot (a 282) again. That's unbelievable. But I think it does mean they'll just do things that they know are to their strengths. I don't want them to play safe. They wouldn't have shot 282 if they had played safe.”