Monday’s N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A East Golf Regional followed two storylines that have dominated the two previous Two Rivers 3A Conference matches held this year at Reedy Creek Golf Course.
South Johnston senior and East Carolina University recruit Patrick Stephenson shooting a score in the 60s and Corinth Holders involved in a tight team race.
Stephenson won the individual title with a 4-under-par 68. His round was pretty simple: two birdies on the front nine, then three birdies and a bogey on the back nine on his home course.
“I just kind of scored well today,” said Stephenson who shot rounds of 65 and 68 in the two previous Two Rivers 3A Conference matches this season at the course. “I honestly didn’t hit it my best; my irons were a little off. I kind of figured out my swing about midround. And when I hit it close, I made it.”
Corinth Holders had to win a playoff match just to make the regional, defeating Cleveland in a nine-hole match last Tuesday to earn the Two Rivers 3A Conference’s third regional team bid.
The Pirates finished in a tie with Pikeville Aycock and West Craven at 332 for the day but won on the strength of a better fifth score – Pirate senior Tanner Duncan’s 89.
“He gave up baseball for his senior year to come out and play golf,” Corinth Holders coach Jeff Parker said of Duncan. “He came out and shot 104, I think, in our first match this year, and he comes out and comes up with a 89 today. Improving by 15 strokes in three months, that’s really impressive.”
Aycock took second and West Craven was third. All three of those teams go on to the state championships at Whispering Pines next Monday and Tuesday.
Senior Nick Routhier led the Pirates with a 77, tying for fourth individually. He posted a score of 1-under-par 35 on the front nine.
Parker said that Routhier had struggled to play up to his potential of late but had set himself apart in other ways leading up to Monday’s regional.
“Nick’s leadership was huge for us,” Parker said. “He told the other guys what they needed to do here. He was basically an assistant coach for me. If he saw something that needed to be taken care of, it was something he could take care of, he did it. If it wasn’t, he told me what he thought we should do. He was always right.”
Ian Apsey finished at 83, while teammate Jake Linker shot 84 for Corinth Holders. Jake Petroski finished at 88.
“The back nine clinched it for us,” Parker said. “Every guy we had on the course had at least an excellent nine holes.
“Everything we’ve done this year has been in really close matches. So this isn’t anything new for us.”
All five Pirate golfers had one nine-hole score of 41 or lower on the afternoon.
South Johnston, bidding for its first team state championship bid a week after winning its first conference championship, finished fourth at 339, seven strokes off of the first place tie.
In addition to Stephenson’s 68, the Trojans got an 80 from Brooks Skinner and an 87 from Casey Charbonneau. Skinner tied for 10th individually but missed out on a playoff for the final individual state championship bids by two strokes.
“It’s been an awesome year,” Stephenson said. “We get to hang that banner up in the gym for the first time.”
Of the six individual slots available, two went to Cleveland golfers: Patrick Schweitz carded a 74 for third place overall, and teammate Bryson Peter was tied for fourth with a 77. Candler Matthews of Wilson Fike and Triton’s Nick Page prevailed in a three-man playoff for the final two spots after shooting 78s. Triton was fifth in the team rankings.
Smithfield-Selma’s Ethan Faulconer shot an 83 on the day.
Wilson Fike’s Bryson Boyette was the second individual qualifier behind Stephenson, who will shoot for a spot higher than he finished last year in the state 3A championships.
“I’ll just try to work on my ball-striking a little bit,” said Stephenson, who was the state individual runner-up last season. “Keep putting and driving it well. If I hit my irons well, I should be pretty competitive next week.”