PINETOPS – Ryan Chatt and Nathan Webb helped guide SouthWest Edgecombe to its best boys’ golf season on record.
The team finished fourth in the NCHSAA 2-A state tournament, which coach Jonathan Cobb said was the best finish he could find in the history of the school, and a SouthWest Edgecombe golfer won the individual state championship, a product of the friendly competition at practice.
The two now will take very different approaches to the next stage of their lives, albeit with a little bit of home still there.
Webb will play golf next year at Barton College, just 20 minutes away from his home. Chatt will head to Palm Beach Atlantic (Fla.), not necessarily an easy drive from home but within a stone’s throw from the school’s five practice golf courses – a place where he has found a second home.
“It’s a testament to their upbringing and their families that they have such outstanding character, that they’ve done well academically and succeed on the golf course,” Cobb said. “I’m so happy that SouthWest Edgecombe has the ability to produce college athletes.
“I think golf is a game that’s mighty hard to go to the next level and play. Very few people get to do it that play high school golf. How awesome to have two in one year.”
Chatt also had interest from N.C. Wesleyan, Clemson and East Carolina but ultimately settled on a scholarship that could be enhanced if he makes the school’s top-3.
“My ultimate goal is to become the No. 1 seed on the team, of course,” Chatt said. “That’s a tough goal because you have a lot more competition than you do in high school. ... You’ve got guys that want to be there and want to progress their game. They’re there for a reason.”
Webb, who shot a personal-best average of 74 this season, had interest from East Carolina and Coastal Carolina but was drawn to Barton College because he felt welcome there – just like home.
“It seemed like the Barton coach wanted me,” said Webb, who gave up baseball and started playing golf every day in the eighth grade. “(Barton coach) Ashley Leonard really wanted me. When somebody wants you, it gets you hooked on what they talk about.”
Barton College also plays its home courses at Wilson Country Club, a major draw for Webb, who is extremely familiar with the course. Both players still have work to do on the course at the next level. Cobb pointed to each player’s short game and putting – something just about every golfer could do.
They’ll try to improve in both places but with the fact that golf will be a constant. For Chatt, who said he has grown more nervous about playing far from home, golf had found its way forcefully back into his life, even after he has tried to take a vacation from the sport.
“Golf has just always been there,” Chatt said. “I’ve tried to take a break for a couple weeks before, but after a couple days I just get that urge to go play.
“It’s like an addiction.”
SouthWest Edgecombe’s roster this year shared that same need. Because of that, they accomplished not only the school’s second individual state championship – Cole Jefferys rallied on Day 2 to win the title – but also a school best.
Both Webb and Chatt know that while they made the Cougars’ program better, the team returned the favor by preparing them for the next level.
“You make practice fun when you do that,” said Webb about the competition within the team. “When you practice by yourself, it gets kind boring. When you’ve got friends to play with you, it makes it a little more interesting. You’re able to play with them and compete against them. It makes you better.”
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org