Strode inks Clay’s first-ever golf scholarship

DESERVING OF A BIG HAND-Savanna Strode (seated center, in white), with her parents Chastity and Donnie seated to the left beside her and Cumberland University head golf coach Richard Williams on her right, receives a round of applause from (standing, left to right) teammates Madison Baijo, Baleigh McLerran, and Alayshia Brannon, coaches Betty Jo White and Amy Dodson, principal Melissa White, director of schools Jerry Strong, Dewayne Randolph of Cumberland Bend Golf Course, State Rep. Kelly Keisling, coach Doug Strong (at podium), and the entire Clay County High School student body after signing a scholarship to play golf at Cumberland last week.  (HORIZON photo by Thomas P. Weaver)

DESERVING OF A BIG HAND-Savanna Strode (seated center, in white), with her parents Chastity and Donnie seated to the left beside her and Cumberland University head golf coach Richard Williams on her right, receives a round of applause from (standing, left to right) teammates Madison Baijo, Baleigh McLerran, and Alayshia Brannon, coaches Betty Jo White and Amy Dodson, principal Melissa White, director of schools Jerry Strong, Dewayne Randolph of Cumberland Bend Golf Course, State Rep. Kelly Keisling, coach Doug Strong (at podium), and the entire Clay County High School student body after signing a scholarship to play golf at Cumberland last week. (HORIZON photo by Thomas P. Weaver)

By THOMAS P. WEAVER, HORIZON Editor

CELINA-Clay County High School senior golfer Savanna Strode capped off an amazing prep career here last week by signing a scholarship with Cumberland University–the first-ever inked by a Lady Bulldog golfer.

“Savanna is the total package,” Cumberland golf coach Richard Williams said of his newest signee.  “She’s a great player, a pleasant person, and a standout academically.

“We feel lucky to have her.”

Strode led her team to back-to-back conference championships in her final two seasons and made her second consecutive state tournament appearance in October, all while maintaining a perfect 4.0 grade point average (GPA)–all feats that caught the eye of the university based in Lebanon.

“She wants to be here and we couldn’t be more excited about her coming, especially with the accomplishments she has made in high school,”  Williams said.  “Her work ethic is unmatched and she is super intelligent.

“That’s why we are looking for her to step in as a leader on our team.”

The signing ceremony was held here in the CCHS gym in front of the entire student body and State Representative Kelly Keisling was also on hand, not only to honor Strode’s accomplishments, but also to recognize the entire team’s efforts.

HONORED BY STATE HOUSE-Lady Bulldog golfers (left to right) Savanna Strode, Madison Baijo, Baleigh McLerran, and Alayshia Brannon were presented a copy of a proclamation from the Tennessee State House honoring their back-to-back conference championships and other accomplishments by State Rep. Kelly Keisling (center) at a ceremony held at Clay County High School last week. (HORIZON photo by Thomas P. Weaver)

HONORED BY STATE HOUSE-Lady Bulldog golfers (left to right) Savanna Strode, Madison Baijo, Baleigh McLerran, and Alayshia Brannon were presented a copy of a proclamation from the Tennessee State House honoring their back-to-back conference championships and other accomplishments by State Rep. Kelly Keisling (center) at a ceremony held at Clay County High School last week. (HORIZON photo by Thomas P. Weaver)

Keisling presented Strode; her teammates Madison Baijo, Alayshia Brannon, and Baleigh McLerran; and her coaches Amy Dodson, Doug Strong, and Betty Jo White a copy of a proclamation from the State House honoring the team’s accomplishments, along with the latest edition of the Tennessee Blue Book.

“Winning back-to-back conference championships is amazing and what Savannah has accomplished individually is equally impressive,” Keisling said as he prepared to read the proclamation to the crowd gathered.

Dodson also addressed those in attendance and credited her volunteer coaches (Strong and White), Dewayne Randolph of Cumberland Bend Golf Course, principal Melissa White, and director of schools Jerry Strong, among others, for the overall success of the program.

“If it weren’t for these individuals we wouldn’t have a golf team,” Dodson said.  “Dewayne opened his doors to this team, Doug and Betty Jo do this without any pay, and principal White and director Strong have been more than cooperative in helping the team.”

Director Strong reiterated Dodson’s sentiments saying “there would be no golf team without the volunteers,” and said the team’s accomplishments were a product of the time the volunteers gave to the program.

Coach Strong spoke of the team’s academic success–which was recognized by the TSSAA, and recapped their season on the links.  He explained Brannon’s 3.74 GPA, Baijo’s 3.7 GPA, and McLerran’s 3.2 GPA, combined with Strode’s perfection, averaged out to a team mark of 3.66–enough to obtain the highest honor of “distinguished” from the athletic association.

AT THE STATE-Savanna Strode stares down a putt at this year’s TSSAA State Tournament during her second consecutive appearance in the championship. (photo courtesy CCHS Media)

AT THE STATE-Savanna Strode stares down a putt at this year’s TSSAA State Tournament during her second consecutive appearance in the championship. (photo courtesy CCHS Media)

Strode then addressed her fellow students, players, coaches, and others before she signed on the dotted line.

“I want to thank all of you for making my dreams come true,” she said while sitting alongside her parents, Chastity and Donnie.

She also spoke directly to her new coach, offering a look into her future.

“Thank you for showing the interest in me,” Strode said to Williams.  “I promise you won’t regret it.”

See a future HORIZON for updates on Strode’s progress at Cumberland or visit www.gocumberlandathletics.com.  For more details about the team’s district championship, visit www.dalehollowhorizon.com and search for “golf.”