At the Patriot Athletic Conference 3-A/4-A golf competition for the season, Terry Sanford’s Hunter Leclair mounted a successful rally, and Pine Forest held off a surging Cape Fear team in the final round.
The closing tournament was held at Baywood Golf Course a week ago Monday.
Leclair entered the final match of the season seven shots back of first-place Josiah Hopkins of Pine Forest and just two shots ahead of Cape Fear’s Logan Sessoms, who was playing on his home course.
Leclair responded with a second consecutive round of 77, allowing him to surge past Hopkins and barely edge Sessoms for first place. Leclair had a season average of 78.67 to 79.0 for Sessoms.
Leclair said it was tough to win this season because Sessoms and Hopkins consistently posted good scores. “I was just trying to hang in there,’’ he said.
During the final match, his goal was to stay a stroke or two away from Sessoms. “The best I could do was match him,’’ Leclair said. “I was able to get one ahead at the end. If I could keep pace with him, I knew I was having a great round.’’
Leclair felt wedge play was the key to his win in the final round. “I had at least five or six birdie putts inside of 10 feet after I had a wedge in my hands,’’ he said. “I was feeling real confident if I could get into that range I was going to walk away with at worst a par.’’
The season ended in a bit of a surprise for the Pine Forest team. Coach Wayne Lee thought his squad might have a shot at contending, but he also knew Terry Sanford and Cape Fear were going to be solid opponents.
“We were good at the beginning of the season,’’ Lee said. “That helped a lot. We pretty much stayed consistent the whole season. We’ve definitely been the most consistent team week to week.’’
Lee said the unquestioned leader of his team has been Hopkins, a sophomore. His 85 in the final round was his worst round of the season. Prior to that he’d been under 80 for six rounds, with his previous high before last Monday an 82.
“He’s also been our leader in the clubhouse,’’ Lee said. “He keeps everybody loose. If somebody hits a bad shot at practice, he’ll say, ‘Come here, let’s work on that.’
“He’s definitely been the go-to guy. He’s been my assistant coach out there.’’
Hopkins said he had high expectations for himself this spring and felt iron play has been the key to his success. “From 100 to 200 yards, you give me an iron in my hand from the middle of the fairway and I can put it somewhere close, like 20 or 30 feet,’’ he said. “Iron play is definitely the strength of my game.’’
The hottest team as the regular season is ending is Cape Fear.
The Colts won last year’s conference title and finished the regular season sharing second in the April 16 tournament at Cypress Lakes Golf Course, then winning the final two tournaments at Highland and Baywood.
“I know we didn’t play a tour potential early on,’’ said Cape Fear coach Todd Edge. “We’ve got a very young team, Logan being the only senior. We’ve got no juniors,and the rest are freshmen and sophomores.’’
Colton Danks, one of the Cape Fear returners, finished third behind Sessoms in the final standings with an 83.67 stroke average per round.
“I’m proud of the way they finished the last two weeks,’’ Edge said. “It gives us a little momentum going into the regionals.’’
The regional tournaments for the 3-A and 4-A classifications were held prior to the publication of this story.
Regional play for 3-A teams was scheduled last Monday at Whispering Pines and 4-A at Anderson Creek.
State tournaments are next Monday, with 4-A at Pinehurst No. 6 and 3-A at Longleaf.
PHOTO: The Pine Forest golf team, L - R: Head coach Wayne Lee, Dylan Hicks, Josiah Hopkins, Jonathan Rose, Whitt Badgett, Walker Shearin and Brandon Shepard.