At first, it might have seemed like Gina Kim was slumming when she played in the Carolina Central Golf Conference’s first match of the year.
In between the Fall 2015 season, when she won the N.C. High School Athletics Association 3A championship, and this season, Kim won both the American Junior Golf Association’s Rolex championship and the Vicki Disantis championship, and she finished the summer as North Carolina’s No. 1-rated junior female golfer.
But Kim had been looking forward to playing in the CCGC’s opener. The competition and the conditions at verdant Occoneechee Golf Club were too good for Kim to bypass. Besides, as Chapel Hill’s golf head coach Jim Williams noted “Gina really wants to part of a team. She really likes the team setting.”
Kim had little trouble Tuesday with the open, 5,951-yard layout at Occoneechee. She carded a 34 in the nine-hole event to win medalist honors by one stroke.
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“It was nice to make it out here today with my teammates” said Kim, who committed to Duke University’s program last year. “I’m not here really for a score. I look at this as an experience. ... Having fun with my friends is definitively a factor in my score.”
Cardinal Gibbons sophomore Megan Kanaby showed right out of the gate that she can have an impact on the Crusaders’ scorecard, as well as the rest of the Carolina Central’s race. She finished second Tuesday with a 35 and was the only golfer other than Kim to shoot in red numbers in the match.
“We’re looking pretty solid this year,” said Cardinal Gibbons golf coach Greg Greksa. “We’ve got girls returning – which is great – and we’re starting to see some new girls who are up and coming.”
Gibbons has its top three golfers back from last year’s team, which cruised undefeated through 2015’s regular-season matches and won the conference’s 18-hole championship at Chapel Hill Country Club with a respectable 236. Hailey Freedman led the Crusaders most of last fall, while Riley Smyth and Hannah Rose Bruxvoort both join her as the Crusaders’ corp of returning players. All three are just juniors.
Bruxvoort finished third Tuesday with a 37, while Freedman and Smyth tied for fifth, each with 39, one stroke behind Meghan McPeak (38) in fourth.
Two-time defending state champion Cardinal Gibbons easily won the team match, with three of the top five scores for a 111 total. Chapel Hill was second, with Anne Crabill’s 47 and a 52 from Bess Pridgen counting toward total 133.
McPeak’s 38 paced Carrboro (135) to third place, while Jaguar teammate Grace Tobias shot a 46 to tie with Northwood’s Cameron Bernstain for seventh place individually. The Chargers (146) placed fourth in the team standings. East Chapel Hill (147) was one stroke back, led by Carolyn Hsu, whose 47 tied her with Crabill.
Cedar Ridge placed sixth with a 170 total. CCGC newcomer Jordan, in eighth, was led by N’yliah Anderson’s 42 for sixth place, individually.
Carolina Central ...
... not the Central Carolina Conference.
The Carolina Central Golf Conference, similar to the Triangle’s field hockey teams or the NCHSAA’s lacrosse conferences, is an amalgam of three different leagues: The 4A PAC-6 (East Chapel Hill, Cardinal Gibbons and Jordan); the 3A Big 8 (Chapel Hll, Cedar Ridge and Northwood) and the 2A Mid-State (Carrboro). Carrboro’s erstwhile conference rival South Granville has dropped in and out of the CCGC.
The CCGC was created a few years ago to help its members schedule matches. There are fewer Piedmont schools that have varsity girls teams than those with boys teams. Some schools (like Northern Durham) offer their female golfers only the chance to compete with the boys’ teams in the spring. But CCGC members wanted to afford their female golfers a chance to compete against their peers.
The 2A Central Carolina Conference comprises several mid- to small-sized schools in between Mecklenburg and Guilford County, such as Thomasville, Salisbury and Lexington.