A year ago, Pine Forest’s Josiah Hopkins had his worst round of the regular season in the final match and fell short of winning the Patriot Athletic Conference individual golf championship. Cape Fear boys golf coach Todd Edge entered this season with a young team that included no seniors as he tried to rebound from a second-place finish to Pine Forest last year.
Both Hopkins and the Cape Fear team found the answers last week during the final regular season conference match at Baywood Golf Club.
Hopkins shot a final round 74 at Baywood to win both the weekly tournament and the regular season title. It was his lowest round of the season.
The Cape Fear team completed a sweep of the seven regular-season matches, shooting a 326 on its home course at Baywood.
“I think one of the main reasons I blew up last year was my mindset wasn’t in the right place,’’ Hopkins said. “I guess you could say my chances were pretty good, but when push comes to shove, I just wanted to have fun this year and give all the glory to God.”
Hopkins didn’t feel any one part of his physical game made a big difference for him this year. “I don’t hit the ball that far,’’ he said. “I don’t hit the ball that straight. I’m not the best chipper, and I don’t make the most putts.
“Frankly, there are better golfers in our conference than me. The only thing that separates me from the rest is keeping a good attitude when I hit the bad shots.’’
Hopkins feels last Monday’s win gives him some momentum entering postseason competition in the regionals and possibly the North Carolina High School Athletic Association state tournament if he or the Pine Forest team manages to qualify.
“I hope I qualify for the states,’’ he said. “That’s been my goal for this season.’’
Edge said his team entered this year leaning on the play of junior Colton Danks. “He was the most experienced player coming back,’’ Edge said. “He didn’t have a good sophomore season.’’
Freshmen Austin White and Mason Starling contributed to the Colt effort in some tournaments this year. Edge also got some good rounds from Luke McCorquodale and Alex Benbenek.
“We didn’t have the best player every match, but we had four consistent players every match,’’ Edge said. He said he could count on two or three players shooting in the 80 to 85 range every match. Danks turned in a 76 at Baywood last week, his lowest round of the regular season.
“We played well off each other,’’ Danks said of the Cape Fear team. “We had each other’s backs, and we knew what we were capable of.’’
Playing the final match of the regular season at Baywood, Cape Fear’s home course, was also a boost, Danks said. “That’s something we looked forward to, that we could finish up at home, having all our parents there to see us win,’’ he said.
If Cape Fear survives the regional tournament, Danks thinks the Colts could challenge for a top five finish in the NCHSAA championship match.
“There is going to be a bunch of higher level competition, but I believe we could give it a run,’’ he said. “We are going to have to play with a more defined strategy than we’ve had all year. We’re going to have to be confident and believe in our abilities for us to do well in the postseason.’’
Here is the Patriot Athletic All-Conference golf team, which is based on order of finish in the regular season. Coach of the year was based on a vote of the head coaches.
Player of the year: Josiah Hopkins, Pine Forest
Coach of the year: Todd Edge, Cape Fear
First team: Josiah Hopkins, Pine Forest; Max Canada, Terry Sanford; Colton Danks, Cape Fear; Spencer Barbour, Terry Sanford; Luke McCorquodale, Cape Fear; Austin White, Cape Fear.
Second team: Hunter Cole, Gray’s Creek; Walker Shearin, Pine Forest; Mason Starling, Cape Fear; Alex Benbenek, Cape Fear; Chandler Parker, South View.