RALEIGH — Monday’s conference tournament at MacGregor Downs Country Club in Cary will be winner-take-all for Athens Drive and Green Hope’s boys’ golf teams.
Whichever one of those teams finishes higher in the Tri-9 tournament, which will be 18 holes instead of the regular-season usual of nine, will claim the conference’s title. They’re tied for first with 76 points each.
Green Hope has won the conference title for the last 10 years, and it has almost never been this close.
“After the first few matches, you’d go to the scoreboard after the match having no idea who would win because we were just so close,” Athens senior Seth Meade said. “It felt good to finally put some pressure on (Green Hope).”
Athens Drive won several conference championships as a member of the Triangle Alliance Athletic Conference before joining the Tri-9 (then Tri-8) in 2005-06.
“I’ve been on the team for four years, and each year we’ve improved in the standings progressively,” Meade said. “And it feels great to finally be in a position to win the conference championship.”
The conference player of the year race is coming down to Green Hope sophomore James Mishoe (36.9 strokes per nine holes) and returning player of the year Holly Springs senior Tim Conover (37.7). Athens Drive freshman Eric Bae (38) missed one more match than the minimum allowed to be in player of the year consideration.
Holly Springs (50.5 points) and Cary (48) are in position to round out the conference’s four regional qualifying teams. Lee County (41) and Apex (40) are hoping a strong tournament performance can leapfrog them ahead of the other two.
“We only have six guys on the team,” said Cary senior Nick Ciampa. “So we’ve been deeper in the past, but we’re still going at it like we always have been.”
Wednesday’s match at Brier Creek Country Club was the finale for the Tri-9 regular season
The match was a unique one, having four different golfers shoot 36 to split the medalist honors.
Two of those came from Cary High – Ciampa and Michael Erhlickman – while the other two were Mishoe and Holly Springs’ Jacob Smith.
“It feels pretty good. I’ve been struggling lately, but it all came together today,” said Smith, a junior. “It was probably the best-conditioned greens we’ve played on in the Tri-9 all year.”
Erhlickman, a junior, echoed a sentiment that was popular among other players on Wednesday – that by having only two conference matches in three weeks, he was able to take more time to practice.
“I was able to work on my swing a lot and able to dial it in and start getting to where I needed to go,” Erhlickman said.
The Tri-9 has visited MacGregor twice this year, and Athens and Green Hope each took victories.
Blake: 919-460-2606; On Twitter: @JMBpreps