The local favorites made the most of their day at the 3A East Regional Girls Golf Championships on Monday at Reedy Creek Golf Course.
Host school South Johnston did something — winning a team regional title — it has never done — or even thought about doing — in the less than decade old history program. And Two Rivers 3A Conference individual champion Peyton LaBonte of Corinth Holders played another super steady, productive round to win the individual regional title.
The Trojans and LaBonte will be joined by two golfers from Smithfield-Selma and one from Cleveland in this coming week’s NCHSAA State Championships at Longleaf Golf and Country Club in Southern Pines. Golfers’ finishes at the regional championship events determined the state qualifiers across the state this week.
LaBonte led the field with a super steady round of 7-over-par, 79.
“Peyton works hard at every practice, focusing on every shot like it’s the shot that will win the match,” said Corinth Holders coach Matthew Schendel. “Peyton has a routine before every shot that enables her to block out the pressure and focus on the process. She also understands the situation (her status in the match, the position of the shot, or how to capitalize on her score) better than most golfers.
“Even after a less than stellar shot, Peyton focuses on what she needs to do next because she understands that every shot matters.”
South Johnston finished at 283 as a team, 11 shots ahead of Lee County. Jacksonville (318) finished third.
“It’s amazing and hard to believe, not because we’re South Johnston, a relatively young program. It’s just a very hard thing to accomplish,” said Trojan golf coach Daniel Benson of the regional team championship. “(Winning the regional) wasn’t even one of our team goals to start the season. We talked about winning the conference, but not the regional.”
The regional was played closer to the gold tee length of 5,403 yards instead of the 4,632-yard layout the Johnston County and Two Rivers 3A Conference matches that were played on the course this season.
Sydney Wheeless led the Trojans with a round of 82, which earned her runner-up honors. Anna Weaver added a 98 (11th) place and Mackenzie Honeycutt finished at 103 for South.
“I started looking at the qualifying scores and I told the girls that if they’d play to your average scores, we’d be in this thing,” Benson said of the regional. “We had the second-best entry averages among the teams. I don’t know if that inspired them or what, but they went out and played very well.”
The Trojans also broke the trend of scores shooting higher once the shift to an 18-hole match came late in the season and losing the benefit of maximum double-par scores. The regional was South’s — and the rest of the Two Rivers 3A Conference’s — first late-season 18-hole match since Hurricane Matthew eliminated the final Two Rivers match.
Smithfield-Selma’s Maggie Riley and Natalie Hill both tied for eighth individually in the regional with scores of 95. Cleveland’s Taylor Hasick got into the state field with a score of 103.
4A East: Garner standout Kayla Ward tied for second at the 4A East Regional at Pine Hollow Golf Club in Clayton. Her round of 72 was two shots behind Athens Drive’s Jenny Chang.
Ward advanced to the state finals at Pinehurst No. 5, as did West Johnston’s Grace Olmstead who tied for 23rd at 88.
Cardinal Gibbons won the team title (227) with Wakefield second (248).
Just missing out on a state finals bid was Clayton’s Madyson Scott who carded a 91. Garner’s Taylor Whitley shot 99 in the regional and West’s Megan Britt finished at 101.
1A/2A East: North Johnston will compete as a team in the state 1A/2A championships after qualifying three golfers in the East Regional at Timberlake Golf Club.
Haley Narron led the Panthers with a round of 94, while teammates Jessica Phillips (108) and Caroline Baker (109) also qualified for the state championships at Foxfire Resort and Golf Club in Foxfire Village.
Princeton’s Casey Mitchell carded a round of 106 to grab one of the individual qualifying spots for states as well.