By David Droschak
It was quite an early part of May for Raleigh Broughton. In less than a week span, the Capitals won the school’s ninth 4-A men’s golf championship in the last 21 years and watched alumnus Webb Simpson capture The Players Championship on the PGA Tour.
Broughton and Pinecrest have battled for supremacy in North Carolina prep golf’s highest classification for much of the last decade, but the Caps came up way short of competing in last year’s championship – falling 35 shots off the pace to three-time reigning champion Pinehurst.
“What it did was make us hungry,” coach Anderson Marlowe said of his team’s poor performance in 2017. “We came in before states this year and played Pinehurst No. 6 three times to get the feel of it. We are a firm believer that you have to come in prepared at states; if you don’t the pressure takes you out. Sure, we needed help from other teams; Pinecrest didn’t play their best. We knew we might need that, but they didn’t play well and we did.”
Broughton sophomore Peter Fountain, whose older brother plays golf for North Carolina, led the way with a two-round 1-over 145, losing in a playoff to A.J. Beechler of Pinecrest, who captured his second straight individual crown.
“I’m sure he was disappointed inside, but Peter is such a good kid with a great attitude so you would never know it,” Marlowe said. “He said to me, ‘I’ve got two more years to try to win one.’ Nothing affects him on the golf course.”
Despite going 42-0 in conference play this season and winning the East Regional in convincing fashion, Marlowe really kept an open mind heading to Pinehurst this year.
“I’m very proud of this team because it probably wasn’t my most talented, but it was the team that just grinded and did everything they could to win,” said Marlowe, whose club edged Charlotte Myers Parks by three shots for its third crown since 2012. “We knew we could have a good season, but just like anything else in golf we tried to build and peak at the right time.
“We lost the states by 35 strokes to Pinecrest and this year we beat them by a dozen. And they had most of their guys back like we did,” Marlowe added. “You never know in this game. That’s why you tee it up. Sometimes you lose with real good teams because other teams play better and sometimes you win with maybe not quite as talented of a team. That’s what makes it a lot of fun.”
Beechler had the best second-round score, shooting a 2-under 70 that included an eagle on his ninth hole and a birdie on his final hole to force the playoff with Fountain.
Beechler, headed to East Carolina to play college golf, had a stellar Pinecrest career that included three team state championships and two individual titles.
“I don’t know of any other male high school player in North Carolina history that has that kind of success,” said Pinecrest coach Rich Wainwright. “Jennifer Chang is the only one who has had a more distinguished high school career. A.J.’s record speaks for itself for these four years.”
This past fall, Chang of Athens Drive, won her fourth straight 4-A individual women’s crown before heading to play college golf at Southern Cal.
Thomas Eubanks of Myers Park finished one shot out of the two-man playoff at 146. First-round leader Cameron Whitney of Ardrey Kell shot a 77 on day two to finish in a three-way tie for fourth.
Marlowe said there were several keys to his team’s title, including playing the regionals at a difficult and challenging Raleigh Country Club, along with a tradition of bringing the entire squad (13 players strong) to the state championship.
“It’s very important for these guys to see what they’re stepping into in the future,” Marlowe said of bringing his younger players to states. “It is the Ryder Cup for high school golf. It is the most pressure they will be under the whole season. For them to come in to see that we can do it and the guys that they play with in practice and beat sometimes can do it it gives them confidence.
And of course there was a motivational assist from rival Pinecrest.
“We consider Pinecrest the highest of competition, they run a great program,” Marlowe said. “We know when we get into the state championship they are the ones we are worried about.”
At least not for a year now.