This year’s Southwest Wake Athletic Conference golf tournament comes at a cost.
Apex Friendship and Athens Drive tied for the tournament title, so the SWAC will have to pony up for an extra trophy so that each school has one.
And Friendship has a new expense on the books for the first time: it’s time for athletics director Matt Clifton to order a banner.
The Patriots won the SWAC for their first conference championship in any sports. Friendship entered the match 5.5 points ahead of Athens Drive, so the tie for first meant no change in the final margin of victory: 76.5-71.
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“We’re a golf school now!” one of the players said to a teammate as the scores posted made the title official.
The tournament itself underwent multiple changes in just a few days.
Hurricane Matthew led to canceled classes on Monday, which moved the tournament to Wednesday. The course recovered quickly after flooding in some areas.
The reporting deadline to the N.C. High School Athletic Association was Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m., so the tournament was shortened from 18 holes to nine an started at 8:30 a.m. to ensure coaches could get their entries in on time.
Panther Creek was third in the final standings followed by Holly Springs and Middle Creek, which were back-and-forth battling for fourth place.
FIRST FRIENDSHIP TITLE
Coach Courtney West knew better than most that her team – seventh last year – could be in for a breakthrough season. The Patriots’ balance was what pulled them to the top.
“We knew we were going to grow a lot,” West said. “A lot of the girls did a lot of work in the offseason, so to our small group of Apex Friendship people – while it was a surprise – it probably wasn’t as big of one as to people on the outside.”
Sophomore Caroline Duggan (40.8 strokes per nine holes), who was a state qualifier last season, was even a little uncertain what this year would hold.
“We weren’t thinking (conference championship),” Duggan said.
But as it turns out, she and teammates junior Cassidy Vaughn (43.6) and sophomore Elizabeth Tart (48.0), sophomore Kait Cvijanovich (54.0) and junior Ashleigh Purvis (52.3) all stayed within a few 10-12 strokes of each other for most of the year.
CHANG WINS POTY
Athens Drive’s Jennifer Chang, a junior and two-time defending state champion, won the conference tourament and player of the year award for a second straight season. This year was her tougher than last season thanks to back-and-forth competition with Holly Springs senior Natalie Petersen.
Petersen got the better of Chang twice but Chang won out on six occasions. Petersen’s lowest score this year was a 31, which earned her an NCHSAA female athlete of the week award.
Chang’s lowest was 30.
“We were just kind of going at it this year. I started out pretty good with a lot of birdies and I think I may have used them all up because they weren’t coming towards the end of the season,” said Petersen, a Georgia Southern recruit, with a laugh. “(Chang) definitely played well towards the end and came through.”
Petersen may have an advantage on the field at next week’s regional at Pine Hollow, where she played almost every day in a middle school league.
Chang knows what she needs to focus on this time of year: poise. She didn’t get flustered when down after Day 1 of last year’s 4A championships and it paid off with a title.
“I’m pretty confident with my game right now, putting and everything. Everything’s pretty well put together,” said Chang, a Southern Cal recruit. “Everything is one shot at a time.”
For the most part, the list of girls who qualified for the 4A East regional is a copy-and-paste from the all-conference team.
Players needed an average nine-hole stroke average of 50 or lower, but could drop one round for qualifying purposes only.
Making regionals were first-teamers Chang, Petersen, Duggan, Panther Creek’s Jenna Nagy (38.3), Middle Creek’s Jillian Presiach (40.2) and Athens Drive’s Kayla Parsons (40.6) and second-teamers like Vaughn, Tart, Cary’s Katie Khiev (49.4), Middle Creek’s A.C. Risett (49.9), Apex’s Margauz Whitley (48.7) and Green Hope’s Jessica Nee (49.9) and Lauren Nee (48.4).
Green Hope’s Anika Bhatnager (50.6) and Panther Creek’s Riley Stout (50.5) are also heading to regionals after dropping their worst round.
That leaves Friendship and Green Hope as the only two teams that could advance from regionals to the state competition. The top three teams at regionals move on, and three golfers are needed to score as a team.
1. Apex Friendship 76.5
2. Athens Drive 71
3. Panther Creek 62
4. Holly Springs 52
5. Middle Creek 49
6. Green Hope 40.5
7. Apex 22
8. Cary 17
9. Fuquay-Varina 14
Golfer of the year: Jennifer Chang, Athens Drive
Coach of the year: Courtney West, Apex Friendship
Jennifer Chang, Athens Drive
Natalie Petersen, Holly Springs
Jenna Nagy, Panther Creek
Jillian Presiach, Middle Creek
Kayla Parsons, Athens Drive
Caroline Duggan, Apex Friendship
Jessica Nee, Green Hope
Margaux Whitley, Apex
Cassidy Vaughn, Apex Friendship
Lauren Nee, Green Hope
A.C. Risett, Middle Creek
Elizabeth Tart, Apex Friendship
Katie Khiev, Cary
T1. Apex Friendship 125
T1. Athens Drive 125
T3. Panther Creek 138
T3. Panther Creek 138
5. Holly Springs 144
6. Green Hope 147
7. Fuquay-Varina 171
8. Cary 173
9. Apex N/A