Garner Cleveland: Sports

Talton leads Smithfield-Selma to girls’ golf title

Cleveland's Tabby Herzig clears the sand trap during the Two Rivers Conference 3A girls golf championship at Reedy Creek Golf Course.
Cleveland's Tabby Herzig clears the sand trap during the Two Rivers Conference 3A girls golf championship at Reedy Creek Golf Course.

Smithfield-Selma and standout sophomore Haley Talton finished off the Two Rivers 3A Conference golf season fittingly Tuesday, Oct. 15, rolling to the team and individual victories at Reedy Creek Golf Course.

The Spartans were unbeaten in league matches and Talton was the individual medalist in four of the six matches. Smithfield-Selma finished at 279 as a team, four strokes ahead of Triton, which broke a second-place tie for the season standings with Corinth Holders with its finish.

Talton was the only player to finish below 89, carding an 82, which included two double bogeys and eight pars. It wasn’t the round she wanted, but as she has all season, she plugged away to make the best of the situation.

“There are matches where you don’t play as well as you want to, but you just have to keep working,” Talton said. “I’ve just tried to focus on my short game because that’s where I feel like I can really save strokes and score better.”

It’s been a quick journey to the top of the area golf scene for Talton, who has been playing less than two years and is the latest member of the family (following Josh and Brittany Talton) to shine on the links.

“I just try to use everything I get to add to what I get from my swing coach (Tony Keeton),” Talton said. “He’s taken me so far in a short time, but everything I can pick up – from the family, coach Lamm or a teammate – it all helps make me better.”

Work ethic is something the Spartans have excelled in as a team the entire season according to their first-year coach, Christian Lamm, a former golf standout at South Johnston High.

“I knew Haley and Parker (Watson) were good players coming into the season but I hadn’t been around the other girls enough to really know what to expect,” Lamm said. “You expect the ups and downs from inexperienced players but they’ve been much more consistent players than I thought they would have been coming in. It’s impressive that they’ve been able to be that consistent.”

Watson, like Talton, qualified for regionals last season in the 4A ranks and finished third individually in the conference. Solid scores have consistently come from their teammates Marjorie Alston, Maggie Riley and Ayanah Sanders.

Talton says the entire team has benefited from each other this season.

“Our teamwork has just been phenomenal,” Talton said. “As teammates we work to help each other get better. It’s good to have somebody to bounce ideas off of or give you a tip that maybe you haven’t thought of.”

Corinth Holders’ Peyton Labonte, twice a medalist this season and the conference individual runner-up, finished second with an 89 Tuesday.

Triton was the only team with three players in the 90s: Brittany Elliott (91), Savannah Dunn (94) and Brooke Blackmon (98).

South Johnston edged Corinth Holders for third (306-307) Tuesday, while Cleveland (332) and Western Harnett (333) rounded out the team standings.

South Johnston will send three golfers to the regionals this year, a first for the Trojan program under coach Daniel Benson: Sydney Wheelees, Emily Kirsch and Rachael Wheeler.

Players who posted season nine-hole averages of 55 or less moved onto the regional event. Cleveland’s Tabby Herzig and Kelsie Baker, along with Corinth Holders’ Watson and Kaitlin Dowdle.