Championship dreams made true by Mead Hall boys' golf team

May 15—There was one goal above all else for Mead Hall's golf team, and that goal was in place from the opening day of the season:

Win a state championship.

That remained the same for every practice, every match, every tournament as they prepared for the state title that eluded the Panthers a year ago.

They wanted to play well throughout the season, especially at big invitationals like the Southern Cross at Palmetto Golf Club, the Battle of the River at Cedar Creek Golf Club and the Palmetto High School Golf Championships on Pawleys Island. But those performances still would be contributing to their state championship tournament — which they believed they would win.

"We held that mindset the entire season. So going into the state championship this year, we knew we were the team to beat," said Mead Hall head coach Mike Abrams. "We at least felt that way, that we were the team to beat. We didn't win any tournaments or anything like that throughout our season. We had been close. But we knew this was the one that we wanted to win, and we believed we were going to win."

There was just one thing left to do, and the Panthers won the only one they really wanted. Their two-day team score of 640 was good for a 13-shot victory and the South Carolina Independent Schools Association Class AA championship at the General James Hackler Course at Coastal Carolina University.

"It was a perfect end to the season, obviously," Abrams said. "We had a big time, and they couldn't have been more excited. We all couldn't have been."

The Panthers, runners-up a year ago in Class A, held a five-shot lead after the first round of play — and they weren't happy about it. Five shots just wasn't enough, and after a performance they were disappointed with, the six players and their family members got together and decided they wanted to go do something fun in Myrtle Beach to blow off some steam and still be competitive.

So a group of high school golfers went and did exactly what one might expect them to do in the miniature golf capital of the world.

They went go-kart racing.

The boys needed to get away from golf for a little bit while they were there, and that turned out to be the perfect competitive outlet for them.

"Honestly, I think they all won at some point. It got aggressive," Abrams said with a laugh. "Let's just put it this way — the guys that were running the tracks at the time, they shut them down early race because the over-aggressiveness on the course. It was fun to watch. Those boys have a lot of fun."

The focus shifted back to golf over dinner, and all the Panthers wanted to do was increase their five-shot lead. They didn't want to just win — they wanted to leave zero question as to who deserved to be the state champion.

They came out for the second day of play and improved their score by six shots. Abrams said they may have still left a few shots on the course, but it didn't matter. They played more than well enough to take the state title they wanted so badly.

"I reiterated to them that they should be so proud of themselves," Abrams said. "To accomplish that after all the time and effort that they put into it, congratulations to them. It was really cool to watch. It was great to be there. To have a son on the team was really fun for me to see that. It was a special time for everybody."

Chuck Stanley led the way for the Panthers each day, posting consecutive rounds of 77. Jack Coleman shot 78 both days, Brooks Abrams shot a 77 of his own in the second round, and Granger Young, Mac Lawson and Stern Massey also contributed good scores to put the Panthers 13 shots clear of Calhoun Academy and 50 ahead of Holy Trinity.

It was the dream end to the season for the team, and also for lone senior Stanley in his final high school event.

"Chuck Stanley, he's graduating. He'll have opportunities at the next level," his coach said. "For him to go out, after all these years at Mead Hall performing at a high level, his junior career is culminating in a state championship with his friends, first and foremost, and his team. To represent Mead Hall that way was really special, really special for him and for all of us witnessing that. It was really, really cool."

It was a championship won based on a score accumulated over two days, but the Panthers started working toward that score months before. All of that work after a runner-up finish ensured that they will be defending a title next year — not chasing the one they missed.

"The cool thing about the team this year is, first and foremost, they're all friends," Mike Abrams said. "They practice together every single day. It wasn't like I was getting them together for chipping practice or putting practice or anything. They all got together on their own accord, they met at Palmetto, they hit balls on the range together, they played golf together. When I say it was every day, I mean it was every single day. They were preparing for our end of the season, which was Southern Cross, one day off, rolling it right into the state championship. That was what they prepared for."