Top Sports Stories of the year ranked 10-6

Published 4:43 pm Tuesday, December 27, 2016

10. Bainbridge man remembers Arnold Palmer in wake of passing

The golf world shed a tear in September when legendary golfer Arnold Palmer passed away in Pittsburgh at 87.

A Bainbridge man who was friends with him was stricken by the news as well.

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George Herring, 85, saw the news on his television, and he remembered back to when he met the accomplished golfer for the first time.

Palmer, who happened to also be an accomplished pilot, was flying his plane in 1963 and experienced turbulence. He needed to land, quickly.

Fortunately for him, he was right over Decatur County. He started his descent to the Decatur County Airport below. Leonard Conger, an attorney in Bainbridge, called Herring to tell him who just landed.

“So I went out here and met him and talked to him, and he asked me how golf was going,” Herring said. “He asked what clubs I used.”

“He said, ‘How about being on my staff, George.’ That’s how it started. I signed with him,” Herring recalled.

Palmer’s company, Axiom, supplied Herring with a new golf bag, a full set of clubs and two dozen golf balls every week. Herring was ecstatic.

“It was great,” he said. “I was tickled to death. Brand new equipment and balls to play with. It was fantastic.”

9. Atlanta Falcons Mom Clinic puts mothers on the football field

Almost a hundred people stood on the Bainbridge practice field back in February, black liner under their eyes and wearing shirts that read “Rise Up” in silver letters on the back.

If your first thought is the Atlanta Falcons football team had come to practice at Bainbridge High School, nobody would blame you. They were local mothers, each one there to learn more about how to raise their football playing kids and the safety measures they need to take into account along the way.

The Atlanta Falcons, in partnership with Kids & Pros, hosted a mom’s only clinic in Bainbridge. Former FSU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward, former Falcons linebacker Buddy Curry and other guest speakers educated the mothers for an hour before taking them out to the fields to put them through their own football training.

Topics ranged from concussions, to steroid use to working hard both on the field and in the classroom for a successful career.

“I totally didn’t know how easily you could get steroids mailed to your front door,” said Kathy Williams, mother of Bainbridge running back Malique Pate. Williams said she was definitely going to teach all the information she learned to her son.

Curry led the ladies on the field as they went through passing drills, tackling dummies and agilities, all while laughing and cheering each other on.

8. Pam Martin-Wells wins eighth Angler of the Year trophy

For the eighth year, Bainbridge professional angler Pam Martin-Wells won Angler of the Year on the Women’s Pro Bass Tour.

From her very first cast of the season on Lake Hartwell, the season was a success and it continued through the final tournament of the year on Bull Shoals Lake.

On Bull Shoals, with the angler of the year title on the line, she decided to break with conventional wisdom and fish her way.

The dock talk had said that the fish would no longer be near the bank as the water level was quickly falling.

“I went and played my game,” she said. “They really liked that frog and I was having a lot of fun.”

Her way worked as she won the tournament and claimed her eighth angler of the year award.

7. Poncherella Leonard breaks school records

Poncherella Leonard tried to break the school record in the 1600-meter at the first meet of the 2016 season, but he fell 1.77 seconds short when he ran a 4:32.59 at the meet in Tallahassee. Going into the Larry Clark Invitational at Bainbridge High School, the expectation was that he could shave those last few seconds off his time.

Leonard knew what was at stake, so he went out fast running the lap in 1:05 to lead a tightly grouped pack. After three laps Leonrad’s time was 3:27, meaning he would have to run the final lap in no more than 1:03, his fastest lap of the race, to break the record.

“I was trying to judge it, be the hunter and I didn’t want to get hunted,” Leonard said. “When we crossed for that fourth lap I knew that I could get him so I went ahead and pulled away.”

With each step he pulled farther away from two other runners. He ran the final lap in just 1:02 to finish in 4:29.26 and break the school and meet records in the race. The school record was previously 4:30.82 set by Chase Harris last year. The meet record was 4:31.77 and was set in 2014.

6. Basscats fishing teams compete at Nationals

The Bainbridge Basscats participated in The Costa Bassmaster High School Series National Championship. The tournament saw young anglers from across the country meeting at Kentucky Lake in Paris, Tennessee, to compete to be the best in the nation.

Bainbridge High School fishermen Cuyler Duke and Bryson Arthur came in 76 out of 170 high school teams, each featuring two anglers.

Duke, 16, and Arthur, 15, reeled in 13 pounds, 14 ounces of fish after Day 3.

The water was nothing like either had seen before, they said. Tons of rocks. No grass. The two sophomore settled for finding bass on docks and rocks.

Duke and Arthur arrived at Paris, Tennessee, on Friday, July 29, and practiced fishing every day until the tournament started Thursday, Aug. 4.

Junior Division Basscats were eighth graders Laney Birdsong, 13 and Hunter Davis, 13, who qualified for the tournament after winning the Junior State Championship at Lake Seminole in June.

Birdsong and Davis came in 27th out of 29 teams, but were optimistic about the experience and can’t wait to compete again.