BOYS GOLFER OF THE YEAR | DREW GRIFFITHS
FORT SMITH – Van Buren’s Drew Griffiths remembers the moment very clearly the first time he beat his dad, Brandon, on the golf course although his dad has a different version.
“They claim it when I was 17, but I remember it very vividly; it was at Eagle Crest and I was maybe 12, 11 to 13, somewhere in there,” Drew Griffiths said. “I beat him by one or two strokes. I told my mom, and she thought it was the biggest thing ever.”
That’s always a big moment in the life of a son.
“He doesn’t admit it,” Drew Griffiths said. “He thinks he can beat me now.”
Drew Griffiths has earned victories over a lot of foes over the past several years.
He’s the Inaugural River Valley Democrat-Gazette Boys Golfer of the Year.
Griffiths finished fourth in the Class 5A state golf tournament to help lead Van Buren to a third-place finish.
His career has been a steady progression for the four-year varsity golfer for the Pointers.
“It’s progressed a lot,” Griffiths said. “I’ve gotten bigger and stronger through the years. You kind of have to change your game as you get bigger. You learn how to play golf and manage yourself to where you can have a little area where you shoot and not have big numbers . You kind of keep it a general area. I think that’s one of the biggest things in golf is to be consistent.”
He competed against Class 6A competition as a freshman, missed the state tournament by one stroke as a sophomore and finished fifth last year with an 80 at the Class 5A state tournament. This year, he led Van Buren to a conference Championship with a whopping 31-stroke lead and was the individual medalist with a 71.
Griffiths started playing golf when he was three and also played baseball and basketball until the ninth grade when he turned his attention to just golf.
“The last four years, it’s just been straight golf,” Griffiths said. “My dad and some of his Buddies always told me you can play golf all your life, and you can’t play baseball and basketball the rest of your life. I knew I had a special Talent and could go a long way with it compared to basketball and baseball. I chose golf, and now I’m running with it.”
Griffiths just signed to play collegiately at Arkansas Tech and continues to play wherever or whoever he can.
“All the time, I’ll play with my dad or my buddies that are either my age or younger,” Griffiths said.
GIRLS CO-GOLFERS OF THE YEAR | PERI TYGART and MADDY FLYNN
FORT SMITH – Peri Tygart, Maddy Flynn and their Charleston teammates thought this might be their year to finally crack through for a golf championship.
“We thought from last year, we were runners up two years in a row,” Tygart said. “We thought we had a shot because Bismarck lost a lot of seniors.”
With Tygart, a senior, and Flynn, a junior, leading the way, the Lady Tigers won the Class 3A Championship by 19 strokes over second-place Melbourne and finally didn’t have to worry about Bismarck, which won four titles in a row with the last two just ahead of Charleston.
Tygart and Flynn are the Inaugural River Valley Co-Girls Golfer of the Year.
The Championship didn’t come without a little drama, though.
“It’s so crazy, it was so surreal,” Tygart said. “We were all waiting for them to put it on the scoreboard. There was one team left that didn’t have their score up, and one was really good. We were all nervous and holding hands.”
The score was posted; Charleston 287, Melbourne 306.
“Then the score went up and we finally knew,” Tygart said. “We started screaming and crying. We knew before it was announced because of the scores.”
Charleston golf Coach Jay Crowley knew his Lady Tigers would have a chance this season so they played at the course, Horseshoe Bend, during the summer.
“We played this summer at the course because our Coach thought we had a shot,” Flynn said. “As the season went on, we were beating everybody in our district.”
Tygart finished third in the state championship, shooting 93, with Flynn right behind her in fourth, shooting 94.
Tygart went on to the Overall golf Championship and finished 13th with a 95.
Last year, Flynn was fifth at the Class 3A Championship with an 88, and Tygart was 10th with a 93.
Tygart finished 15th as a sophomore in 2020 with a 105 again helping Charleston to a runner-up trophy.
This season, Tygart enlisted the help of her boyfriend, Brandon Scott, to play during the summer.
“I put more time in,” Tygart said. “I got my boyfriend into golf so that was our thing. We always golfed together and was always on the course together. That made me better. We pushed each other. We played a lot more.”
Tygart also enjoyed beating Scott, who also golfed in the boys Championship and is a football and basketball standout.
“He’s very competitive,” Tygart said. “I beat him most of the time, but he puts up good competition. When he loses, it makes him mad.”
Flynn has only been golfing since the ninth grade, picking it up because of her grandfather, Mike, and her dad, Cody.
“I play with my grandpa,” Flynn said. “I started in ninth grade and then we went every day in the summer. We’d have golf practice in the morning, and then I would go with him when I got back. He’s taken me everywhere.”
She took to the sport very quickly.
“I thought it might be fun,” Flynn said. “They both played so I gave it a try. Now, it’s my favorite thing. I want to play all the time.”
Flynn also cheers and plays basketball and softball.
Her natural progression into an activity could have easily been into rodeo, though, given the family history, especially with her grandfather’s brother, Denny, who’s in the National Rodeo Hall of Fame as a Champion bull rider.
“Dad tried to make me a cowgirl,” Flynn said. “Thanksgiving break, I went to feed with him. That’s about it.”
Flynn is already looking towards next year when she will be counted on to lead the Lady Tigers’ golf team.
“There are also some other girls and they depend on the day,” Flynn said. “Yes, we’re looking to repeat.”