Even with a final-round 65 Tuesday, Patrick Stephenson knew it probably wasn’t going to be enough to make up 18 spots on the leader board at the NCHSAA 3A boys’ golf championships.
The South Johnston junior’s blazing round made up all but one of those positions on the leader board. His 6-under round with six birdies and no bogeys earned him a second-place finish, even with an opening-day 75.
Stephenson came in at 2 under for the 36-hole tournament on a 6,513-yard Longleaf Golf and Country Club layout. Nick Lyerly of East Rowan had a 67 to come in at 4 under and take the state championship.
“There were too many good players out here for it to hold up,” Stephenson said of his score, which was posted more than two hours before Lyerly finished. “I knew I gave it away” Monday.
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Stephenson said the key Tuesday was wedge play. He spent a few hours Monday afternoon at the Pinehurst practice facilities working on his wedge game.
His round included a triple-bogey after he hit his tee shot out of bounds on the 180-yard, par-3, 13th and a pair of uncharacteristic bogeys.
“I made two bogeys from the middle of the fairway with a wedge in my hand,” Stephenson said. “But the work I did on the range paid off today.”
He got a lucky break on the No. 17 when his tee shot sailed wide of the fairway, took a bounce off of the cart path and came to rest just a few inches from the out of bounds line. After chipping out and hitting his third shot on the par-5 hole to 20 feet, he just missed a birdie putt.
“I had a lot of opportunities today with wedges from the fairway, really hit my driver well both days,” Stephenson said. “Anything within 10 feet or so, I was really on putting, made a lot of those length birdie putts.”
The East Carolina recruit posted four straight pars to open his round Tuesday, then he birdied the two par-5s on the front nine. He birdied Nos. 10 and 13 to get to even par. Birdies on the 16th and 18th got him under par for the tournament.
“Patrick had a totally different demeanor today than he did yesterday,” said South Johnston coach Daniel Benson. “He made great wedge shots, the shots he didn’t hit in the first round. He rolled in a couple of 20-foot par putts, which make a huge difference. He played a lot more aggressive today at the right times.”
Gastonia Forestview shot 290 Tuesday to take the team championship by five strokes over East Rowan (585-590). Waxhaw Marvin Ridge (594) was third.
Corinth Holders recorded its third straight top-six finish, tying Rockingham County for sixth at 620. Continuing the consistency theme of the Pirates’ season, they posted 310s on both days.
Sam Baxter led Corinth Holders with a 5-over 147, and Kellen LaBonte came in at 13 over and Monty Fields was 14 over.
“We were hoping for a little bit better finish, but we just didn’t have those great couple of rounds we needed each day,” said Pirates coach Theresa Gale. “We’re proud, but you know it just could have been a little better.”
Corinth Holders was just four strokes above its season 18-hole scoring average both days on a championship stage where team scores typically trend higher than normal.
Cardinal Gibbons finished 10th at 643. Chuck Swoboda led the Crusaders with a two-day total of 154. Cameron Delahunty added a 16-over 158.
Dalton Mauldin of Lee County was in a four-way tie for third. He shot 71s on both days.