The taste of success hasn’t exactly been sweet for the Panther Creek boys’ golf team this season.
But coach Nate Denton hopes that changes after his Catamounts stunned Green Hope by winning a Southwest Wake Athletic Conference match on Wednesday at Prestonwood Country Club.
The Falcons had won the previous seven SWAC matches this season by an average of 8.1 strokes. But led by medalist Viraj Garewal, who shot a 3-under-par 33, Panther Creek posted a score of 149 to beat Green Hope by two shots.
“I don’t believe we’re the best team in the conference, but to (win) one time this season is what we need going into postseason,” Denton said. “We can actually do something in regionals, which is the main goal. If you’re playing well at the end of the season, that’s all that really matters.”
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The Catamounts have had a roller-coaster season, finishing second in two matches, but they have been fifth once and fourth twice.
“I think a little bit of is complacency,” Denton said. “We had been bad a program for a long time, and then last year, we found some success. Maybe we rested a little bit too much when we should’ve been pushing. The taste of success sometimes hurts you and sometimes helps you. This could be the help, where before it’s been the hurt.”
PC’s Casey Yelverton finished tied for third with a 37, while teammate Stuart Scheill was tied for sixth at 39.
“We’ve really been struggling as a team, trying to find some depth on our team,” Garewal said. “To find it today was really good. We’ve got to believe, and this definitely helps us out. Just keep building from here.”
Garewal, a junior, has been terrific all season, leading the conference in stroke average while finishing first twice and second three times. He had an eagle and three birdies at Prestonwood, matching his low round of the season.
“Thirty-three, when you get that low, even one stroke lower than what you should, (it) is a big deal because it’s close to perfection,” Denton said.
Perfection is what Green Hope had been all season, building a commanding edge in the race for the SWAC lead. A deep Falcon team had three golfers in the top five of the conference in stroke average, and four players had earned medalist honors this season.
Coach Mike Robinson’s biggest problem has been figuring out which six of his golfers to play in each match.
“To pick the ones to come out and play, because they’re all pretty close, it’s been tough,” Robinson said. “But I reckon that’s why I make millions of dollars, right?”
Editor’s note: Robinson does not make millions of dollars.
Despite Brian Chen’s 2-under 34, the Falcons came up short Wednesday. Jack Massei (38) was fifth, with Rob McPartland (39) tied for sixth.
“We just didn’t play real well today, not to (the level) where we thought we would here at home,” Robinson said. “But Panther Creek played well. We’re still OK. The guys, hopefully this will wake them up a little bit.”
Chen called the runner-up finish a “bump in the road.”
“We’re still really good as a team, and I’m confident we can do a lot better in the future,” Chen said. “As team, I want to win states. We’ve got to focus and work hard toward that goal.”
Athens Drive (163) finished third, with Fuquay-Varina (166) fourth and Apex (168) fifth.
The SWAC’s last eight-hole match is April 19 with the 18-hole conference tournament finale scheduled for April 25 at Bentwinds Country Club in Fuquay-Varina.
SWAC season standings
1. Green Hope 71
2. Panther Creek 56
3. Fuquay-Varina 50
T4. Athens Drive 45
T4. Middle Creek 45
6. Holly Springs 34.5
7. Apex 33.5
8. Cary 16
9. Apex Friendship, 9