NASHVILLE – It was a dead heat four matches into the Big East Conference season, but after yet another convincing performance down the stretch, the league has a clear champion.
Wilson Fike shot a 328 team score to edge rival Wilson Hunt by five strokes in the final Big East match Monday at Birchwood Country Club, making official its conference championship. Both the Golden Demons and Warriors qualified for the NCHSAA 3-A Eastern Regional, as did third-place Southern Nash (361).
Fike’s Turner Garris was the medalist with a score of 74, while teammate Jay Horne came in second with a 78. Both shot an 81 in the previous Big East match to give Fike an edge heading into Monday.
“I think the key if you look at the last two matches, their senior leaders really stepped up,” Southern Nash coach Scott Collie said. “The last two matches, they really catapulted them to the conference championship, and that’s really what you want out of your seniors.”
Regionals will be held May 5 at Carolina National Golf Course in Bolivia, in Brunswick County.
In addition to the Firebirds’ team, four other Nash County golfers also qualified for regionals.
Zach Stussie, Matt Bertolino and Tommy Howard of Northern Nash all made the cut.
Even though the Knights didn’t qualify as a team, they had the next-best scenario.
“Next year, we’ll definitely be there for sure,” Stussie said. “Everyone’s losing a lot of players and we’ll have our guys back. We’ll be there.”
Also making the cut was Nash Central’s Joseph Cook, who had to have on of his legs broken Dec. 6 as a continued correctional process for a congenital leg defect with which he was born.
Cook had to play with a large brace on his right leg and walk with a cane, but he still cracked the top four wild card spots in the conference.
“At first, they told him he wasn’t even supposed to be golfing, but then the doctor said all the walking would promote growth,” said David Cook, Joseph’s father and the Bulldogs’ coach. “(Monday) was the first day at school (since the surgery) he didn’t have to use the cane. All that and he still did pretty well.”
Southern Nash’s Haywood Brantley and Josh Harden both were all-Big East selections, the fourth time Brantley earned the honor.
Cook shot a 91 on a Birchwood course that had seen plenty of rain in the past few days.
Severe thunderstorms belted the area during the weekend, and added rain showers Monday rolled through shortly before the players teed off at 2 p.m.
All told, the course held up well.
There was no debris from the wind and rain, and aside from some marshy ground on Nos. 11 and 12, the turf itself was in good shape.
Many of the coaches pointed to Birchwood as being a course that drains well, and hardly any of the players had issues with the conditions.
Conditions at Carolina National Golf Course might not be so forgiving. The course is notoriously tough, with a buffet of hazards awaiting the players, even without the potentially troublesome coastal winds.
With enough pressure at the event, Collie said he wants his players to have fun with the moment at regionals.
“I just want them to enjoy it,” Collie said. “Just go out there and play, and whatever happens, happens.
“If we were to do something as a team, awesome, and if we were to do something individually, that’d be great, but when you qualify for regionals, it’s been an OK year.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz @rmtelegram.com