Cam Barackman bumped into Leonard Park at the Signature at West Neck golf course a year and a half ago.
It was their first encounter, despite regularly practicing at the same course. They didn’t know it then, but that day would alter the landscape of Beach boys high school golf for years.
Barackman was then a rising freshman at Floyd Kellam High School, while Park was in the middle school at Cape Henry Collegiate.
The two bonded through their passion for golf and began practicing together religiously. The following school year, Barackman delivered an impressive season for the Knights’ varsity team, highlighted by an individual Atlantic Conference tournament championship and MVP.
Then he began to heckle Park about transferring to Kellam.
“I knew we could use him on our golf team,” Barackman said. “I kept working on him to come here.”
Barackman’s recruiting paid off this past summer when Park decided to attend Kellam.
“They needed a number two player,” Park said. “I was really excited to join.”
Coach Jason Copeland was also excited, as Park’s decision has played out perfectly this fall.
The Knights finished undefeated in Beach District matches (10-0) and the Coastal Conference (6-0) this regular season. Kellam qualified for the Region 6A tournament, marking the 11th consecutive year the Knights reached the Region tournament since Copeland took the helm.
“I knew coming in that my top three (golfers) were better than everybody else’s top three,” Copeland said. “I knew other teams will have a tough time beating us.”
Barackman’s 73.1 and Park’s 74.2 stroke averages lead the Knights and pose as one of the area’s most formidable one-two punches.
The duo’s close friendship doesn’t impede their competition against each other. Barackman said it gets intense when the two take the course together.
Their coach has seen it first-hand.
“They’re friends, but they both want to beat each other,” Copeland said. “I think it’s good for them. I think it’ll make them better.”
The two lead Kellam on the scoreboard and by example. Barackman and Park stay on the course hours after practice to get more shots up.
It’s a routine that’s caught on with their teammates.
“They see how well they play and what they’re doing, and it’s contagious,” Copeland said.
Dylan Martin, Kellam’s number three scorer (76.8 average), has been a calming and consistent presence for Copeland’s young team.
The All-Conference junior has been “solid and steady,” Copeland said, and looks to qualify for the state tournament for the second consecutive year.
Copeland’s fourth leading scorer, senior Matt Wawner, averages an 82 and has scored in the mid- to high 70s. Collin Haws has lowered his average 15 shots from last year to an 85, showing much potential, Copeland said.
Last week, Kellam finished second in the Coastal Conference tournament to First Colonial High School after the Knights had what Copeland called “a bad first day.” The team is focused on bouncing back from that sub-par performance when they play Wednesday at the regional tournament at Magnolia Green in Richmond.
The one-day, 18-hole tourney doesn’t provide any room for error.
Talent is not an issue for Kellam; Copeland is confident about his team’s chances. He’s more curious to see how his players perform away from home.
“Sometimes you take a young team out of town, and it’ll be a little tougher going to Richmond, but they can do it,” Copeland said. “(Cam and Leonard) are used to playing tournaments everywhere.”
“That’s going to be the big key: If they can take their game on the road,” he said.
Barackman echoed his coach’s comments.
“It’s take care of business time,” he said. “We can’t force the issue. We know the good scores will come. If we play to our potential, things should unfold, and I think we’ll make it to states.”
Follow Joe Saade’s coverage of Virginia Beach high school sports on Twitter @SouthsideTeams. To submit story ideas, or to suggest players or teams to profile, email him at Joe@southsidedaily.com.