For the fourth consecutive year, SouthWest Edgecombe will take on the NCHSAA 2-A state championship match, though this year will have somewhat of a different feel for the Cougars.
In the past two years especially, SouthWest Edgecombe had realistic expectations of going to Longleaf Golf and Country Club in Southern Pines – also the site of this year’s 2-A championship – and coming home with a team state championship. The Cougars finished sixth both times and were disappointed by their rounds.
The team expectations aren’t as high this season, and with the dialed back attitude, SouthWest Edgecombe is hoping for some worry-free rounds when the Cougars tee off at 9 a.m. today.
“The guys certainly have less pressure than in years past,” SouthWest Edgecombe coach Jonathan Cobb said. “We had the full intention of a team state championship and were excited about it. ... This year, we might finish 12th; we might finish sixth. We’re not as concerned, we’re just going to go play.”
The Cougars finished third at the 2-A East Regional last week to clinch a place at Longleaf, which has been a house of horrors for them during the past two state championships.
Longleaf’s difficult greens gave SouthWest Edgecombe’s entire team trouble in 2012 and 2013, resulting in elevated score and dashed hopes of winning a championship.
The Cougars’ top three of Nathan Webb, Ryan Chatt and Cole Jefferys all have seen the course before, however, so Cobb hopes there won’t be any surprises.
“Historically, it has given our guys a lot of a trouble,” Cobb said of Longleaf. “It’s really about management and playing smart golf. You have to put yourself in a position where you don’t have to make two tough putts.”
The margin of error on the greens is slim, Cobb said.
“There’s elevation, a lot of breaks – it’s very tricky and very fast,” Cobb said. “You can hit a shot 20 feet to left of a pin and be in great shape, but if you hit it 20 feet to the right, you’re in huge trouble. You have to know where and how to miss.”
From an individual perspective, SouthWest Edgecombe’s top three have a chance to challenge for top spots. Webb, who finished in the three-way tie for the medalist at regionals and finished in second on the playoff hole, was one of seven golfers at the 2-A level who shot less than 72 at regionals.
Jefferys shot a 73 at regionals, while Chatt can approach par or better, too. Chatt shot a 77 at regionals.
After playing a practice round Sunday, the Cougars think they have a fairly good read on their state championship experience.
“It’s not a good course to be overly aggressive on, but if you’re too timid, that can bite you in the butt, too,” Cobb said. “You have to be balanced and take it hole-by-hole, shot-by-shot, and really stay out of trouble. If you come out guns blazing, the course can eat you alive. You’ve got to respect this course from the opening tee.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz @rmtelegram.com