Haywood golfers punch ticket to state championships

May 13—Golf regionals wrapped up this Tuesday, as Haywood County's team had a bit of home-field advantage at the Springdale Resort in Cruso.

"It's very exciting," Pisgah coach Bentley Rogers said. "It was really neat to see how it all happened for them Tuesday."

That advantage helped Pisgah and Tuscola, with three golfers qualify for the state championships.

"Springdale did a wonderful job," Pisgah coach Bentley Rogers said. "They did a really good job of allowing us to host and they've been very supportive of our golf program over the years."

Pisgah sophomores Hank Bradley and Matthew Mehaffey both made the cut, while Tuscola senior Jacob Edwards also punched his ticket.

"It is the perfect way to close out his senior year," Tuscola coach Erik Melville said of his state qualifier. "I was really proud of him. He is not the most naturally talented kid, but he works really hard at his game. For regionals, if you have one bad day, you don't qualify. I think that's what he had the last couple of years. Having it at Springdale definitely helped."

Mehaffey is headed to his second-straight state championship appearance, having made the tournament as a freshman last year. That was Rogers' first time having a golfer qualify for the state tournament — signaling a new age of golf in Canton.

"It's great," Rogers said. "I'm so glad they did this. They know now going into regionals that they've been there and done that and they can talk to other guys on the team about keeping composure. They can be good leaders."

For Tuscola, having a golfer qualify for state was a bow on top of a season that saw the team reach their goals.

"That really makes the season. Our goal as a team was to qualify for regionals. We did that fairly easily," Melville said. "I wanted us to play well and to have a good showing (at regionals)."

Melville said his team had taken the majority of the week prior off, having just gone to the driving range one day and walked nine holes another day.

"There's a fine line between playing the right amount and playing too much and getting into your own head," he said. "That last round we were a little too much in our heads."

Edwards qualified by shooting a 75. After 13 holes, he sat six-over-par. Three birdies in the final five holes dropped him down to just three-over-par and into a qualifying spot.

"Sometimes he can let a couple of bad holes ruin his round," Melville said. "That's what I was most proud of. Even after those couple of bogeys, he stayed in there and played it out."

Mehaffey finished level with Edwards but made it to the result in a different way.

After his first nine holes, the sophomore was just one-over-par. He maintained that pace through 14.

Three bogeys and a birdie closed out Mehaffey's round, dropping him from a potential tie for fifth down to a tie for sixth.

Playoff hole to make state

Bradley had the most exciting path to a state qualifying spot. Bradley finished in a seven-way tie for the final three positions — leading to a playoff between those players.

"It was nice to already be done and not have to worry about that playoff," Melville said. "The playoff was stressful."

On the first round of the playoff, another player chipped in for an eagle, locking up his spot in the state championships, leaving six golfers to fight for one spot. In that second playoff hole, two more players were eliminated after they hit pars compared to the other players' birdies.

"Everyone that was left was surrounding the green," Rogers said. "It was some high-intensity moments these young men haven't experienced a lot yet."

On the final playoff hole, Bradley hit another birdie to secure his place in the state championship.

"Lots of teams and parents hung around, so it was a nice atmosphere for the playoff," Melville said, "It was really cool."

Bradley had to fight just to get to the playoff. He hit a birdie on his final hole to move into a position to be in a tie for the qualifying spot.

"He hit a clutch shot into the green," Rogers said. "He barely missed his eagle putt, but made his birdie. I told him a birdie here would give him a chance."

Both coaches said that playing at Springdale gave their teams, and other teams from the Mountain 7, a better chance to qualify. In addition to the three players from Haywood County, Franklin junior Max McClure was also battling with Bradley in the playoff holes.

"We wanted to host the regional on a golf course they were familiar with. We wanted them to be able to sleep in their beds the night before. Team-wise, we finished fifth. We were just seven strokes off of qualifying as a team for the state tournament," Rogers said. "We had a chance to get four kids from our conference. The goal was to give local kids and conference kids a chance to advance to the state tournament."

Looking forward

That advantage will roll into next season, as well. A vote was held at the regional meet, with Waynesville Inn and Golf Club being selected to host regionals next year.

"It's going to help us," Rogers said. "We get to keep it here on a golf course we get to play and practice at. It will allow our local kids and kids in the conference to have an advantage."

For now, the coaches and three golfers turn their attention to next week's state championships. The tournament will take place on Monday and Tuesday at Longleaf Golf and Family Club in Southern Pines.

Tuscola will head down early Sunday morning. They would head down on Saturday, but prom is Saturday night — another important experience for a senior.

Melville said he will walk with Edwards for a practice round on Sunday around noon.

"I'll work the course with him and take notes," Melville said. "My guess is that it's a pretty flat course."