Toni Blackwell from Cape Fear and Carmen Tucker of Terry Sanford are two of Cumberland County’s best returning girls’ high school golfers this season.
They’ll be seeing a lot more of each other on the course now that Cape Fear and Terry Sanford have left the conferences they were in last year to join the new Patriot Athletic Conference.
“I think we’ll match up pretty well,’’ said second-year Terry Sanford coach Jennifer White. She expects Cape Fear’s team to play a role similar to the one Lee County did in the old Cape Fear Valley 3-A Conference and provide the Bulldogs their chief competition.
Meanwhile, Cape Fear coach Todd Edge said expectations are high for his team. “We made the state championship as a team in 2013,’’ he said. “We want to get back. That’s our goal.’’
Blackwell, a sophomore, was Mid-South Conference Player of the Year last season and advanced to the regional and state 4-A tournaments.
Blackwell averaged 87.2 over the six-round Mid-South regular season last year, shooting a low score of 80 at Stryker Golf Course.
Although she’s only 4 feet 11 1/2 inches tall, Blackwell is a long driver. “I swing with a lot of power and hit them far,’’ she said. “I think I’ll be able to shoot upper 70s this year.’’
Blackwell’s been working on her mental game and wants to improve her chipping and putting this season. Edge said she needs to working on lowering her putting average.
Tucker finished second to teammate Preeya Shah in last season’s Cape Fear Valley Conference regular season play and made All-Cape Fear Valley Conference. She averaged 84.4 in five tournaments and shot 82 twice, both times at Scotch Meadows Country Club in Laurinburg.
Like Blackwell, Tucker’s strength is driving. “I can outdrive my dad and most girls I play,’’ she said. She said she’s also accurate with her irons but needs to improve her short game.
White said Tucker will take over as the team’s No. 1 golfer with the graduation of Shah, and will get a boost from her younger sister, Gabby, who joins the team this season.
“I expect them to go out and have fun,’’ coach White said. “If they’re not having fun, they’re not going to play well. I expect them to work hard and give it 100 percent.
“Hopefully we’ll come out on top again.’’
PHOTOS: (L-R) Toni Blackwell, Cape Fear & Carmen Tucker, Terry Sanford